Francois Allaire can extoll a lot of virtues about one-time pupil Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but wanted to make one point clear to his caller.
"He's not just coming here to play goal," the Maple Leafs' netminding consultant said. "He's coming here as a role model, to Jonas (Gustavsson), to James Reimer, to all our goalies. He's a guy our young players can (aspire) to, to see what it takes to make the NHL, on and off the ice. He makes us very deep at that position and we hope that's true for another six or seven years."
One of Giguere's first calls on Sunday was to Allaire, whom he's known since he showed up at his Montreal goaltending school, a wide-eyed 14-year-old. Allaire calls him the prototype butterfly goalie, and worked with his foot speed to keep him square to the puck. The payoff was in 2007 in Anaheim, when he, Giguere and GM Brian Burke were all in the 2007 Stanley Cup photograph.
By the time Giguere spoke with reporters on a Sunday conference call, he was already talking about the Monster as if they were the best of buds. The departed Vesa Toskala was friendly with the rookie Swede, but was no mentor.
"I'm not (Gustavsson's) coach, but I think I can lead by example," Giguere said. "I don't compete against him, I compete against the puck. We both want the same thing (playing time), but I don't want to hate him. Between the three of us with Franky, there will be a good working relationship. I was a minor-league goalie and Franky gave me a great foundation."
But Giguere said that 32 is young enough to be a dominant starting NHL goalie and that is his short-term concern. And maybe he is punchy from the time difference from the West Coast, but he won't dismiss the Leafs making the playoffs.
"There are 26 games left, but we have some guys playing for contracts and the team made big changes today," he said. "Obviously, it's a long shot, but there's still hope."
Giguere found it hard to leave Orange County, where his sons were born and there was an outpouring of support when one of them, Maxime-Olivier, was born with an eye condition during the '07 playoffs.
Giguere believes his son will get similar quality health care here, while the trade re-unites him with friends in the Toronto area and, of course, gets him closer to his Quebec roots.
"I was with Hartford a couple of minutes (in 1996), but everyone says it's easier to be in the Eastern Conference," he joked. "There shouldn't be the same (travel) toll on my body."