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Duck Tales: François Allaire


On December 6, 1995, the Montreal Canadiens traded goaltender Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche. The move was a direct blow to the city and the team, but also to François Allaire, Roy's goaltending coach. For Allaire, Roy was much more than a prized pupil; he was the embodiment of 20 years of research and development for a systematic approach to the "Butterfly" goaltending method.

Allaire spent the ten years before he met Patrick Roy creating his butterfly system, which emphasized consistent positioning, skilled skating and the proper use and application of equipment. He spent the next ten years with Patrick Roy, in the American and National League levels of the Montreal Canadiens organization, actually putting the system into practice and watching his student win Stanley Cups and Conn Smythe trophies along the way. And that success was a boon for Allaire as well, as he became arguably the most influential presence in the goaltending community. Needless to say, Allaire did not renew his contract with the Canadiens after Roy was traded.

In 1996, then Mighty Ducks general manager Jack Ferreira, who knew Allaire from Ferreira's time as a scout in Montreal, extended an offer for the coach to come to Anaheim. Over his 13 year stay with the Ducks, no one other than David McNab had a greater impact on the on-ice product despite the different coaching, management and ownership regimes.

Upon arriving in Anaheim, Allaire noted that Mighty Ducks starting goaltender Guy Hebert looked "tout croche" (a Quebecois-ism for 'all crooked'), which is ironic considering Hebert spent time coached by Bryan Hayward, who played under Allaire in Montreal. Within the year, the goalie guru straightened Hebert out, and the netminder found himself selected to the 1997 All-Star game.

That instant impact was par for the course for Allaire, who was able to turn journeymen into serviceable and sometimes superb backstops, but he also became a valuable scouting resource for young talent.  Allaire runs camps and seminars all over the world teaching his butterfly style, and many of today's netminders grew up learning his method.  Through his camps in Switzerland, Allaire found Martin Gerber, whom the Ducks drafted with an 8th Round pick in 2001, and five years later, Allaire found Gerber's countryman, Jonas Hiller, who cited the goaltending coach as a major reason he decided to sign with the Ducks.  Both goalies became quality backups for longtime starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the latter taking his job in the 2009-10 season, and both were steals acquired through Allaire's unique scouting and recruiting ability. 

Allaire's contribution to Anaheim was perhaps most visible during the playoffs, where goaltending has always been key for the Ducks.  He coached incredible postseason performances out of Guy Hebert, Mikhail Shtalenkov, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller. Only Hebert had seen the NHL postseason before meeting Allaire, and that was just for one game. During Hiller's dominant performance against the Sharks in 2009, Ducks commentator Bryan Hayward pointed out that Allaire had prepared Hiller for every aspect of the playoff experience: pre-game preparation, in-game, overtime and post-game, right down to the questions he would have to field from the media.  'Goaltending Consultant' isn't a common job across the NHL, but it's easy to see why Allaire became the gold standard for the post.

The 2008-09 season would be his last in Anaheim.  With his contract expiring that summer, Allaire expressed some consternation with the fact that Bob Murray and the front office had not discussed renewal during the season, but he finally asked the Ducks to speak with other teams in June.  His request was denied, but a week and a half later, Brian Burke, who had been the Anaheim GM just 8 months earlier, was granted an audience with Allaire and made his case for the goalie coach to come to the Maple Leafs, where Burke held court.  Allaire took the job, which moved him much closer to his home in Canada.

It's difficult to quantify his contributions to the franchise.  Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the team had only two major starters in Allaire's 13 years, and neither was a superstar when they began working with him.  In fact, despite the vast difference in their draft position, both Giguere (1st Round by Hartford) and Hebert (8th Round by St. Louis) were having trouble transitioning to the NHL when they came to the Ducks.  Still, they became solid starters that outlasted the few goaltending Draft selections that Anaheim made.  It seems absurd, but for Anaheim, the post of Goaltending Consultant carried the following job description:  "Scout young talent in every corner of the world so we don't have to use high draft picks on goaltending, recruit free agent talent that looked up to you because they learned the position at one of your many camps, develop talent quickly and create dependable starters and backups out of whatever we give you and squeeze dominant playoff performances out of goaltenders who have never seen the postseason before."  Pete Peeters has his work cut out for him.