Takin' a T/O with BT: Is Anaheim the Final Solution for Justin Pogge?

xx yySenior Writer IAugust 10, 2009

TORONTO - FEBRUARY 19: Justin Pogge #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets ready for his first NHL shootout during game action against Columbus Blue Jackets on February 19, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dave Abel/Getty Images)

As Sunday broke with the news that the Chicago Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane had assaulted a cab driver over two dimes, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs had something else to concern themselves with.

Far from being held to the same standard as Kane but once thought to have as much star power, Leafs' fans learned that Justin Pogge's days in the Blue and White were nearing their close with a pending trade to the Anaheim Ducks.

In a lot of ways, this trade is a good thing for Pogge and Leafs' fans.

As far as 'Leafs Nation' goes, as good a job as they've done in accepting the ups and downs of Luke Schenn's young career, the frustration associated with Pogge's development had the boisterous detractors starting to rear their ugly heads once again.

Going back just a few years, this proved to be one of the biggest hurdles for any player—veteran or rookie—to overcome: The ever-pressing limelight.

It was that limelight that named Pogge the saviour of this franchise in between the pipes and had fans saying "just a few more years...just a few more years". It was that limelight that bit it's tongue (or tried to) when John Ferguson Jr. traded Tuukka Rask (who many thought/think will end up more successful than Pogge) and said "It's ok, we still have Justin."

It was that limelight that eventually ran out of time, and patience, on a goalie who seemed to take a step backwards after such a successful (with regards to his development) 2007-08 in the American League.

For a fan base, it's never easy to see their future star come up and struggle at the NHL level, and that's what Pogge did. For all of his athleticism and promise, he never found the "It" factor at the NHL level this past season and the fans grew tired of waiting.

Even though he only had a seven game taste.

Maybe expecting a dump truck of success to just drive it's way down Bay Street for the young Fort McMurray native was a little too much—after all, as enticing as the Carey Prices, Steve Masons, and Cam Wards of the world are, there aren't many 23-year-old goalies (or thereabouts) who come in and thrive to that degree.

Immediate success doesn't always happen—maybe Pogge is just a late-bloomer.

Or maybe Toronto just wasn't the city for him.

Thanks to this trade, Pogge has been afforded the opportunity to get away from all of the challenges and the distractions that can come from having both your NHL and AHL franchise in the same city—especially when that city is Toronto.

Pogge can lift the "Next One" collar from his neck and get back to basics—get back to what made him the 2006 World Junior Champion and the WHL's top goalie that same year because in Anaheim, no one knows when he'll get his next shot.

As it stands, both Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller are in the way of Pogge on the Ducks' depth chart. While Giguere had an off year in 2008-09 due to a handful of off-ice distractions, he still has one year on his contract after this upcoming season and a full no-trade clause—one of the few that Brian Burke will ever give out.

Sidenote: The contract Burke signed Mike Komisarek to this past offseason has a No-Trade Clause, but it's limited as Komisarek has to submit a list of 10 teams he'd be willing to accept a trade to each September. Giguere's circumstances necessitated the no-trade clause so the reasoning is deeper than just wanting one (like so many other players).

Then the question of Jonas Hiller being traded can be brought up. Hiller, like two other Anaheim backups before him, has teams keeping an eye on him in the event that he does become available because, if last year was no fluke, many peg him as a starter for their team.

Hiller only has one year remaining under contract to the Ducks, but at 27, Ducks GM Bob Murray may not end up trading the Swiss-born netminder. If this season goes well for Hiller and the Ducks don't get what they want out of Giguere the next few years, the starter's role could be in the hands of Hiller.

Looking at that situation, barring a trade of either goalie, Pogge is stuck in goalie limbo once again for at least another season.

That (in and of itself) is kind of funny when you think about it: That's the same amount of time (one more season) that many Leafs fans were hoping that Pogge would get to work with newly acquired goalie coach Francois Allaire—the man who worked with Giguere, Hiller, and Patrick Roy.

Now, Pogge has left the reigns of "Goalie of the Future" for the Toronto Maple Leafs to Jonas Gustavsson and maybe one day, James Reimer, while he looks to sort himself out in the Ducks' organization.

Benefited by a trade to try and rejuvenate his career, if Justin Pogge is successful we may be talking about another trade benefiting him—whether directly involving him or not—in the years to come.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, or you can email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.