Francois Allaire left, talks with Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer. (David Cooper, Toronto Star)
Francois Allaire calls it something of a "back to the future" moment of his career.
As the new goaltender coach of the Avalanche, Allaire is on the same staff with the player, Patrick Roy, he coached for 12 years with the Montreal Canadiens. Allaire also is back to coaching another goalie, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whom he played a major role in developing into one of the NHL's best netminders.
But can Allaire work the same magic for Avs No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov as he did Roy and Giguere? That, the 54-year-old goalie guru said, is his biggest immediate challenge.
"I think Varly is looking for a fresh start," Allaire said. "I think he's open to trying something else. He didn't feel he was going in the right direction. He wants to flush everything out and start fresh."
If Varlamov needs encouragement that Allaire can make him a better goalie, he need only look at the bench at his new coach, or at Giguere. Despite never playing in the NHL, Allaire is widely credited with improving Roy when he served as a coach with Montreal (1984-96), and Giguere when he coached at Anaheim (1997-2009).
When the Avs parted ways with former coach Kirk McLean and Roy was hired, one of Roy's first calls was to Allaire. The goalie coach had been out of the league since 2012 after a three-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs ended badly, with cross words back and forth between him and the team. Roy didn't hesitate to bring him back.
"I was very lucky that I met him. I have no doubt in my mind that he was a huge help in my career," Roy said previously.
Said Giguere of his time with him in Anaheim, which included a Stanley Cup in 2007 and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2003: "My careerwas going nowhere. I immediately felt more confident. I revived my career with him."
Allaire doesn't divulge his secrets, but those who have played under him say he stresses constant repetition of fundamentals. He is known as very demanding, but with a track record of success.
Varlamov, who has had two mediocre seasons with the Avs so far, is his latest project.
"I want him to be comfortable. That's the main thing," Allaire said. "After that, I want him to understand I'm not coming from a different planet. It's the same stuff. We don't want him to change everything. I've met with him a few times already. One of my trademarks is I try to make sure guys are feeling good and keep it simple, create good routine, make sure the guy is happy coming to the rink. Then after that, look at the tape and then find their best strength and build around it. I'm not there yet with Varly, but I expect that to come."
Allaire's job is not full time, but he is likely to be around the team at least half the month. Working side by side with one of his former star pupils has him re-energized, he said.
"He's a guy I could tell an idea to and he might say: 'I like that. I'll try that in a game tonight.' " Allaire said. "Not too many guys can do that. A lot of guys don't have enough confidence in themselves, but Patrick could decide in a hurry. I think it's going to be a good environment with the Avs, with Patrick around. I feel really welcome by the organization."
Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/adater
Correction: This article has been updated in this online archive. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the years Jean-Sebastien Giguere won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim, and the Conn Smythe trophy. The correct years are 2007 and 2003.