More than any one person, goaltending consultant Francois Allaire invented the goaltending coach.
Allaire’s first pro student was Patrick Roy, the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer whose Made In Quebec style ushered the butterfly (invented by Glenn Hall because he couldn’t stop Bobby Hull’s shot in practice) into the mainstream. Roy’s pre-imminence prompted a generation of cookie-cutter goalies, from Roberto Luongo to Jose Theodore to Marc-Andre Fleury. Through his goaltending schools and clinics, Allaire made the goalie coach, unknown a generation before, a staple of NHL and even junior teams.
Allaire arrived in Toronto this season after 13 seasons in Anaheim where the line of successful goalies ran from Guy Hebert through Jean-Sebastien Giguere to Jonas Hiller.
The trade of Giguere to Toronto and the rocky road endured by rookie Jonas Gustavsson
means Allaire will have plenty of work.
Mike Ulmer of mapleleafs.com checked in with Allaire to discuss his view of what Jacques Plante dubbed the art of goaltending.ULMER:
What do you teach your goalies?ALLAIRE:
I try to make sure my goalies play a simple style. That means being solid and being square with the puck. It should look simple. The goalie should do the minimum of movement.ULMER:
Can any goalie benefit from this?ALLAIRE:
For me, I need a guy who is willing to pay the price. I always got better results from a guy who was willing to learn than from a guy who just wanted to play by instinct.ULMER:
What was the launching point of your career?ALLAIRE:
I started with Patrick Roy and he was a big fan of what I was trying to do. It was easy for me to convince him to try and do things a certain way. When the number one guy in the organization promotes that, everyone all the way down promotes it as well.
Your coaching style is sometimes called rigid.ALLAIRE:
I coach different goalies differently, but I work with a definite set of principles. I explain my principles but I am open to different ways of doing it. Goalies come in all different sizes, body types, backgrounds and with different histories. There are different ways of getting things done. Jonas Hiller and Jean-Sebastien Giguerre, for example, had two different ways of operating.
The cornerstone of everything is this: if there is a pass inside the zone my goalie has to be able to push and stop and be ready at the same time the guy receives the puck. That’s not easy, especially on the power play where a goalie has six, seven, eight passes before the shot. The way you skate and move determines a lot of what happens after the shot.ULMER:
What about the idea of percentages. It’s harder to hit different spots of the net so by covering the high percentage areas, you work the numbers in your favour.ALLAIRE:
Shooters most of the time are under a lot of pressure. Sometimes they get the puck at the perfect place to shoot but most of the time a shot is in the middle of the net and lower. If you can cover those parts, you have an edge.ULMER:
You are credited with helping invent the butterfly style.ALLAIRE:
The media talks about the butterfly style, but for me it’s one movement. It’s a movement we use more than others, but there are so many more movements than just that one.ULMER:
How about the two-pad stack?ALAIRE:
I don’t promote the two pad stack.ULMER
: So tell me about a movement that has evolved?ALLAIRE:
Since 2003, a big movement has been one pad down. The game has changed and there are more shots from the goal line, a distance away from the net. The goalie puts one leg against the post and keeps the other pad down.
When there is a wraparound, the use of the paddle down movement has become popular. Goalies practice it. That movement is older, it goes back to Felix Potvin who used it a lot in Toronto.ULMER:
I had a theory that the further Potvin moved away from the goal line, the more confidence he felt. Can you apply that to all goalies?ALLAIRE:
I’m not a big believer in the idea that you can measure a goalie’s confidence by where he stands in the net. Martin Gerber played really deep in the crease. Henrik Lundqvist plays deep in the crease. It all depends on the goalie’s athleticism and how they see the puck. Some goalies think they can play a little higher in the crease and still get to the backdoor play. The quality of the defence can be different and some goalies may feel they have to play a little deeper.ULMER:
So what makes a good goalie?ALLAIRE:
Being a good goalie is all about reading and understanding. If you have a big screen, a little screen, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about reading and understanding the game. Some goalies just need a little bit of information and they will make the right decision. Other goalies can have a great amount of information and still struggle with the right decision.ULMER:
You have a veteran goalie you have worked with in J.S. Giguere and a young goalie in Jonas Gustavsson
. What are your goals this season?ALLAIRE:
I’m looking toward the future. We haven’t had very much time, but right after the Olympics we want to sit down with Jonas and Jiggy and fix some things. Jiggy is our guy and we want him to finish strong. There have been a lot of changes for him, but it’s time to play like an NHLer and take that into next year.
Jonas has lots of upside. His legs are really good. He’s quick, he’s tall and he can see the puck pretty well. But you have to remember, the step from the Swedish Elite League to the NHL is a very big one and Jonas had only one season as the number one goalie there. The talent, the size, the desire to learn, they’re are all there.ULMER:
How confident are you that the team’s goaltending and the Leafs place in the standings can be improved.ALLAIRE:
Look at Anaheim with Giguere. When we started working together, Anaheim was 15th in the West. Jiggy survived it and he got better. The next year, he got better and the next year, 2003, he took us to the finals. Just because you are on a team that isn’t doing well, it doesn’t mean you don’t get better.
The last six weeks of the season will be important. We will have to get better and we will.ULMER:
It seems to me that goaltending has gone from active to passive. What’s so exciting about a goalie taking a shot in the chest and smothering it as opposed to a goalie making a spectacular save?ALLAIRE:
You are talking about goalies like Mike Palmateer, Ron Hextall, Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford. The save percentage in that era was .880. Do that now and you are not in the business. The sport is always changing and the numbers change with that. Look at skiing in the Olympics in the 1970s. Guys had long hair and no helmets. Today, skiers with those same times would be dead last. ULMER:
To what do you attribute that progress?ALLAIRE:
Today, everybody is watching everybody else. If a power play formation has success, in a month everybody will be able to perform it or defend it. If a goalie does something well I guarantee half of the goalies in the league will start the next season using it. The sport is changing very fast, much faster than it used to change. And for me, when I see a goalie at the right time and in the right position to stop a shot, that’s something that I like to watch.