SUNRISE, Fla. – By any standard, there is no denying that it’s been a transitional offseason for the Florida Panthers.
Between the front office and locker room, there will be a lot of new faces around the rink once the new season finally arrives.
That trend of transition continued on Tuesday with an eye on cultivating, nurturing and developing the team’s goaltenders.
Florida is expanding its goaltending staff, adding legendary goalie coach Francois Allaire as a consultant, the team has announced.
This is a big hire as Allaire is one of the most respected and knowledgeable goalie minds the hockey world has seen over the past quarter century.
But wait, there’s more!
The Panthers are also pioneering a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind Goaltending Excellence Department that will be led by none other than future Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo.
“This new endeavor for our organization is incredibly special,” Luongo said in a statement released by the team. “I’m honored to welcome Francois, whose impact on the goaltending position stands second to none.”
The goal is to provide a wide-ranging program that incorporates each goalie in the team’s system, regardless of the level.
According to the Panthers, “Upon joining the organization, a Panthers goaltender will experience consistent communication, guidance and unified instruction from the goaltending excellence staff.”
Allaire will assist Luongo in overseeing the department, which will include Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas and AHL-level goalie coach Leo Luongo, Roberto’s younger brother.
Starting as an NHL goalie coach with Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens in 1985, Allaire also worked with star butterfly-style goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere in Anahaim, helping both capture Stanley Cups. He and also had stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in Colorado, where he worked on Roy’s staff during his time as Avalanche head coach.
“I’m proud and excited to be part of this encompassing new goaltending operation,” said Allaire. “Our collection of goaltending knowledge is extraordinary, and our players will have the benefit of a collaborative, united coaching experience throughout their careers with the Panthers. I’m thrilled to work with this talented group in establishing an unparalleled product of scouting, development and teaching.”
Added Luongo: “Each member of our goaltending excellence staff has traveled a different path and possesses a unique set of experiences and knowledge. I have a tremendous deal of respect for this group and couldn’t be more excited for the future.”
It makes sense that Florida is investing in both the present and future of the team’s goaltending. The Panthers current stable of goalies is one of the most talented in franchise history.
At the NHL level there is two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and the ascending talents of 26-year-old Chris Driedger. Florida also has former third-round pick Samuel Montembeault, who is expected to get plenty of playing time with AHL-Charlotte this season, and fellow young ‘tenders Philippe Desrosiers and Ryan Bednard at the AHL and ECHL levels.
The gleaming gem of Florida’s deep goalie pool is 2019 first-round pick Spencer Knight. He’s following up an impressive freshman season at Boston College with a stellar sophomore campaign in which he’s won all four of his starts, including back-to-back shutouts.
Knight is expected to be the starter for Team USA at this month’s 2021 World Junior tournament taking place in Edmonton.