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Player development staff now on deck

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

In early December, the Maple Leafs made some moves to shore up their player development. One of those was bringing in Darryl Belfry as a consultant.

Belfry’s specialty is working with some of hockey’s top talent to improve the way they tackle the game.

“During the year we track the clients and build the development model for them and to track what their success rates are in certain area,” said Belfry when he signed on. “In the off-season we now have a clear path as to what they are doing.”

With the Maple Leafs and Marlies regular season now complete, every prospect on the roster now has Belfry at their disposal.

As part of the build, Belfry’s methods will be put to the ultimate test. Players like Patrick Kane have sworn by his methods. In some ways, it’s the analytics of body movement.

“What I do is I analyze players’ game habits and then problem solve from a skill development prospective to open up new pathways for them to perform.”

Belfry discovered his methods worked for him when he taught himself to skate by recording games on ‘Hockey Night In Canada’ and analyzing the body movement before going out on the ice himself.

It’s here where the addition of Belfry plays the largest role for a team is in the midst of undertaking a patient approach to building.

The team is still in search of a new General Manager and Head Coach. Revamping the current pool of prospects in the system won’t be a quick fix. The Leafs simply have to find a way for their prospects to get better as quickly as possible, and Belfry’s methods are what the team hopes will expedite that process.

When the Maple Leafs relieved Randy Carlyle of his duties, Steve Staios’ role as Director of Player Development took a back seat as he shifted to becoming an assistant coach to then-interim head coach Peter Horachek.

Staios will return to this role as the team fills out its front office, which is important going into next year as he can go back to checking in with prospects and see how they are coming along.

It really is a new era, but one that will test the effectiveness of many in the front office. Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said it will be a much leaner staff moving forward and that just because things were done a certain way before, doesn’t mean that is the way it has to be here in Toronto.

One thing is certain; there will be complements and contrasts going forward. There won’t be a certain way. All possibilities are being explored. When you look at any particular department within the organisation, there will be differences in the way those people conduct their business. But the goal will always be the same.

Prospect camp in July will be a true test for Belfry and the rest of the player development staff. In October, if you see several players make the opening night roster that you didn’t see coming, it’ll be a good sign that the player development staff is on the right track.

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