Valley puts Turco in position to peak
FRISCO, Texas -- Joe Nieuwendyk sat his in office overlooking the Stars' practice rink at the Dr Pepper StarCenter this summer and watched goaltending coach Mike Valley pepper pucks at Marty Turco for days on end.
"They were working hard," Nieuwendyk said. "I saw the good things they were doing together. Marty came in and was engaged and committed to be the best goalie he could be. Mike is helping him do that."
In the know: Mike Valley
Stars goaltending coach
Valley, 33, has worked with NHL goalies Brian Elliott (Ottawa), Al Montoya (Phoenix) and Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota). & Spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant goaltending coach for Nashville. & He owns and operates Elite Goalies High Performance and Private Instructional Camps. & Played six years of professional hockey in the AHL, ECHL and Swedish Elite League.
The duo spent long hours on the ice and in the video room, analyzing Turco's technique and working toward putting the veteran netminder in the best position to make saves. Valley's mission is to get Turco to see the puck well enough to get his body to the correct spot and then allow his athleticism to stop it from getting past him.
"The philosophy I take is more of a martial arts approach," said the 33-year-old Valley, who could be confused for one of the players. Or even the equipment guys. "It sounds weird, but it's finding balance in your body. For example, as a shot comes in, your shoulder should move toward the puck. A lot of times last year, Marty found himself off balance where he'd be leaning back and all the other mechanics don't fall into place. We work on finding good balance."
Valley learned quickly that he had a driven pupil hungry for knowledge. Turco discovered he had a coach who was passionate, maybe even obsessed, with the goaltending position. The two have created a partnership designed to allow Turco to re-establish himself among the NHL's elites in front of the net.
"He wasn't happy with his year last year," said Valley, who works with Turco along with assistant coach Andy Moog. "He's a competitive guy, so he really puts the time in and gets his work in. Often when you've been around as long as he had, it's easy to get comfortable. He's made sure that he takes time to go work on the little details before almost every practice. He's working his tail off."
Valley set up a camera on a tripod on the blue line Monday, filming Turco and backup goalie Alex Auld as they went through some specific drills. Valley downloaded that footage so he could spend time during flights throughout the Stars' western Canada road swing this week showing Turco what he liked and didn't like.
"It's no different than learning how to perfect your golf swing," Nieuwendyk said. "You see what you're doing wrong and have a better chance of correcting it."
The video sessions also give Turco ample opportunity to ask questions, something he's not shy about doing.
"It's just someone else to talk about goaltending with and think about it more often and ultimately put our conversations and opinions to work," Turco said. "It's been great. It's more concentration on movements. We work as hard as we can to make the movement fluid, strong and consistent."
Valley, who owns and operates Elite Goalies High Performance and Private Instructional Camps and has worked with a handful of NHL goaltenders, spent some time getting to know Turco's style. He called him the best puck handler in the game and credited Turco's penchant for getting out of his net and playing the puck as something that causes the opponent to take between six to 10 fewer shots per game. Turco's athletic approach is also evident in the many highlight-reel saves. And Valley didn't want to alter that.
"You can never take that athleticism away from guys, because once you do that you become too robotic," Valley said. "But at the same time, if you always rely on athleticism, what happens is you have days where you're on and days you're off. So it has to be both. Get in the right position and then let that athleticism take over. It's about having a bunch of tools in the box and being able to decide which ones to pull out."
Turco feels as if he has a few more tools now. And the Stars coaches and management expect he'll be ready and able to use them.
"I think he realizes that if we're going to be successful, we have to have a huge year from him," Nieuwendyk said. "He realizes that. It's no different from a lot of teams in this league. You have to have good goaltending."
Richard Durrett covers the Stars for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.