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The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't stolen John Tavares' skills coach

Darryl Belfry's arrangement with the Leafs isn't exclusive, as the man who helps Tavares and Okposo improve each summer is like many specialist coaches: They want to work with the best.

Back to work.
Back to work.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Don't worry, John Tavares hasn't lost his skills coach.

We heard some alarm from the story, mentioned in this morning's roundup, that the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Darryl Belfry, who is best known around Islanders-fan circles as the guy who has long worked with John Tavares and last summer worked with Kyle Okposo, among many other NHLers.

It's okay though, the resource-rich Leafs haven't stolen him. (Yet.)

Despite bringing him into their organizational fold as a consultant last winter -- initially working with their development staff and specific players in the Leafs organization (including AHL) -- the Leafs haven't made an exclusive arrangement. On the contrary, they seem to recognize the need for him to continue to learn from what works for the world's best players.

From the Pension Plan Puppets interview:

...they encouraged him to continue to work with other players from other organizations rather than prohibit him.

"One of the things that's important to my own personal development is I need to work with the best players in the world to get better," Belfry said. "The Leafs were smart enough to recognize that that's important to my growth so that that then allows me to be better for them."

Belfry admits he's fortunate enough to work with the best players and that it's in everyone's best interest it stays that way.

"It's important that I always have a handle on what is going on with the best players in the game," he said. "That's only going to help with my work and my observations with how I work with the Leafs."

I'm reminded of the final years of Chris Chelios' career, when people sought the secret to his longevity. One of those secrets, fitness coach T.R. Goodman, confessed that Chelios "didn't like the fact [Goodman] was training" other NHLers Chelios regularly encountered in battle.

But a coach's gotta work, and his body of knowledge has to stay current.

It's an interesting, evolving world Belfry is working in with today's NHL. The ability to break down the component factors in individual players, from nutrition and strength development -- something we've seen from several years with people like Goodman and Gary Roberts, who likewise worked with players from many teams -- to skills and on-ice philosophy, creates a lot of micro areas to improve players (and increase parity, ultimately). It means Belfry is not only at a leading edge of insight into the game, but also at the front of another kind of specialty within the game.

As noted in the PPP story:

"Moving forward, Belfry believes the things he's teaching will become the norm for NHL teams and are already evident in today's top franchises.

[...]

"There just wasn’t anything like this when I first started so it’s kind of evolved out of nothing into what it is now," he said.

So even if a guy like Belfry one day signs exclusive to a team -- something Belfry thinks is too limiting at this point -- the reality is this kind of thought, like so many developments in video scouting, goaltending coaching, nutrition and fitness before them, offseason skills analysis and the coaches who teach them are already here. And here to stay.