By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins have finally entered the 21st century and hired a goaltender development coach to supplement the work of goaltending coach Bob Essensa, who will be in his 15th season with Boston this season.
Mike Dunham was announced as the new coach by general manager Don Sweeney on Monday. In a position many teams have created over the past several seasons, Dunham’s going to work with goaltenders throughout the organization in Boston, Providence and beyond.
Although Dunham has only known Essensa from their days playing each other and crossing paths when the Bruins played the New York Islanders (Dunham was the Islanders’ goaltending coach for nine seasons), the former University of Maine standout expects the partnership to work well because both he and Essensa will be working toward the same goal.
“Obviously the bottom line is you want the goalies stopping pucks. … When they get to the high levels, whether junior, college, AHL, NHL, they all know how to stop the puck and they all have different ways of doing it. And it’s letting these kids develop and learn the way they need to learn while also guiding them and helping them, whether it’s mental, off the ice. Whether it’s deal with back-to-back games, whether it’s bouncing back from a bad game, working on little things that they can try,” Dunham told CBS Boston on Thursday. “And if they’re comfortable with it they can throw it in their game. And if they’re not comfortable you’re trying to not force it on them because you want them to be able to play the way they want to play.”
Sweeney cited the organization’s desire for Essensa to be able to travel more and not just taxi between Boston and Providence as the reason for finally making this addition to the staff. Sweeney also seemingly was waiting for the right person to fill the post to come available.
“We probably could have done this at an earlier time, but I feel really good that Mike Dunham was one of the coaches that were available,” Sweeney said. “It was unique, in the situation he was in. We feel real fortunate in that regard, that we found a really highly experienced guy that we can drop in there and feel very comfortable about.”
But there had to be more reasons for the addition of Dunham, and let’s face it — the Bruins can’t be pleased with the slow development of two of their higher-regarded goaltending prospects Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. Subban in particular has been developing deliberately since he was drafted in the first round in 2012. He’s played two NHL games but lasted just 62 minutes total with six goals allowed.
Dunham, who played 394 NHL games for five teams, has just begun to dig into the video of both young goaltenders. He’s hopeful he can help both take the next step.
“They’re both young guys still,” Dunham said of Subban, 23, and McIntyre, 24. “I’ve been spending some time watching some video and I think I’ll have a better read on that once I get to training camp and spend some time with them. I want to go in there and give them a voice where they can ask questions and I can hopefully, my plan is to help them get to the NHL because I’m sure that’s what their goals are.”
Dunham’s not joining the Bruins to re-invent the way any of the goalies play. When it comes down to it, he said, playing the position is all about tracking the puck and positioning. Goalies that know where the puck is and put themselves in the right position with enjoy a high level of success.
Teams that have goaltender coaches in the right positions should also have success, and now the Bruins should have their bases covered with Dunham supplementing Essensa’s tutelage.
Editor’s note: Dunham is the husband of WBZ-TV anchor Kate Merrill.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.