The Toronto Maple Leafs still haven’t brought a general manager on board, but they’re continuing to fill in the rest of the holes they have in their organization one by one.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) July 20, 2015
The club announced on Monday morning, per their PR department, that Steve Briere and Ari Vuori had been brought onto the team’s staff for the 2015-2016 season. Briere has been hired to take over the position of goaltending coach, while Vuori is the new director of European Scouting.
The addition of Vuori to the club’s scouting department is especially interesting for a handful of reasons. The 53 year old native of Poytya, Finland only spent three seasons in North America – two of which were in the OHL back in the mid-1980’s – but the former Team Finland mainstay and TPS HC captain has certainly been around the NHL since his retirement from the ice.
Following an eleven year stint with the Los Angeles Kings as a member of the scouting department, Vuori joined the scouting staff for the Detroit Red Wings. Up until his decision to come on board with Toronto this July, Vuori had spent nearly the last decade splitting his time between the position of European Scout for Mike Babcock’s club and working as a player coordinator for his old club in Finland’s SM-liiga, TPS.
For the Leafs, this is huge. The addition of one of Detroit’s long-tenured scouts, who has been with the club through a Stanley Cup and eight consecutive post-season appearances, is yet another sign that Babcock has plenty of say in the team’s front office. Even if he isn’t making the decisions themselves, it’s clear that Detroit’s former bench boss gives input in team decisions – and that input holds plenty of weight.
The addition of Briere is just as intriguing, though.
North of the US-Canada border, Briere may be best known for his work with the CPGS (Canadian Professional Goalie School), which works with a number of young skaters looking to make it big in the NHL one day. The 38 year old Winnipeg native never reached the major pros, instead bouncing around the various minor leagues following a three year career with the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
For American hockey fans, though – particularly those who follow the USHL and NAHL – Briere has been a pretty big deal.
Following one season as goalie coach at his alma mater in Hunstville, Briere went to the USHL/NAHL to serve as a netminding consultant for the Omaha Lancers, Fargo Force, and Topeka Roadrunners – and while he’s also worked with USA Hockey’s U14 team, his work in the tier I and II juniors makes him an exciting add. Of the three teams, the one that immediately stuck out was the Force – where Briere was a part of the team that helped develop 2015 Hobey Baker finalist Zane McIntyre. The Roadrunners should also catch the eye of fans who followed the netminding prospect pool at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, as Philadelphia selected Briere’s old student – 18 year old Slovakian netminder Matej Tomek – 90th overall. Tomek was one of the most highly regarded netminders in the NAHL during the 2014-2015 season; the addition of the goalie coach who worked with both him and McIntyre is pretty huge for Toronto.
Of course, that may be underselling the one year he spent as goaltending consultant for University of Alabama-Hunstville – where he worked with new Edmonton Oilers starter Cam Talbot.
Yeah, it may be safe to say Briere’s resume, as fresh as it is, has a few noteworthy names attached.
*update: FWIW, the Leafs have retained some of their European scouting department. Not long after the team made the announcement about the addition of Vuori, Sun Media’s Lance Hornby tweeted this out:
Thommie Bergman, Leafs longest serving Euro scout and one of the best in the NHL, remains with the team.
— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) July 20, 2015