Toronto Maple Leafs: The Journey Continues For a Big Time Goal Tender
Johnny Bower, Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph, Eddie Belfour: what do all those names have in common?
Well, they've all played in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs at one point of their respective careers.
But what else do each of those net-minders passionately share together?
They were all great.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have failed to seize a sound and opportune goaltender that they can partially and comfortably depend on when attempting to hold a lead in crucial games during the season.
A goaltender that is capable of taking over the starting role with confidence and ease.
One that can play 60-plus games in a regular season and not be fully fatigued, mentally or physically.
However, since the time of Eddie "Eddie the Eagle" Belfour, the Maple Leafs have been unable at capturing a No. 1 goaltender.
They have however, attempted this goal many times throughout the past five seasons.
During the 2005-2006 season, the Leafs missed the postseason for the first time in the whole decade.
They fired coach Patt Quinn, and brought in 2003-2004 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Andrew Raycroft.
Fans around the nation were cheering in the streets when "Razor" entered the town.
However, we would all learn that Raycroft's Vezina caliber rookie performance in 2003-2004 was a one time thing and we were all so foolish to be blinded to think that Raycroft was the answer, weren't we?
The following season, Finnish goaltender Vesa Toskala was brought in to the city of Toronto.
Little did we know that, Vesa, similar to Raycroft, would become the laughing stock of sports in Toronto for the next two years.
Now, giving Toskala some credit, he performed at a pretty steady pace in his first season.
He averaged 2.74 goals against him and racked up 33 wins, which is five shy of a franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in a regular season, which may I add, "Razor" tied that record at 37 wins.
Nevertheless, Toskala entered the 2008-2009 season with much promise and optimism.
But this time, his career in Toronto and his reputation of being a very clutch and solid goaltender like his days back in San Jose went straight down hill.
Fighting injury problems and the fans that surrounded Toskala whenever he played a game in the Air Canada Centre, Vesa did not look like a legitimate No. 1 goaltender.
In fact, he looked quite the opposite.
The Maple Leafs had one goalie to put all the pressure on, Justin Pogge.
Pogge, once again proved that goal tending in Toronto is like cheese and nutella, simply wrong, and will never work.
But of course, like Leafs fans love to do so often, we gained our hope and optimism was in the city of Toronto once again when the Maple Leafs hired new general manager Brian Burke.
Burke signed a long term deal, and will hopefully guide this desperate club back to the glory days, whenever that was...
The Maple Leafs were so desperate for a goaltender, they signed veteran and former Leaf, Curtis Joseph before the season started.
Now don't get me wrong, "CuJo" was one of the best Leaf goalies of all time.
But at the age of 40, I don't think he is able to play like he did back in the early years of this decade.
When Toskala got injured, the Leafs turned to free agency and signed Martin Gerber for the remainder of the season and surprisingly, he did alright with the club.
Even if it was short lived seeing that Gerber only played for nearly two months.
In the offseason, once again, for the millionth, billionth, trillionth time, us Leaf fans put on our sunglasses because we were convinced that the future was just that bright.
Brian Burke, did not disappoint this time when he landed Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one year deal.
Gustavsson was known as the best goaltender in hockey, outside of the NHL.
With the tandem of Toskala and Gustavsson in goal, our hope was...need I say it again?
Well, I will.
Once again, Leaf fans had so much hope on Gustavsson, and believe it or not Toskala!
The man that was basically boo-ed out of the arena almost every game.
However, yet again Toskala let Leaf nation down with his below mediocre goal-tending, forcing Burke to make a move and finally, and I mean finally, trading away Vesa Toskala far, far away from Toronto.
As Toskala was on a plane to California, Jean Sebastien Giguere was on a plane to Toronto.
For the remainder of the season, "Giggy" and "The Monster" shared the spot in goal and believe it or not, it actually worked out!
Gustavsson went on an incredible six game winning streak and Giguere posted back-to-back shutouts in his first two games as a Maple Leaf!
The veteran was brought to Toronto to mostly mentor the "Swedish Monster" until he can, if you will, spread his wings and fly.
Not more then a week ago, Brian Burke added to the "hope & optimism" sign Leaf fans carry around with us by signing Finnish goaltender Jussi Rynnas to a two year contract.
Believe it or not Leaf nation, but I truly do believe that the problem between the pipes has been solved.
At least for the next five years or more, if all things go according to plan.
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