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Francois Allaire as goalkeeping coach a big part of Avalanche’s success – The Denver Post

When he was just a hopeful rookie in the Montreal Canadiens organization nearly two decades ago, Patrick Roy was essentially told by Jacques Plante, the team’s part-time goaltender coach at the time, that he would never become anything.

When he was nothing but an unproven, recently acquired goaltender with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2000, Jean-Sebastien Giguere described his career as “a mess.”

Roy became a Hall of Famer and a four-time Stanley Cup champion, arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history. Giguere is a Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Stanley Cup winner. To whom do these men attribute most of their success when others doubt them?

Francois Allaire, a man no one believed would make a difference in the NHL.

“I can pretty much say I would never have made it into the NHL without Francois’ help,” said Giguere, now an Avalanche goaltender. “I had played a few games but I was never a regular. … The day I was traded to Anaheim, he called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come over to my house? We’re going to watch a video.” We’re from the same town (Blainville, Quebec) so I could do that. The day I did that, everything changed. Everything started to get a little easier. What a stroke of luck for me.”

Hired by the Avs last summer, Allaire is something of a Wizard of Oz-esque character and rarely speaks to the media. He spoke to the Denver Post when he was hired in June, but only briefly, and has declined all interview requests since.

Allaire, 58, never played in the NHL or major junior. He played college hockey for just one year, in 1975 for the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, before the school downgraded the program to the intra-mural/club level. His dream of becoming an NHL goaltender ended early in life, and he decided that his best path to great success was to learn everything he could about the position and become a master professor.

Allaire’s quiet, literal nature lent itself to such a journey, and what he found after years of nomadic backpacking through European and North American hockey cities after graduating in 1978 was that no one seemed to know what it really meant to be a great goaltender.

“Fits perfectly”

What kept Allaire from becoming just another person roaring out of the peanut gallery was part brains, part serendipity.

Full of ideas about what he had researched, Allaire persuaded a small Canadian publisher to print Hockey Goaltending for Young Players in 1983.

The book caught the attention of some lower-level coaches in Quebec junior hockey, including Pierre Creamer, who coached a Montreal Canadiens affiliate in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Creamer was later promoted to coach the Sherbrooke Canadiens, taking Allaire with him. There, Allaire began working with a third-round draft pick from Montreal named Patrick Roy, who turned out to be an eager student.

“I was hungry to learn and absorb as much as possible and he loved to teach. It was a perfect fit for me,” said Roy.

At the time, it was widely believed that goalkeepers should stay on their feet as much as possible and not move around much. Goaltenders should also keep their skates blunt so they can better glide across the ice and “stack the pads” in final situations where movement was required. But Allaire wanted his goaltenders to move and adapt to the game unfolding in front of them, and also had the radical idea that a goaltender’s skates should be as sharp as possible in order to better target the body with every movement.” push and plant”. Puck.

“Every time there’s a pass in the zone, there’s a jab and a stop,” Giguere said. “There is no sliding. You check, you stop, you bet with every pass. So you need sharp skates because you need to stop hard and you need to have a good edge to slide from side to side and stay ahead of the game. You always want to be one step ahead of the game, so you’re in the right position to parry when the guy actually shoots.”

“keep it simple”

With the Avs trained by Roy, Allaire has found another willing young apprentice in Semyon Varlamov. After Allaire was hired, he met with Varlamov and Giguere in Montreal for a week to discuss techniques he felt could help the Russia goalkeeper, including raising his mitt and working hard, more from one side to plant on the other. Allaire noticed a tendency for Varlamov to sometimes slide outside the blue-lined area on saves, making him prone to rebounds. Varlamov now uses the push-and-plant approach.

“I’ve learned so much working with him,” said Varlamov, whose 0.924% save percentage this season is the best of his NHL career.

Roy said it was Allaire, not him, who decided who should start in goal. Roy rarely speaks to the Avs goalies during drills in training. This is Allaire’s territory.

“We were very fortunate to have him available to us this summer,” said Roy. “Having him be my first goalie coach during my first NHL coaching job was an easy decision for me.”

After being hired in June, Allaire told the Denver Post, “One of my hallmarks is I try to make sure guys feel good about themselves and keep it simple, create a good routine and make sure the guy happy to get on the rink. Then after that watch the tape and then find your best strength and build on that.”

So far, so good.

Goalie Whisperer

A look at five notable goalies Francois Allaire has helped throughout his career:

Patrick Roy, Montreal: The Hall of Famer cites Allaire as the biggest reason for his success early in his NHL career.

D JS Giguere, Anaheim, Toronto, Colorado: Giguere is on his third team with Allaire as his goalkeeping coach. He rose to stardom in the early 2000s with Anaheim under Allaire’s watch.

Guy Hebert, Anaheim: Before Giguere took over in 2000, Hebert enjoyed several stellar seasons under Allaire’s tutelage.

Jose Theodore, Montreal: Under Allaire, he developed into an all-star goaltender and later won the Hart Trophy.

James Reimer, Toronto: Although Allaire’s tenure in Toronto was shorter than others and drew criticism from some, he worked hard with Reimer, who is now one of the better goaltenders in the NHL.

Adrian Dater, The Denver Post

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