Edmonton Oilers goalie coach Dustin Schwartz has earned a reputation as being one of the brightest goalie coaches in the hockey industry. The 38-year-old from Stettler, Alberta has built a solid resume. He played four years in the WHL, then spent five season with the University of Alberta Golden Bears and graduated in 2005.
He was hired by the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2010 as their goalie consultant and was part of two WHL championships in 2012 and 2014, and a Memorial Cup title in 2014. He has been involved with Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp, and was on the coaching staff for Hockey Canada’s gold-medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
He has been the Oilers goalie coach since the middle of the 2014/2015 season, and has had very good success working with Cam Talbot. Earlier this month Schwartz was hired as the WHL Goaltending Consultant.
I caught up with Schwartz to discuss his new gig in the WHL, what he has learned as a goalie coach and expectations for Talbot and Laurent Brossoit.
He is not leaving the Oilers. His new role with the WHL is a part-time gig, and he explained what his responsibilities will be with the WHL.
“It’s kind of a few things that have come up as far of the development side of things in the Western Hockey League,” explained Schwartz. “I think with Hockey Canada and all three CHL leagues, they’ve kind of combined to try to come together to put a plan in place for the development of goaltending, provide some resources for the goalie coaches at the CHL level and get them involved a little more. I think it’s an opportunity for the goalie coaches to kind of collaborate a little bit more and kind of advise each other on things they’re doing and hopefully it’s all able to come together,” he said.
So it’s a completely different role than what he does with the Oilers?
“It’s a much different role. This one is moreso working behind the scenes with goalie coaches themselves. We were talking about putting together a development seminar next summer where we will bring in all of the coaches together. It’s something I think all of the goalie coaches in the Western Hockey League, and the CHL for that matter, don’t get an opportunity to do enough of, where we can bring in some presenters and some different areas that we can continue to grow ourselves and continue to develop coaches.
“As far as I know, at this point in time there is not a lot of goalie opportunities for that professional growth. There definitely is for coaches in the other areas of the game, but I think this seminar will have something everyone (goalie coaches) will be able to take away. The majority of my work will be done behind the scenes and working with the coaches, but more in a coaching role for them instead of goalies,” explained Schwartz.
The goalie fraternity is always looking to improve how they play. I respect how much one-on-one time they spend with coaches/players and as the game evolves I believe forwards and defenceman will need the same amount of one-on-one time to keep pace, or we could see goal scoring dip even lower.
Schwartz has had a few seasons in the NHL and I asked him how he has grown. What has he learned that will make him better?
“I think it’s a great question. From a learning respective, kind of starting there, I’ve learned tons about the position and also the game. Probably the greatest growth in me is being able to understand the game offensively and defensively to a point where now I can articulate that a lot better to the goalies, put them in a lot better situations when we put together practice plans and things like that. So I think that that is one area where being around Jay (Woodcroft) and Todd (McLellan) Jim (Johnson) and Ian (Herbers). You learn so many other ways of looking at things and I think that has really helped me to grow as a coach,” Schwartz said.
TALBOT AND BROSSOIT
Does it makes his job easier having worked with Talbot for a few seasons in Edmonton, and Brossoit even longer, dating back to their time with the Oil Kings?
“It is certainly nice to have Cam for a couple of seasons now, and going in for a third. We are on the same page. He knows what to expect from me and I know what to expect from him. I have a good sense of what buttons need to be pushed and understand when I don’t need to say anything at all because he holds himself to the highest of standards. Sometimes you’re better off not to say anything. And then also now going through a season where he played a heavy load recognizing how much we need to back off and how to practice time, pregame routine and more. We’re going to have our routine, it’s pretty standard, and it’s easy to get on the ice and just go because you’ve been around each other enough,” said Schwartz.
“It is pretty much the same with Brossoit. He’s a real good student of the game. Has a really good sense of what he’s capable of and what he needs to work on. So we have our meetings every day just like I would with Cam. He has his insights and I share some of mine and we put together a plan for practice to help him to continue to evolve and develop his game to be ready to take that next step in his career. So the continuity part of it has been great,” he said.
Schwartz believes Talbot can continue to evolve because he is so driven. “There is always little things that pop up and sometimes there are things that he wasn’t doing before and we just need to sharpen him up. But as far as pushing him to be better than he was this year, he holds himself to such a high standard that I don’t really have to do a whole lot of pushing on that end.”
Talbot has been very consistent since December of 2015. He only dressed three games in November of 2015 after allowing a bad goal versus Calgary in late October. Schwartz and Talbot focused on small details of his game, but they focused a lot on his mental side. Talbot was upset about the bad goal and it ate away at him. They worked on him just moving on from a bad goal, and since December 2015, Talbot has been exceptional for the Oilers.
In his last 114 starts he has a .921sv%, 2.39 GAA and ten shutouts. He and Schwartz work very well together.
Laurent Brossoit struggled in 2015/2016 with the Oilers. In five games he had a gaudy .873sv% and a 3.60 GAA. He started last season in the AHL, and when he was recalled he looked much more confident in the NHL. It was a very small sample size, but in eight appearances he posted a .928sv% and a 1.99 GAA.
I asked Schwartz what differences he saw in Brossoit’s game from 2016 to 2017, especially considering he went long stretches in Edmonton where he didn’t play.
“Honestly, I think the tools were there to begin with. We tweaked a few things and that’s not details we need to get into here, but we tweaked a few things. I think that mentally he came in with the right approach when he got called up from Bakersfield. He and I had a lengthy conversation on his call-up and I just kind of, we talked about how in the backup situation you never know when your opportunity is going to arise and we talked about guys like [Jonathan] Quick when he was in LA and how he eventually stole the starting job over there. We talked about [Cory] Schneider in Vancouver, when he had those great seasons playing behind [Roberto] Luongo. We talked about Cam playing behind [Henrik] Lundqvist and the approach he had to have as a backup and the opportunities were few and far between.
“So, we had a lengthy conversation on those topics and he bought in. He put the work in, he was at the rink and diligent and established a little bit more of a pro routine when he was at the rink, being at different things on time and the structure that he had. I was really proud of him at the end of the year, the steps he made, and hopefully with a good summer he can come back and take the next step,” explained Schwartz.
Goaltending is very technical, and Schwartz is very good at making the appropriate tweaks, but after our conversation it is clear how much focus a goalie coach at the NHL level has to put on the mental side — the preparation on days off, morning skates and practices. Schwartz feels he is much better in preparing his goalies in those areas and is hoping to share those experiences in his new role with the WHL.
Schwartz is highly regarded in goaltending circles and his new job in the WHL illustrates how good of a communicator he has become.
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