This was an unusual setting for a Toronto family portrait, a rink in suburban Stockholm with the front row all wearing masks.
But this summer snapshot of Maple Leafs goaltenders of the future was perfect in the eyes of proud father figure Francois Allaire, who believes the crease clan can never have enough quality time together.
Allaire, the club’s goaltending consultant, had Jonas Gustavsson and newcomers Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens attend his annual workout session in Sweden this month, believing it will pay big dividends, both at the main Leafs training camp and later this decade when the three could be contending for the No. 1 job.
“I want all my guys to understand there is a certain way to get to the NHL,” Allaire said Thursday, back at his Quebec home base. “When we put them in touch with each other, older rubs off on younger. It was that way last year with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Gustavsson and now you could see it with Gustavsson and Rynnas.
“You build up the group that way. Gustavsson can see that Giguere is in the NHL for a certain reason and thinks: ‘I have to play that way to get there.’ That gets passed down to the next guy. For the new guys, now they know the drills they will have to do and what to work on when they come to camp in September and that’s going to help the whole team as well.”
The Stockholm group also had some meals and off-ice sessions together. This was Allaire’s first good look at Rynnas, the 6-foot-5 Finn, who flew under the free-agent radar with a bad Finnish club team and then picked the Leafs over the Dallas Stars, largely on Allaire’s reputation as a goalie guru. Same with Scrivens, a Spruce Grove, Alta., native, who came out of Cornell University with some great numbers in 2009-10, but had generated little attention before that.
“Size is, of course, the first thing you observe about Rynnas,” Allaire said. “But his speed is great, his glove is good and he has a lot of great tools to work with.
“Scrivens (who attended the Leafs prospect camp the first week in July) made a great first impression with me. I like the way he competes to stop the puck.
“This year will be the first time I’ve had my kind of team of goalies out there, all of them working on the same thing.”
That was another unsubtle shot at the unco-operative Vesa Toskala, whom Allaire was candid about not wanting to change his ways when the latter arrived on the scene last summer. Toskala was traded to Anaheim in the Giguere deal.
“It’s also good that all of our goalies are tall,” Allaire said. “Gustavsson, Rynnas, Giguere, Scrivens are all more than six feet and (Marlies’) James Reimer and Andrew Engelage, too. They all have lots of energy.”
Allaire said he’s not at all counting out the 33-year-old former Stanley Cup winner Giguere from getting the starting role this fall. He knows what Giguere can do from when both were with the champion Ducks in 2007 and they’re preparing to start their own on-ice workouts in the next couple of weeks. But Allaire said the Swedish trip gave him a chance to convey an important message to Gustavsson from Brian Burke and Toronto management.
“This is a new season and he has to be ready,” Allaire advised. “We all know what happened last year (he didn’t make it through the first day of camp and needed two heart-related surgical procedures). He has to be stronger and we need to get more out of him.”
On that note, Gustavsson has been checked and re-checked after the two ablations and there are no lingering effects.
“It was the first time he’d been on the ice since the world championships, but he looked good, he was bigger and he had a good summer in the gym,” Allaire said. “I’ve talked to Giggy, too. He has no pain in his hip (a late-season hindrance) or anything like that.
“The stronger your goaltending, the stronger the rest of your team.”