The lasting memory of Dan Cloutier’s years as the Vancouver Canucks No. 1 goalie was not the three 30-win seasons, or the NHL’s November 2002 player of the month award that he won after posting a 10-1 record. No, though Cloutier actually had some good years for the Canucks, they were largely obscured by one moment in the 2002 playoffs, a slap shot from centre by the Detroit Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom that eluded him, changed the game, changed the series and was just one more close-but-no-cigar postseason heartache for fans of the team.
Funny how that single lapse ultimately defined Cloutier’s NHL career. There is usually no mention of how well Cloutier played in the first two games of the series – on the road, against a Red Wings team that went 51-17-10-4 in the regular season and eventually won the Stanley Cup that season.
So predictably, Tuesday’s news that Cloutier would join the Canucks as a goaltending consultant on the player development side set off the usual guffaws about his career – and how ill-advised the move might be, as if there’s any correlation between how he played and how equipped he might be to coach goaltenders.
Cloutier’s first day on the job will be Wednesday in Chicago, when the AHL Wolves open training camp. Most recently, he’d been working for Dale Hawerchuk and the Barrie Colts, where he was their goalie consultant last year.
Overall, Cloutier played 10 years in the NHL – with Vancouver, the New York Rangers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings. His best years came with the Canucks (109 of out 139 career victories), but his career ground to a halt in L.A. because of injuries. Ultimately, he lost his starting job when Roberto Luongo arrived on the scene from the Florida Panthers. Luongo was the conquering hero in Vancouver for a while, until his playoff lapses caught up to him. The new flavour of the month is now Cory Schneider, or will be, once the NHL gets back to playing games following the lockout; and it’ll be up to Cloutier to develop the next goalie on the ladder.
Maybe that will eventually become his legacy – and help him forget the one goal that everyone keeps reminding him that he never, ever should have surrendered.