By Melissa Hashemian
If there's one thing I learned in life it's that things are always better after the battle, so keep fighting and don't look back. It may sound like a cliche line, but it seemed to really help me during some of the rough moments in my life.
I just hope rookie netminder Justin Pogge got the memo from someone as well.
Pogge has had quite the rollercoaster ride with the Toronto Maple Leafs since being acquired in 2004's NHL Entry Draft. He's unfortunately experienced the type of rollercoaster that has undergone many mechanical issues however.
After receiving gold with the Canadian Juniors in '05-'06, Justin Pogge was deemed as the Leafs' hopeful star of the future and turned pro in '06-'07 with the Toronto Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate the Toronto Marlies. He spent the following two seasons with the Marlies posting impressive stats, yet still did not gain any respectable starts with the Maple Leafs.
He registered 19 wins and a 3.03 GAA in his rookie season with the frandchise and followed that up with 26 wins and an impressive .908 Saving Percentage the next year.
Many argued that the 6'3" goaltender needed to play games for the Leafs in order to successfully build the confidence and skills required to do well in the NHL.
Although it would have helped immensely, Pogge was still negated any opportunity to play and continued to protect the two posts in the minors.
Yes, the Leafs' staff should have given him a few starts during those two years, and yes they should have allowed him to display his talent. After all that's the reason why he was drafted in the first place wasn't it?
Did the organization really think putting Pogge in a few games was really going to jeopardize their chances of making the playoffs?
The Leafs haven't had a playoff berth in three consecutive seasons so having Pogge couldn't have brought them any lower in the standings.
With Brian Burke taking over the general manager position after Cliff Fletcher's departure, fans were eager to witness Justin Pogge's debut as a Maple Leaf.
So he laced up his skates and put on his goalie pads for the first time in the Leafs' dressing room as he got ready to take on the Atlanta Thrashers.
He recorded his first NHL win on Dec. 22, 2008 with a score of 6-2, and posted a .905 Saving Percentage, stopping 19 out of 21 shots. He came out and gave a solid performance against the Thrashers, demonstrating what fortitude and dedication really look like.
After the win, Pogge gained the recognition needed to continue receiving starts and in return, play well. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end as the next start he got resulted in his first NHL loss against the Minnesota Wild (6-1).
After that, he received three more starts against Buffalo (twice) and Columbus which all sadly resulted in three more losses (one in an shootout).
He played excellent games however against the two teams and exhibited a good deal of athleticism and composure in net.
Many of my fellow supportors beg to differ nontheless. Many fans were left dissapointed and stunned by Pogge's performance or "lack there of."
Despite being boasted about after his stellar performance in Atlanta, the rookie became a ridiculed target on the dart board and was sarcastically cheered for when he lost in the shootout against Columbus.
Leave it to Leaf fans to love a player when they do well and hate them when they do bad. It's completely appalling how people can start off with cheers then end off with insults.
The Fort Mcmurray, Alberta native is still learning and adapting to the game believe it or not and a lot of people don't seem to remember that he's still fairly young. He's only 22.
That's the thing about young players, they can flip a switch at any time and start doing well, so it would be a foolish move to let them go because of a few slip ups.
Toronto fans need to learn the art of patience and loyalty in order to fully accept some of the younger stars who don't necessarily fulfill their highest of expectations.
Do we really want him to become another Brad Boyes who was givin' up on in '02-'03 at a young age but then later became a 40 goal scorer?
Luckily Burke's a smarter man than Ferguson ever was, thus he's bound to put hockey before business, rather than the other way around.
Pogge's still got a lot to offer the game; he's a regular Tweety Bird-type.
While he still tries to be eaten, Tweety manages to get away from Sylvester safely. And just like the bird Justin Pogge does the same with some of the demanding Leafs fans.
He's clever enough to ignore the hungry fans and not let it weaken or destroy his confidence. Instead, he stands in front of the net and puts up a new fight every time he gets the opportunity to play.
Hopefully we don't allow these games to cloud our judgement on who this teams' valuable assets are and to give some of these younger players a break from time to time.
If we don't, we're just going to be left with a few feathers.