The Cloutier Hire Reax

Thomas Drance
September 27 2012 01:25PM


Petbugs on why Cloutier is a fine choice as the Canucks' newest goaltending consultant.

On Tuesday morning, the @News1130Sports Twitter feed dropped a little nugget of Canucks related information that set off a wave of cursing, recriminations and beach ball jokes among Canucks fans:

Granted, Dan Cloutier was a below average goaltender in his career and for the Canucks, but he's far from the worst starting goaltender the team has ever employed. You wouldn't know that, however, from his reputation. From the epic Lidstrom flub, to that blown series and game 7 lead against the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs that one time; there are too many tough moments that overshadow Cloutier's string of 30 win seasons playing behind one of the most entertaining and offensively gifted clubs in team history. It's not fair, but that's life for a professional hockey goalie.

Read on past the jump for media reactions to the Cloutier hire.

For what it's worth, it seems that the Canucks anticipated the sort of negative reactions and ridicule Cloutier's hire would engender. That's very probably why it took the club nearly two months to announce that Cloutier had joined the organization as a "goaltending consultant":

The reaction from Canucks fans on Twitter was savage, but the media and assorted members of the Smylosphere were generally more charitable. 

Jason Botchford, who needs to read more George Bernard Shaw, pointed out that Cloutier's rocky experiences as a pro, could actually be a counter-intuitive source of strength in a scouting and coaching role:

Surprisingly, or not, Cloutier relishes every moment he played goal for Vancouver. OK, maybe not every moment. But that could be a reason why he has the tools to carve out a career as a goalie coach. The Canucks are banking on it. They hired Cloutier earlier this summer, at their prospects camp, and he’s set to help develop their amateur goalies.

You can understand why. It’s not just because he’s affable, thoughtful or the fact he’s only 36, and young enough to connect with 19-year-old prospects. It’s because the guy has been through just about everything.

And if you’re a young netminder wondering what life is like in the so-called goalie graveyard, there can’t be too many resources as learned as Cloutier.

“If you look back, there’s not too many things I didn’t go through,” Cloutier said. “I’ve been a backup, I’ve been a starter. I’ve been the starter who has been pulled. I’ve been celebrated on the back page. And I’ve been bad. I’ve been in tough markets, won the world juniors, and played where no one cared. I’ve been in the AHL, and suffered through injuries. I’ve been through it all."

Simon Wilson focussed on Cloutier's experiences dealing with the ungodly level of criticism in Vancouver, as a particular asset:

Perhaps most importantly, if Cloutier is going to be working primarily with the prospects in Chicago, it makes perfect sense that he shares his experience with them on playing in the fish bowl that is Vancouver. He’ll be able to provide with valuable insight on how to get themselves mentally prepared to play and stay in Vancouver. While Vancouver has been termed the ‘goalie graveyard’, few goaltenders have been as heavily criticized and ridiculed like Cloutier which is something he’ll be able to draw upon when working with the Wolves.

Daniel Wagner touted Cloutier's shallow track record as an OHL goaltending coach as suggestive evidence that - at the very least - Cloutier is a defensible candidate to work with the Canucks' amateur netminders:

As for Dan Cloutier the coach, he has some experience as an assistant coach under his brother in the Central Hockey League and acted as the goaltending coach for the Barrie Colts of the OHL last season. While it’s tough to measure how effective Cloutier was as a coach in that time, the three goaltenders for the Colts in the season prior to Cloutier’s arrival each had GAAs above 4.90 and save percentages below .880. While the Colts acquired two new goaltenders, all of their goalies, including one returning from the previous season, had much better statistics.

The team’s starting goaltender, 19-year-old rookie Mathias Niederberger, posted a 2.68 GAA and .918 save percentage during the regular season and, here’s the kicker, even better statistics during the playoffs.

Kevin Woodley - who has forgotten more about the goaltending position than I'll ever know - noted that the Cloutier hire may speak to a larger trend in the ways Goalies are being instructed at the NHL level:

Woodley also noted that the Canucks organization now has layers upon layers of redundancy in place, in terms of their goaltending coach assets:

Besides the tens of thousands of Canucks fans on Twitter, the only person I could find who really ripped the hire was - and this is a huge surprise so don't all gasp at once: Tony Gallagher.

Gallagher appeared on the fourth hour of the Scotty and Friends show (with Jason Botchford and Scott Rintoul) at about 8:30 on Wednesday morning, and he ripped Cloutier pretty good (albeit mostly in jest). Ever the showman, Gallagher even started his evisceration in the same manner that Jerry Seinfeld might open a bit about Chicken McNuggets:

How do you like Dan Cloutier coming back - I'm just wondering what his best coaching attribute will be? Whacking guys in the side of the head with your blocker - that's gotta be a strength. Also - how to arrange to have a coach have the hots for you to make you millions of dollar throughout the course of your career - as Cloutier had with Marc Crawford, that will be another one of his classes. I'm not sure I'm in a forgiving mood. There's nothing to say he won't be a great coach - just having a little historical fun."

"I love the way they trot out [Cloutier's] record, like his regular season record. I mean that team scored about 8 goals a game and he still only had that record! They had the West Coast Express line which put up massive numbers, they had the Sedins as a second line and they still couldn't win any playoff games."

"I'll never forget having a little off the record chat with Brett Hull after that game where the puck drifted by Clouts from Lidstrom, and the Wings got their first win in that series. Brett Hull was sort of chortling away there saying "we're going to win this series easily, and that guy will never be a good goalie in this league," and he was right. That was just a little aside, I didn't report it or anything because it was strictly told off the record, but Brett Hull knew right away that Dan Cloutier didn't have the makeup mentally to be a great goalie in the NHL and that turned out to be a pretty good prediction."

Quick note: Gallagher's quotes here have been selectively edited for the sake of readability. In particular, I took out a bit listing Canucks goaltenders who were good people but not good goalies, and removed some banter between Botch and Tony in which they joke about setting up a cage fight between Cloutier and Gallagher (imagine the gate revenue...)

Finally, Rob the Hockey guy made an interesting point. As the curtains first rose on the Brian Burke era, Vancouverites had to some extent forgotten their love for the cities NHL club (mostly because the Messier era was just that depressing). Rob notes the irony that several players (like Cloutier) who were critical in reigniting the passion the city has for the Canucks, are now widely despised by the fan-base:

"Isn’t it funny that the group largely responsible for the city of Vancouver falling in love with their Canucks once again is now viewed with so much disdain? Todd Bertuzzi, Matt Cooke and Dan Cloutier were all part of the core group of players in the early 2000s that gave the city an injection of life... Prior to their arrival, Vancouver was apathetic towards the Canucks. Those three players were major parts of the team in those days, and gave their all for the Canucks. Yet, Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Cooke are likely to get booed any time they return to Vancouver and any mention of Dan Cloutier gets ridiculed... [These players] were major parts of some pretty good teams (in the regular season anyway). We didn’t boo them then, and we shouldn’t now." 
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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Patrick Johnston
September 27 2012, 01:38PM
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Rob's point is outstanding. Those of us who were at UBC a decade ago remember the student nights the Canucks would put on. Tickets for $20!! The team was battling levels of fan apathy/frustration/disinterest that hadn't been seen since before Pat Quinn showed up.

Cloutier was not amazing. He wasn't Roberto Luongo. Heck, he wasn't Captain Kirk. But he was what we had and god it was fun watching him get pissed off.

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#2 Graphic Comments
September 27 2012, 02:12PM
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@Patrick Johnston

So true.

Despite the gaping holes in his game, Cloutier was the first solid starting goalie for the Canucks since Kirk Maclean. We went through such a horrid string of guys during that in between period. Felix Potvin for God's sake!

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