Let me start by giving Toronto Maple Leaf fans a little flashback. Two years ago, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was a rookie and was given the reigns of the Canadiens after general manager Bob Gainey traded starter goalie Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals.
Few questioned the move of trading Huet because Price was seen as the next golden boy in goal for the Canadiens. In fact, an article posted on NHL.com on November 19, 2008 compared Price to Patrick Roy. Roy is arguably the greatest goaltender to ever play the game.
The same season that Huet left Montreal, Price nearly led the first-seeded Canadiens to a first-round exit in the playoffs when the Canadiens nearly lost to the eighth-seeded Boston Bruins in Game Seven.
Few called out the rookie goaltender because it was his first ever playoff series.
But in 2008-09, Price showed little signs of improvement, his 23 wins was 23rd among NHL starting goaltenders, and his save percentage of .905 was 26th among NHL goaltenders who played more then 40 games.
And it didn’t take the Montreal faithful long to turn against Price once the playoffs came around. In the second period of Game Four in the first round against the Boston Bruins, Montreal fans cheered sarcastically when Price made a stop on a dump in from Boston after already allowing three goals.
Price finished the series 0-4 with a 4.11 GAA and a .878 save percentage. Disastrous numbers, to say the least, from a goalie who was supposed to be a leading factor to the Canadiens' success.
The moral of the story is that Price faltered under the immense pressure in Montreal and was made the starting goaltender in 2008 after only 26 NHL career games played.
Now how does this relate to the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Well, after a tough loss last night, ironically to Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens, Leaf fans are already calling into radio stations saying that they want starting goaltender Vesa Toskala out and young backup Jonas Gustavsson in.
I say that’s the wrong answer.
If the Leafs pull the plug this early on Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson plays great, Brian Burke is left to deal with a four-million dollar backup goaltender in Toskala, who he can’t move.
Leaf fans who like Gustavsson should be hoping that Toskala plays the first chunk of the season and plays well so he can give himself some value and make it easier for Brian Burke to move him later on in the year if they choose to go with Gustavsson as their number one goaltender.
And even if Burke is able to move Toskala, things can still go south. Leaf fans need to be aware of the possibility of Gustavsson folding under the pressure of playing in Toronto, much like what Carey Price has done in Montreal over the past two years.
Then you’re left with no goalie.
The only way to handle this situation it seems is to give both goaltenders a chunk of games. If after that, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson are convinced that Gustavsson is the starting goalie, that’s a situation you deal with when the time comes.
But to say Toskala needs to get out of the net after one poor performance is simply ridiculous and unfair.
And even more ridiculous is to say that Jonas Gustavsson deserves to come in as the starter, he has yet to play a full NHL game!
So, Leaf fans, before you start to hop on the Gustavsson bandwagon, maybe you want to watch him play a real game first.
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