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Burke Departure Would Be Bittersweet for Smith

Burke Departure Would Be Bittersweet for Smith

With Arizona granting Goaltending Coach Sean Burke permission to discuss opportunities with other NHL teams, it looks like the end of one of the leagues more fruitful player/coach relationships may be coming to an end.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith signed a 2-year deal with the Coyotes as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, succeeding Ilya Bryzgalov as the clubs #1 and beginning a close working relationship with Burke – who featured in 820 NHL games during a 19 year career, which saw him ice for no less than eight different organisations.

Talking to AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan, Smith reflected on the four years he’s spent working with Burke, and offered his thoughts on the situation:

“I’ve learned a lot, and obviously he’s a big reason for my success the last few years and kind of rejuvenated my career so to speak,” Smith said. “I obviously owe a lot to him, and I’ll have a close relationship with Burkie wherever he may be. But it’s disappointing to hear the news. But he deserves a chance at what he wants to do.

Smith enjoyed mixed fortunes on a middling Tampa Bay side, but quickly slotted in to the Coyotes tight defensive system – putting up a career best .930 save percentage on his way to 38 wins during a successful first year in Phoenix; helping the franchise win its first Divisional title.

Smith’s run of form extended in to the post season – helping the Coyotes reach the Conference Final, posting an impressive 1.99 GAA and .944 save percentage – but the club slid out of the post season during the truncated 2012/13 season.

An improved effort the following year still ended in disappointment, as the Coyotes missed out on a wild card spot by just 2 points, and a torrid start to the current campaign saw Smith’s form nose dive as the club sank to the bottom of the Western Conference.

The 33-year old has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late, posting a .941 save percentage through 8 starts in March, which seems to have justified the faith shown in him by Burke and the clubs management during his struggles early in the season:

“If you were to put Mike in the net right now with the same team three years ago, he’d be the same goalie as three years ago,” Burke said. “There’s no question. That’s not possible to do. We’re in a different time now. We’re in a different stage of our franchise. Our team is a different team. Mike’s game is every bit as good today as it was three years ago in the playoffs against Chicago, and he’s got that in him to continue to play like that.”

Burke, who has previously featured in InGoal’s ‘Ask a Pro’ series, is out of contract this summer, and the former Coyotes, Devils and Whalers stopper confirmed on Monday that the organisation were allowing him to explore other front office opportunities around the league.

One of Burke’s former teams, Philadelphia, does have an opening following the departure of Goaltending Coach Jeff Reese; who left the organisation following a clash with Head Coach Craig Berube over the use of Steve Mason.

Reese was part of the Flyers staff for six years, helping Mason recapture some of the form that earned him the Calder Trophy in 2009, and his ethos when working with the former Blue Jackets netminder can be compared with the work Burke has carried out in Arizona – suggesting something of a natural fit for Burke in Pennsylvania, if he wishes to take on another coaching position.

Burke has also served as an Assistant to General Manager Don Maloney during his time with the organisation, so may wish to use this opportunity to advance his career in the front-office of another NHL team.

For Smith and the Coyotes, attention is already turning to next season. With the club rooted to the bottom of the West, 29th overall, they currently have a 13.5% chance of winning the draft lottery on April 18th – with Eerie Otters prodigy Connor McDavid expected to go 1st overall.

Arizona welcomes 30th placed Buffalo to the Gila River Arena tonight.

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).

1 Comment

  1. Warren Shapiro

    Sean, We the fans wish you all the best in seeking a new job with a new team. As for me I remember you stood tall when you played for the Devils of course that was before a player named Brodeur came by. You did straighten the team out before he got there. All the best.