You know it irks me to no end every time one of the usual suspects quibs that no big free agent has chosen the Maple Leafs during the prime years of their career. We, the argument goes, always seem to get the guys who want to retire in Toronto, in Mats’ Clubhouse. Until such time as this changes, the gurus suggest, the Maple Leafs will not compete for anything other than a high draft pick.
It occured to me tonight that perhaps Burke has already turned the page on that argument. He may have already landed a guy, who is still in his prime who will help deliver us to the promised land. Oddly enough, the signing is not of a player, but rather of a coach. I fantastic article in today’s National Post about the Maple Leafs new goalie coach/consultant, Francois Allaire.
“He’s the smartest goaltending mind in the NHL.” says former Maple Leaf goaltending coach Steve McKichan. The article is a must read if you are a Maple Leaf fan as it tells the story of a guy who is self taught, a pioneer and one who is still very much at the top of the game. Not only that, he is the one guy who will have the most direct effect on how or where this team finishes over the next couple of years.
Irrespective of how any of the players Brian Burke brings in, it will be the goalies and their performance that will determine how well the Maple Leafs do. Forwards, defencemen will come and go. Although no draft pick was spent on the Monster, he is, by all accounts the great white hope behind Toskala. There is no one coming up in the ranks to look to. JFJ dealt a few away. Burke traded the last one away. Now, there is Vesa and Jonas.
Ron Wilson and his group will do their best with the team as a whole, the forwards and the defence. Allaire will be responsible for the development of the goalies. Unfortunately, as goes the goalies, for the most part so to will the Maple Leafs. I really think it is that simple. All the new players, Schenn, Kaberle et all can all have excellent seasons, if the goaltending is flat, so to will the Leafs. A good goalie makes the whole team play differently. They play with more confidence. Do you remember how much differently the Leafs of old played in front of Curtis Joseph? They were a different team.
So, count this as the second big name free agent the Leafs have landed while still in their prime. Burke was the first, it says here that Allaire is number two.