As a Hall of Fame goalie with five Stanley Cup rings, six All-Star Game appearances and over 400 NHL wins, Grant Fuhr did things his way for two decades — playing 70-plus games a season, challenging shooters and allowing the up-tempo Edmonton Oilers to think offense.
And as the new goaltender coach of the Coyotes, the 41-year-old Fuhr will allow Phoenix's young but experienced goalie tandem of Brian Boucher and Brent Johnson to do things their way. He plans on trying to augment and enhance their styles in infrequent meetings — a big change from predecessor Benoit Allaire, who taught a patterned style in a daily, classroom-like format.
“These guys have to go out there trusting in the styles that got them to the NHL. Obviously, it was successful or they wouldn't be here,'' said Fuhr, who will continue to live in Canada and will check in with the Coyotes goalies a few times a month either in Phoenix or on the road. “Brian isn't a butterfly goalie, and it's a little late now to learn. Brent is a butterfly goalie, and that's what he trusts. You have to do what you do best. That's what got them here and that's what will keep them here.''
Fuhr will also make frequent trips to Utah to work with Utah Grizzlies goalies David LeNeveu and Jean-Marc Pelletier. Team sources said Allaire was reluctant to work with the minor leaguers over the last few years, preferring to work with the NHL goalies on a consistent basis and frustrating Coyotes management, who wanted him to spend more time with LeNeveu, Phoenix's blue-chip goalie prospect.
Both Boucher and Allaire claimed a good relationship over the last two years, but Boucher abandoned much of Allaire's “hybrid'' goaltending style — a combination of stand-up and butterfly — just before breaking two modern-day NHL records with five consecutive shutouts last January.
“I was open to learning and I did learn, but I found myself doing more thinking than reacting on the ice, and it just wasn't working,'' Boucher said. “It was hard to take what you learned in practice and try to apply it in a game one day later.''
Fuhr knows Johnson well — the two were teammates for a brief time (1998-99), and Fuhr saw him at several training camps over the years. “He had a lot of success in St. Louis for a few years and there's no reason why he can't return to that level. Both Brian and Brent have lots of games and even playoff games under their belts but are still both just 26 years old. I think they can't be a very potent combination.''