The New York Islanders announced the hiring of Fred Brathwaite to the coaching staff on Monday.
This summer, the Islanders’ ownership group was determined to do things correctly. As such, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin granted Doug Weight full control over his coaching staff.
Besides for appointing Luke Richardson and Scott Gomez to new posts, Weight also made a change between the pipes. On Monday, the Islanders announced the hiring of Fred Brathwaite. He’s expected to assume the role of head goalie coach immediately.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) July 10, 2017
Brathwaite, 44, spent nine seasons in the NHL. At 5’7”, 185 pounds, he went undrafted in 1993, but soon after signed with the Edmonton Oilers. His résumé includes stints with the Oilers, Flames, Blues and Blue Jackets, as well as stretches in the Russian Superleague and Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
While he was a bit of an unknown during his playing days, he earned the distinction of scoring a goal for the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League. He was also named the German league’s 2009 MVP.
More recently, Brathwaite has served as the goalie coach of the German team Adler Mannheim and as a goaltending consultant for Hockey Canada. He was hired to the Isles’ coaching staff following weeks of speculation regarding the status of Mike Dunham, the team’s longtime goalie specialist.
Dunham, 45, spent the last ten seasons on the Islanders’ staff. He will not return, confirmed Newsday’s Arthur Staple. In a statement on his Twitter page, Dunham thanked the team for the opportunity and spoke about how he’d “spend more time with #family at home.”
After a playing career that included a trip to the 2002 Winter Olympics and Skellefteå (incidentally the same club Sebastian Aho was playing for) of the Swedish league, he was named the team’s goaltending coach on September 10, 2007.
His tenure was fraught with goaltending controversies, but all in all, he did what most would consider to be an adequate job. However, with Weight indicating in interviews that he wants to change direction, Dunham will be on the other side of the glass when the season begins.
Meanwhile, Brathwaite is just the latest of Weight’s hires to have competed with the head coach at the game’s highest level. Weight, Kelly Buchberger, Richardson and Brathwaite were all teammates in Edmonton in the 1990s.
“Fred’s experiences at just about every level of hockey make him a tremendous addition to our hockey club,” Weight said in the press release. “Not only has he had a solid NHL career, but he’s also worked with some of the top net-minder’s coming out of Hockey Canada. He’s ready for this next step and we look forward to him working with our organization’s goalies.”
On the list of Brathwaite’s objectives will be the task of balancing Jaroslav Hálak and Thomas Greiss’ playing time. While Weight will ultimately be tasked with making the final decision on who starts and who doesn’t, it’s the goalie coach’s responsibility to work with his netminders so that they’ll be ready for whatever role they may have.
In what has been well documented by the media, the team’s three-goalie rotation was an unmitigated disaster last season. Jean François-Bérubé didn’t play for this first month of the season, Hálak struggled in his backup role and Greiss was mediocre, at best, for stretches of the season.
It’ll be up to Brathwaite to work with his goalies on any conundrums they might face.
With the hiring of Brathwaite, Greg Cronin will be the only holdover from last season’s staff. This is big news for a team that hasn’t made a coaching shakeup in years. It’s just another indicator that although the Isles’ roster may be similar to that of previous years, the team is trying to go in a different direction.