It almost goes without saying that, in pro sports, dysfunction in an organization often leads to losing.
In the same fashion, losing can lead to dysfunction.
In the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs and their now departed goalie guru, it seems this franchise now has its fair share of both.
Yes, François Allaire has coached his last netminder in Toronto, as it was revealed on Monday that after three trying seasons, he wouldn’t be back.
Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who owes his 2007 Stanley Cup win in Anaheim at least in part to Allaire’s work with Jean-Sébastien Giguère, had offered to extend his contract, but one of the more renowned goalie minds in the game had had enough.
Too many cooks in the kitchen, Allaire explained.
His pupil, James Reimer, offered more troubling insight into the situation – one he learned about only from the media when he came off the ice Monday afternoon.
Reimer revealed Allaire had been unhappy during last season and expressed his unwillingness to return.
“There was some stuff that went on behind the scenes last year,” Reimer said, somewhat reluctantly.
“I think there was some confusion last year. A couple misunderstandings. I don’t know if everyone clicked last year. I mean, there was some trouble in some areas. I don’t know if I want to get into it too much or comment on it too much, but I know there was times he was frustrated we didn’t have more time to work on stuff. He told me [in the summer] that it probably wasn’t looking good [to come back].”
Given the Leafs results during three seasons with Allaire in the fold, it’s understandable that some want to write of his considerable credentials.
Toronto’s goaltending has ranked dead last, 20th and 28th in those three years among 30 NHL teams, with the Leafs missing the playoffs and going through a rotating carousel of inconsistent or injured starters who often couldn’t stop the puck.
Along the way, Allaire took some heat, even as young goalies Reimer, Ben Scrivens and Mark Owuya experienced considerable success – albeit mostly in the minors – under his watch.
What Allaire was unable to do was make lemonade out of lemons such as Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, who appeared in 54 per cent of the Leafs games under the goalie guru’s watch despite neither playing his “blocking” style.
Combined, the pair had a .895 save percentage under Allaire, well off the .909 (which is nearly league average) posted by Reimer, Scrivens and the long since departed Giguère.
So was Allaire – the man who won three Stanley Cups while tutoring Patrick Roy, Giguère, Jonas Hiller and others – truly to blame?
Not if you ask the Leafs current No. 1.
“Absolutely not,” Reimer said. “Absolutely not. He’s arguably the best goalie coach in the world. It was a tough year. … It’s the same thing with injuries. You can prepare and try and be as healthy as you want, but sometimes crap happens. But he’s a great goalie coach and he’s not to blame at all.
“He’s the guy that prepared me for this next level the most,” he added.
Toronto being Toronto, even during a lockout, names are already being batted around for Allaire’s replacement. The two front-runners are believed to be two former Leafs – Rick St. Croix and Curtis Joseph, with St. Croix having the edge given his years with coach Randy Carlyle in Winnipeg.
Getting someone who can have a good working relationship with the existing staff should be a priority given the turmoil that went on with Allaire.
Reimer, meanwhile, said he’s prepared to move on – even while making it known the losing and dysfunction weren’t caused by the man who had mentored him to where he is now.
“Honestly, it’s disappointing,” Reimer said. “I hold nothing against Frankie. I know the decision he made and I completely understand it. But I’m disappointed I can’t work with arguably the best coach in the game. ”