If we were able to turn back time to October 2016 and distill the feelings of Winnipeg Jets’ fans when it was announced that Connor Hellebuyck would be named the starting goaltender for the season, one would conclude the general opinion was one of grand optimism.
The decision to name the then 23 year old Commerce, Michigan native as the newly appointed heir to Ondrej Pavelec was widely lauded, as it should have been. In Hellebuyck, Winnipeg had found the true definition of a diamond in the rough. Looking back to 2012 scouting reports, its difficult to find any writing on him. In fact, Central Scouting didn’t have him listed in their Top 35 North American Goaltenders.
Since being drafted from the obscure and little known Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he has done nothing but shine at every stage, amassing a trophy case full of MVP and All-Star nominations. In addition, he also had 26 games of NHL experience from 2015-16 where he amassed a save percentage of .918 from his 2015-16 season.
Flash forward to May 2017 and there are some in Winnipeg who comically believe the team should move on from their hulking net-minder. His season was neither the masterpiece many had anticipated six months prior, nor was it “a complete disaster”. There were several games of sub .800 SV%, yet he also finished the year tied for tenth in shutouts with four. His final stat line reas 26-19-4 with a .906 SV%.
This brings us to the latest from Elliotte Friedman, in which he outlines the off-season changes Hellebuyck is making to his game. He’s part of the quote directly from Friedman.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck is making some off-season changes. He will spend time this summer with Adam Francilia, who has a lot of experience working with goalies. Francilia could be loosely defined as a personal trainer, but prefers “sports performance coach” because he also deals with nutrition and mental health. His first NHL client was Andrew Ladd, when Ladd was 14. That was 17 years ago, and they’ve worked together since. In the past few years, his group included Laurent Brossoit, Devan Dubnyk, Troy Grosenick, Eddie Lack, James Reimer and Justin Schultz.
Francilia is proud of his work with Grosenick, who went from dangerously close to being out of San Jose to the AHL’s top goaltender in 2016-17. He sees some similarity between [Grosenick and Hellebuyck]. What will he work on? Among other things, core training specific to goalies.
“Posture and setup. There are postural considerations for a goalie, such as counter-rotating away from saves. Let me give you an example. With Devan Dubnyk, when he was leaning on the right post and needed to make a right-to-left push, his lanky, long body was working against him. He was unable to understand how to use his core. You go to push left, but half your body is going the wrong way.”
Friedman goes on to discuss the ideology of eliminating counter rotation in which you create momentum in one direction to use to propel yourself in the opposite direction. The hope is this can help Hellebuyck, who was always touted as more of a shot blocker opposed to a lateral save maker.
Hellebuyck clearly has the tools to be successful not only in the NHL but as an every day starter for the Winnipeg Jets. Here’s hoping this is the first step to achieve this success.