It took longer than it probably should have, but the Bruins are finally getting proactive about the development of their young goaltenders.
The Bruins hired their first goalie development coach last week when they brought former NHL goalie Mike Dunham into the Black and Gold fold not long after he was let go by the New York Islanders organization after 11 years as their goalie coach.
The hire probably isn’t going to rescue the career of former first-round pick Malcolm Subban as he continues to look more like a bust rather than the goalie of the future in Boston. But it could do is help the Bruins mold their next No. 1 guy when it's time to eventually move on from Tuukka Rask in the distant future.
It could also help avoid some of the pitfalls that Boston dropped into with Subban, whether that was rushing him a couple of years ago out of desperation, or simply watching him fail to improve in any tangible way the past three years in the AHL. While Subban is signed for two more years in Boston after getting a new contract this summer, it’s other, younger goalies who the Bruins are turning toward.
Perhaps that’s Zane McIntyre, 24, as he’s entering just his third year in the pros after getting pushed into some NHL duty last season and finishing last season by guiding Providence through three rounds of the AHL playoffs. Or maybe it's draft pick prospects Daniel Vladar, 19, or University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman, 18, as they continue on their development. Either way, it’s clear that Boston’s young goalies have been lacking a little more hands-on instruction than Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa could have possibly provided while working full-time with the NHL puck-stoppers.
So, in comes Dunham to fill the same kind of role with the goaltenders that former Stars and Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner fills for the B’s positional prospects.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Bob Essensa and certainly he’s done a good job of covering as much as he possibly could. I think that with the addition of the video options that we now have, it just seems to be an expanded role,” said B’s general manager Don Sweeney. “We probably could have done this at an earlier time, but I feel really good that Mike Dunham was one of the coaches available. It was unique in the situation he was in.
“We feel real fortunate that we found a really highly experienced guy that we can drop right in there and feel very comfortable about. I do believe the organization could have been served better had we done this years ago. We feel that, despite great proximity-wise, we just feel that our goaltending position, that we can do a better job overall of giving more resources to our individual players on a daily basis, whether it’s through daily interaction in practices or video work, or supplemental work. Of course, we have the prospects that are spread around as well. [It’s] more touches. It’ll allow Bob to travel a little bit more if he wants to without necessarily having to go to Providence all the time as Mike would be there.”
Sweeney didn’t elaborate on why the Bruins didn’t opt for a goalie development coach when he was the front man for Boston’s player development system, but development coaches, in general, are still a pretty new phenomenon for the Black and Gold. Better late than never perhaps as the Bruins address a need to better support their young goalies and avoid repeating some of the mistakes they’ve made the past few seasons.