Custom Search

News flash—Allaire now out of touch: thank goodness we found out- and thank goodness for the Leafs

Yesterday, we discussed the Francois Allaire announcement and a few of us wondered why Burke was (it turns out, only temporarily) uncharacteristically silent on the heels of the former goalie coach's less than flattering comments about the organization as he was walking out the door last weekend.

It turns out the Leaf GM was simply preparing to spin his own message via the comfort zone of the Toronto Maple Leaf in-house organ and web site.

What did we discover?  Yes, the Leafs (coaches, management) did in fact, as Allaire intimated, intercede and impede Allaire’s coaching efforts, but only “reluctantly”, we’re told, because of the sub-par results registered by the goaltenders in question.  Why exactly did the organization intercede?  Allaire, we hear now, is out of touch.  Outdated.  The game has evolved and the guy trumpeted by Burke as the best in the world a few short years ago (and just a few months ago, as well) is suddenly now, also according to Burke,  yesterday’s man.

I don’t much care one way or the other.  With the Leafs in recent years, verbal sleight of hand is something you can never really figure out.  Burke is seemingly yet again covering one of his “mistakes” with excuses.  (If Allaire was out of touch in some fashion, this should have been identified and corrected—and he should have been summarily dismissed some time ago.  This is much like Burke admitting, after he fired Wilson, that the two had vastly different beliefs in how tough a team the Leafs should be.  I’m still shocked at that admission—and Burke’s refusal to act earlier.  If you and your coach do not agree on a basic core "value", how can that possibly work?) 

In any event, we are where we are.  Incoming goalie coach  Rick St. Croix will join the Leafland merry go-round now, and no doubt we’ll hear how this new approach will be a panacea—and it will be for a while, because everyone will sound happy and positive with the new guy.  Over time reality may set it and things may be different down the road,  but that will be then.  This is now.

I mostly find this rather amusing.  We have this picture of not only a Maple Leaf team in disarray after 8 long seasons in the non-playoff wilderness; we now discover that for all the management mantras (“every game is a tryout”, “no complaints, no excuses”, etc…) that they weren’t just bad on the ice.  There were  issues off the ice as well—right through the coaching staff and seemingly, upper management.

I don’t doubt Allaire is a stubborn guy.  Once you’ve had success at a very high level in your field, there can be a tendency to think that “your” way is the right—and best—way.  (Maybe Burke truly did feel that the coach he knew in Anaheim just didn't and wouldn't "evolve", as Burke put it.  Sometimes management in any business hires people and they don't work out as expected.  It happens.)

Burke certainly falls into that stubborn (intractable?) category, too.  He talks constantly about how he builds “his teams” and the “way that I do things on my clubs…”.   There are lots of "I's" and "my's" in Burke's vocabulary.  For Allaire's part, it's not a surprise that Allaire stuck with what he knew, what he taught, based on some earlier successes. 

In fairness, there’s no crime is changing coaches.  It happens all the time in hockey.  It’s just a bit notable that we were told, for example, that “Ron Wilson will have a job next week if I fired him”.  Burke didn’t fire Wilson; then he did.  Wilson still doesn’t have a job and wasn’t even on the radar screen of any team this past summer.

Allaire was sold to Leaf fans as the Brett Hart of hockey—you know, the best there was, the best there is, the best there ever will be.

Apparently not.  Oh, well.  At least that's the story this week.

Some questions for you:

  • Is Burke covering his earlier mistake in hiring Allaire, or is Burke making one now?
  • Was Allaire the problem with Gustavsson (I’ve said here for ages that he was, along with Wilson’s confidence-killing approach with all the goalies over the years…)?
  • How do you feel about Burke addressing this “issue” in-house, with a team-paid writer, as opposed to facing the broader mainstream media?
  • Do you care as much about who coaches our goalies or are you more concerned with who our goalies are?

I know some people are saying that hey, this is making a mountain out of a mole hill.  That Burke has always been complimentary of departing players and staff members before.  But that's to be expected, right?  If there's no reason to say something bad or inappropriately critical about someone who just left the organization,  why would you?  It's not as though Burke has established some special standard here.  Some will no doubt say that, in this "rare" instance, he was just defending himself and the organization, since Allaire took shots at the organization as he slammed the door behind him on his way out.   This interpretation of Burke's perhaps predictable response suggests, “move along, nothing to see behind the curtain…”.  And maybe those observers are right.

But for me, it’s not really that simple.  The fact that Allaire, historically a fairly non-controversial, stand-up guy himself (which does not mean I’m a fan of how he dealt with Gustavsson and the Leaf goaltenders) actually made a point of piddling on the organization as he exited tells me something.  Of course it’s not a shock that Burke felt the need to “respond”.  But the more concerning issues lie, for me, beneath the surface.

Rick Dudley was here, then gone.  We kept a coach Burke didn’t agree with for more than three years.  Wilson's wings were clipped by Burke last summer when his  assistants were fired.  They were apparently a problem.  But maybe they weren't, based on this past season's dismal finish.  Now we have Allaire's awkward departure.  Throw in the fact that the team is not exactly poised for success, roster-wise (regardless of how excited we want to try to be about all the great “prospects”) and the picture gets even murkier.  We have a new coach in Carlyle, but he is a guy set in his ways (just like Allaire, eh) who is coaching a roster that clearly does not seem to fit his style.  If Carlyle was good at adjusting, would he not have done so in Anaheim?

Meanwhile, NHL players are flocking to Europe (apparently missing the “solidarity forever” cue), while individuals like Selanne take shots at the owners who helped (with us) make players like Teemu multi-millionaires. All this, as the lockout that may just last forever plods slowly along with zero sign of movement or headway.

But the Leafs, well, leave it to the Leafs to give us something to bat around…


  1. Michael,

    On Burke specifically. I find his position on anything to be very transient. Quite like the weather, forget about it, it will change soon enough. I used to respect what I thought was his forthrightness and his honesty. I do not feel the same way anymore. I have no respect for what he says. And less respect for his hockey acumen as time goes on. If Allaire's methods are outdated now, they were so 3 years ago. Nothing changed, other than his level of success.

    The mistake I see Burke making is the pronouncement stuff. It is always so black and white. Never a sliver of doubt in any way. You mentioned a lot of the things I would have. WIlson will have a job, Allaire is the best goalie coach on the planet. There are dozens more. He would be better served in my opinion to talk more about the positives that he sees in a situation, instead of preaching from on high. Only one way to go from that high up. Falling generally is less time consuming and more painful.

    I never thought that Gus fit what Allaire was trying to do. Could one of them have changed philosophies? Yes, I swear that I don't know which one. We will see in Detroit next year.

    I don't like the in house media outlet getting this kind of thing. I can say the same for Paul Hendricks asking questions in press conferences. I think it is more of the team getting out the message it wants. Nothing more. The line between media, and team shills has been blurred already. With Rogers and Bell owning the team. I am sure that this will only get worse.

    Honestly, I have to say that both the players and who coaches them is important to me. Its not like we have Belfour or Cujo in net here. We have young kids that need to improve. They may or may not have the wherewithal to get there on their own. A good goalie coach could be the difference here. If Reimer never gets better, where in the crap does that leave the team going forward? This team is already built on wishes, dreams and best case scenario. Why on Earth they are sabotaging themselves like this is beyond my ability to comprehend things.

  2. You and I share very similar views on this subject, Jim. (I suppose we always like posts that seem to agree with our own perspective!) But you touch on a lot of subtle but important factors in why some of us feel frustrated with current Leaf management and the uncertain state of affairs. I, too, wish that there was less hubris and "certainty" in Leafland and a bit more, if not humility, then at least modesty.

    Well said. Thank you Jim.

  3. When you ask, "Is Burke covering his earlier mistake in hiring Allaire, or is Burke making one now?" I have to think its a bit of both in some respects.

    Burke relied upon the goalie coach who WAS instrumental in Giggy's Conn Smythe performance prowess (or so we are led to believe). It was a few years back AND there may have been more success with that style then than now. I remember watching Giguere at the time and felt he relied on oversized pads. He seemed 'boring' to watch (like 'move the plywood cutout of a goalie and stop the shot' - on a big table hockey game).

    [Don't get me wrong, I like the guy but I was never inspired by his style. Even though he must have been an athlete, he didn't look capable of a reactionary / spectacular save (though there must have been some, I just don't remember any).]

    Despite Burke's loyalty apparently factoring into the equation, I think the mistake he's making now is simply saying 'the style is out of date' - It didn't "just" expire (bringing justifiable criticism that reminds us of the fundamental differences he had with Wilson), so why keep Allaire in the mix until his contract was over? And, why have a replacement ready to sign so quickly (unless it was anticipated)?

    Perhaps re-signing Scrivens would have been harder, if things had come to a head earlier in the process, and it was clear that Allaire would be gone.

    Burke seems to be acknowledging (a bit too late/slowly) that Allaire's teaching was not 'moving with the times.' However, such 'humility' appears to be a pill too bitter to swallow, hence it is 'sugared' up with a 'blame-worthy' defense/response in order to keep the taste out of his mouth (and leave it in ours, even if the intent was to leave it with Allaire). Burke appears to be willing to note that Allaire isn't able to keep up any more, yet not acknowledging his own culpability in keeping him around (though I do think the cache of Allaire did help gain us/keep some prospects, and therein lies the heart of the matter in my estimation).

  4. I guess at the end of the day, InTimeFor62, I would like to hear "normal" talk from Leaf management. Not hubris and hyperbole, or extremes one way or another all the time.

    If Allaire was great at his job in March, I'm not sure what changed since then.

    Burke is a loyal guy, no question. But this just seems to be another odd situation of his making. And you're right- it's obvious St. Croix was already hired.


  5. there are manyyyyyy scapegoats in the maple leafs organization. how about a simple 'we wish mr. allaire good luck in his future endeavors.' i think burke just likes the sound of his own voice, and the reporters gobble it up.

  6. I guess it's tough sometimes, Alex. If the GM says nothing, he'll get criticized for that, too, I suppose. Not an easy job, we all realize, but this one was a bit messy.

    Thanks Alex. Hope you're well!

  7. "Is Burke covering his earlier mistake in hiring Allaire, or is Burke making one now?"

    I don't believe Burke is the type that needs to cover his mistakes. To me, he is a proud man who doesn't feel the need to pander to anyone. The reaction was merely a need in Burke's mind to address the issues raised by Allaire. In reality, I don't think Burke really cares about what people outside think relating to his decisions or deals and merely had to address this to show support to his existing group.

    "Was Allaire the problem with Gustavsson (I’ve said here for ages that he was, along with Wilson’s confidence-killing approach with all the goalies over the years…)?"

    Yes...From my perspective, Allaire like Burke is a proud man who has strong beliefs. Unfortunately, not everyone can play the system he so believe in conjunction with what the team as an entirety plays. Wilson's defensive system was not tailored to sound positional play in which Allaire's style would be highly successful in. Gustavsson never appeared comfortable during his tenor under Allaire's strict tutelage. He appeared caught in what he believed worked and at the same time Allaire's system. He looked confused at times. To me Allaire should have played to the strength of each individual ability and comfort but because of his belief, refused to do so hence his failure.

    "How do you feel about Burke addressing this “issue” in-house, with a team-paid writer, as opposed to facing the broader mainstream media?"

    Perfectly acceptable given Burke's belief and disdain for people who question him. It is after all his right to do as he see fit. I won't criticize him for that.

    "Do you care as much about who coaches our goalies or are you more concerned with who our goalies are?"

    The bottom line factor is the most important. 'Success requires no apology and failures permits no alibi'

    Regarding your Solidarity..This is a really good view point that I read recently

    "Technically speaking, guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby — who have all signed on to play, or have expressed interest in playing, overseas — owe nothing to their brethren in the KHL or other professional leagues in Europe. But is taking a job away from some poor sap in the Russian or Swiss League the right thing to do?

    If you’re taking a stand against the nasty NHL owners, take a stand. Isn’t part of taking a stand, and standing up for what you believe is right, enduring the hardships that go with it — in the NHL players’ case, not being able to play at a high level or collect a pay cheque?

    So why go over to Europe and take away somebody’s job? Is there not something fundamentally wrong there? Don’t players in Europe count for anything? Just because they’re not NHL stars, they don’t matter?

    Hey, the poor sap who gets cut from Metallurg to allow Malkin to play probably needs the money a helluva lot more than Malkin does.

    Shouldn’t there be some loyalty between brethren, even though they’re not in the same union? "

  8. Excellent post, Lukas. All fair points.

    The only area where we may differ is your reference to Burke not caring what people on the "outside" think about his decisions. From my perspective, he too often goes out of his way to publicly slam those (in the media, for example) who comment on his work. (He tried to have Don Cherry shut down.) In my view, someone who really and truly doesn't care doesn't have the kind of reaction he so often does. But I respect your position.

    On the players going to Europe, my view has been expressed here before: they have the "right", sure. But they are taking a job from a player there who needs the pay check and is playing at the best level he can. These NHL stars don't need the money, and only a small percentage of the player brotherhood will have those kinds of opportunities. So while a few hundred guys sit and wait, some players will still earn a full-time, big-time salary.

    (I remember Chris Chelios playing in the United Hockey League during the last lockout. That essentially cost a player - making $500 or whatever the amount was per week- his job. To me, that's just not right.)

    In addition, the players have a strike/lockout fund. They are still making money. So no, I don't like the idea of NHL players playing in other leagues during a labour dispute. But I guess it's their "right", as I said.

    Great post and lots of food for thought, thanks Lukas.

  9. Thanks Michael.

    In relation to Burke, I do think that logically, if one were to not care, one should not address it. At the same time, a passionate man such as Burke, although often dismisses the opinions others whom he does not value nonetheless have inherit need to address those that slight them. I understand it although don't think it is always the best policy. To me, the majority of his opinions and diatribes are results from slight he feels either directed at him or those he passionately protect. It is interesting to see that a man that graduated from Havard with a law degree expresses himself often in absolute. Although I don't always agree with his decisions, I do respect him for having the backbone to defend it. Sometimes well past the expiration date but if anything that clearly show loyalty with the understanding that when someone question you acquisition for example, they are questioning the acquisition itself.

  10. I hear what you're saying, Lukas. And there's no question Burke is tremendously loyal. He is so strong in his views that he can't help, it seems, from going public more often than may really be necessary. Thanks Lukas, well said.

  11. Michael, I generally like Burke, but I must admit I find it extremely ironic that he criticizes Allaire for not changing with the times. This coming from a guy whose first UFA signing as Leafs GM was none other than Colton Orr (an enforcer). Even back in 2009 many questioned whether a one-dimensional "enforcer" was worth having on an NHL team (let alone signed to a 4 year deal). Then just 2 and 1/2 years later, there is Burke putting Orr on waivers, and during a news conference he blasts the NHL for allowing "rats" to take over the league.

    Sadly it was Burke who was out of touch, and out of date when he hired Orr. It took Burke far too long to realize or admit the game had changed. Now we have Burke accusing Allaire of being out of date, and not adapting his coaching methods to the style of today's game? Irony at it's best!

    Too many cooks spoil the broth may be a valid complaint Allaire could use. But at the same time, if you are reluctant, or refuse to listen to advise from others, or refuse to change your coaching methods, you are never going to adapt or improve. Allaire suffers from the same foibles as Burke.... he's stubborn, brutally honest, and very reluctant to change his opinion/approach.

    By the sounds of it Burke left the door open for Allaire to leave gracefully and avoid any criticism/scrutiny from the media and fans. Allaire instead chose to go public, and that forced Burke to respond (albeit using in-house media). If he opened it up to main-stream media, it would have made an even bigger mountain out of a mole-hill. As somebody noted, only in Canada and in Toronto would the departure/firing of a goalie coach stir up this level of media frenzy. Rather insane don't you think? Ooops what was the topic of this and your previous post? ;-) Well a nice relief from the CBA banter I suppose.

  12. The very thing that you are raising today, Don (TML__fan), is something that has been brewing in my mind as well. Burke is very much what he describes Allaire as- a person who sticks to his position rigidly and stubbornly, even when it is clear he is dead wrong.

    So everyone has their own perspective on this- Allaire feels he couldn't do his job effectively with all the interference; the Leaf brass think he wasn't adapting to the "times"; we fans are left to wonder what was really going on as Rome burned to the ground.

    As you say, only here could a goalie coach departure create this kind of buzz. But the Leafs should be thankful that it does- were it not for we "fans" who care about the tiniest thing to do with the well being of the franchise, they would not be taking in millions and millions of dollars in profit annually.

    Thanks Don. Better than talking about the CBA, indeed.

  13. A really good colum from Damien Cox, who I often dislike. Here are the key points:

    • In late fall, with the team trying to improve its penalty killing, assistant coach Greg Cronin wanted to have Allaire and the goalies sit in on penalty-killing meetings. Allaire didn’t want that. Cronin said he’d already talked to James Reimer.

    Allaire warned Cronin not to speak to his goalies. Cronin responded in a most unfriendly way, and unrest within the staff was born.

    • Ron Wilson, dismayed with how Jonas Gustavsson and Reimer were playing so passively deep in the crease, asked Allaire in early February to get them to play more aggressively. Allaire said he had no intention of altering the way his goalies were playing.

    Wilson, out of sheer frustration, finally went directly to the goalies, bypassing the celebrated goalie guru. Soon, Allaire and the other coaches weren’t even on speaking terms.

    • Randy Carlyle, who had worked with Allaire in Anaheim, gave the goalie coach a list of three conditions he would have to meet if he wanted to return for the 2012-13 season. The list included: working a maximum 17 days a month, including six with the Marlies, rather than being around the team every day; apologizing to the coaches on staff he had offended; and a commitment to teaching a more aggressive goaltending style.

    Allaire refused to agree to any of the three conditions.

    This wasn’t the way this was supposed to go. Burke and Allaire spoke last week and apparently agreed to make an announcement together sometime this week that would make it look like a mutual parting of the ways, but instead Allaire fired and Burke fired back.

    You can read the full artilce here: