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Coaches Room

NHL goalies face big adjustments after being traded before deadline

Marcoux says position coach can help ease transition to new team

by David Marcoux / Special to

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019-20 season by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Rob Zettler, Rob Cookson and Randy Carlyle will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Marcoux, former goaltending coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, examines the adjustments a goalie must make after changing teams before the NHL Trade Deadline.

If you are a goalie like Jack Campbell, Robin Lehner and Louis Domingue, you understand the issues involved when coming to a team in the second half of the season.

All three goalies were moved before the Feb. 24 NHL Trade Deadline. Campbell was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights by the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24, and Domingue to the Vancouver Canucks by the New Jersey Devils the same day.

Whether a goalie is brought in as a starter or a backup, there is a significant adjustment period that goes along with a change of scenery.

What type of defensive system does his new team implement? How different is it from that of his former team? How long does it take to develop a rapport with new teammates when it comes to playing the puck? Does the philosophy of his new goaltending coach differ significantly from that of his previous one?

Those are X's-and-O's things that can be worked out on the ice. Of course, there's not a lot of time for that. The Maple Leafs, Canucks and Golden Knights are in the midst of Stanley Cup Playoff races, and they each need their new goalie to perform well at a time when every point in the standings in so precious.

Lehner got his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory against the Devils on Tuesday and is 2-0-0 since joining the Golden Knights. Vegas leads the Edmonton Oilers by two points for first place in the Pacific Division.

Video: NJD@VGK: Lehner blanks Devils in 300th NHL game

Campbell is 3-1-1 for the Maple Leafs, having lost 5-2 at the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Toronto leads the Florida Panthers by five points for third in the Atlantic Division.

Domingue has lost his only game for the Canucks, 5-3 at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Vancouver remained tied with the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference following a 4-2 loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.

Before a goaltending coach can start working with a newly acquired goalie, the first and most important thing he can do for him is make him feel welcome and comfortable off the ice. Making it a seamless transition is a key.

I remember when Curtis Joseph signed with the Calgary Flames as a free agent in January 2008. The first thing I did was take him out. We had a great conversation over a great meal, and I tried to get him acclimated as an older guy (30) who was joining a team that was pretty successful.

As part of that process, I made up a list of all our players' nicknames. He quickly learned that no one called our captain, Jarome Iginla, by his name. No, everyone called him Ig or Iggy. It was just a way of making Joseph feel more at home in his new environment. That was a key for him, and he told me it really helped him. A lot of guys were intimidated to see a guy with Joseph's resume come into the room, but he just made it so easy. Players would say, "He's just an ordinary guy, he already knows my nickname. How does that work?"

Video: TOR@SJS: Campbell denies Kane on wraparound

It's just one of the ways, like I said, to try to make the change seamless for a guy.

Keep this in mind too: A lot of times, with the schedule already winding down, a new player is not bringing his family with him. He is probably living in a hotel. Half the time the team is on the road.

Think about what Lehner has gone through. In less than two years, he's played for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Blackhawks and Golden Knights. Different cities, different teammates, different environments. Day-to-day life outside the rink is so different in each of those communities. That's a lot of change to digest. It's our job to help smooth it out.

That goes for the on-ice tendencies as well. The most important thing is to find out what a guy's strengths or weaknesses are, at Ieast in terms of how he perceives them.

Just as important is how he wants to play pucks in the defensive zone. All these things go into it. Remember, points from your backup goalie could be the difference in making the playoffs.

One other aspect of this issue is helping to forge a relationship between the incoming goalie and the existing one. Lehner came to a Vegas team that had Marc-Andre Fleury, who wants to play as many games as possible. During the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup runs of 2016 and 2017, Fleury had to battle Matt Murray for playing time. Each guy in these situations wants to play. The job of a goaltending coach is to make sure they're on the same page. Sometimes all it takes is taking them out for a few pops so they can get to know each other better and discuss things.

In many cases, it takes two goalies to win the Stanley Cup. The Chicago Blackhawks had Corey Crawford and Scott Darling in 2015. The Penguins had Fleury and Murray in 2016 and 2017. The Washington Capitals had Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer in 2018. In each of those playoff runs, both goalies started games.

It makes sense that each goalie feels at home. And I'm sure that's what the Golden Knights, Maple Leafs and Canucks are trying to achieve.

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