Rumblings of Leaf Defections
Don't listen to the rumours that Brian Burke, subjected to an avalanche of public scorn in recent weeks, is planning to take a six-month leave to get his personal and professional house in order while leaving right hand man Dave Nonis in charge.
"I've never considered it and ownership has not asked me about it," Burke said last week. "Quit is not in my vocabulary."
But while those who would have Burke dismissed after his short tenure as Leaf president and GM won't be satisfied, they may be able to take solace in the fact that the club's controversial goaltending coach, Francois Allaire, may be looking to make an exit.
As reported first by Elliotte Friedman on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night, there is strong speculation that a frustrated Allaire may soon resign his position with the Leafs and retire as an active NHL goalie coach. Allaire, the mentor behind Patrick Roy's ascension to hockey imortality, has goaltending-related business interests outside of the NHL.
When contacted by The Star about the reports, Burke said he had not heard directly from Allaire that he was intending to step down. What appears to be the case is that friends and associates of Allaire are making his unhappiness known.
If Allaire does want out, it would be a frustrating development for Burke, who just days ago gave his goalie coach a vote of confidence and said he stands behind him, but now may find Allaire prefers to depart from the media storm that has engulfed the Leafs in the wake of the club's shocking second half collapse. It would be nearly as painful a blow as extending the contract of former head coach Ron Wilson in December, then being forced to fire a nearly helpless Wilson later in the season.
Allaire, who has earned three Stanley Cup rings, left Anaheim in June, 2009 to re-establish his working relationship with Burke in Toronto. He was barely mentioned in his first two seasons or the first five months of the 2011-12 campaign, but when Leaf netminding went sideways in February, many critics targetted Allaire and his goaltending philosophies as the reason behind the inconsistent and often poor play of Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer.
If Allaire leaves, the Leaf goaltending picture would be tossed into even more uncertainty. Already, its clear Gustavsson won't be back, Reimer was injured again late in the season and while Burke has talked about upgrading the club in the blue paint, there are no marquee free agent goalkeepers on the market this summer.