The Minnesota Wild don’t want to see another season rife with goaltending controversy — so they’ve hired former Edmonton Oilers goaltending coach Frederic Chabot, who served as the first casualty of Edmonton’s disastrous 2014-2015 campaign, to work with their AHL affiliate (the Iowa Wild).
Chabot will come on to work with a familiar face, as he was Devan Dubnyk’s goaltending coach for most of his NHL career. This is likely the result of the team putting their faith in Dubnyk as a long-term option as starter for the club, since the 6 foot 6 netminder and Chabot had reportedly had a very good relationship while working together in Alberta — although he will be coming on as a development coach, so his interactions with Dubnyk could range from regular chats to limited interaction altogether.
Chabot, a native of Herbertville, Quebec, played professional hockey for nearly twenty years before moving from the ice to behind the bench. He then served as Edmonton’s goaltending coach from 2009 until this past fall, when he was dismissed from the club following their early-season struggles.
Part of the criticism that Chabot received (even when coaching Dubnyk) was that he encouraged his goaltenders to be too aggressive; when playing under Chabot in Edmonton, Dubnyk’s attack-first style was almost to the point of being outright reckless with a bit too much frequency. He was capable of making acrobatic saves, but needed to far too often due to a tendency to pull too far out of the crease early on. This caused a rift when the netminder went to Nashville, where then-Predators netminding coach Mitch Korn urged Dubnyk to minimize his movements and promote more efficiency.
Two factors could make this a smart move, though, despite hesitancy to embrace the style of coaching that Chabot was best known for with his former employers.
The first is an improved defense in front of Dubnyk and his likely backup, Darcy Kuemper, showing that Dubnyk’s overall spacial awareness isn’t as off as many have criticized it as being in the past. In Edmonton, Dubnyk was capable of posting replacement-level save percentages behind what was widely considered one of the most porous defensive systems in the league; behind the much-better Wild blue line corps, Dubnyk will be left stranded less frequently than he was with his draft team.
The second is the sense of familiarity that Dubnyk and Chabot have with one another, which cannot be understated in the world of goaltending. It’s why the Arizona Coyotes have brought netminding coach Jon Elkin in to work with starter Mike Smith next season; two decades worth of coaching the Coyotes goaltender make Elkin a reassuring presence for Smith, which eliminates a potential level of dissonance within a goaltender’s psyche each season. Having Chabot return to a coaching position where he’s able to work in some capacity with Dubnyk once again may give Dubnyk the peace of mind to address a new season as Minnesota’s starter. Unless he un-learns everything that former Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke taught him while playing in Arizona, Dubnyk should still see more efficiency in his movements despite Chabot working near him once again.