Penguins goaltenders coach Meloche expected to resign as Fleury ponders future
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't know if he will return to the Penguins next season.
If he does, Fleury likely will do so under the guidance of a new goaltenders coach.
Gilles Meloche is expected to formally request his resignation this week.
Meloche, goaltending coach for the past seven seasons, will inform general manager Ray Shero this week of plans to resign. He is expected to take another role — perhaps as a professional scout — with the Penguins, with whom he has spent 27 seasons. Meloche, 62, wants to spend more time in his native Montreal.
Mike Bales, 40, is the leading candidate to replace Meloche. Bales has spent the past two seasons as goaltending coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' AHL affiliate. He has worked closely with player-development coach Bill Guerin, who over the past year has emerged as a leading voice among Shero's hockey operations staff.
Should Fleury return next season — two years remain on his contract, and coach Dan Bylsma emphatically pronounced Fleury as the team's No. 1 goalie next season Sunday — solving what has apparently become a mental block in the playoffs will be atop any new goaltenders coach's list of fixes.
On his recent postseason troubles, Fleury said, “Sometimes, you start thinking a little more when you really want to win.”
Brilliant in the 2008 and '09 postseasons, Fleury has posted a save percentage under .900 in his five other playoff appearances.
Fleury said he believed this postseason would be different than the implosion the previous spring against Philadelphia, which prompted the Penguins to acquire veteran Tomas Vokoun.
Following a shutout against the Islanders in Game 1, Fleury allowed 14 goals in three games. His dismal performance in Game 4 triggered a goaltending change.
“I didn't change anything from Game 1 to Game 2,” Fleury said. “I don't think there was a technical problem. There were a few bad bounces, a puck would hit a skate, something. Then, it's a four-goal game instead of a two-goal game. It made everything worse.”
Trading big-name goaltenders has been problematic for teams.
Vancouver (Roberto Luongo) and Calgary (Mikka Kiprusoff) failed to make blockbuster trades this spring because they weren't pleased with return offers. Some NHL teams believe winning the Stanley Cup can be accomplished with cheaper goalie options, something Chicago did in 2010 with Antti Niemi.
Fleury, 28, is owed $5 million in each of the next two seasons before becoming a free agent in 2015.
Should the Penguins be unable to find a trade partner, they could buy out Fleury's contract, opening up $5 million of cap space each of the next two seasons.
Fleury, the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, stated that he wishes to remain in Pittsburgh.
“I hope so,” he said. “Definitely. I like it a lot. I don't want to go anywhere else. I love the guys in the room here.”
But do the Penguins still love Fleury as their No. 1 goaltender? Time will tell if Bylsma's assessment is shared by Shero and ownership.
“I don't need to have a number,” Fleury said. “I just want to come back, play some games, win some games. Hopefully, I play a lot more games here. My mind is (made up). I want to be back. We'll see what happens.”