As the Toronto Maple Leafs' season continues to plod along in mediocrity, we can look toward the future for promise of a better tomorrow.
Although the recent signing of Brian Burke brings with it the possibility of some immediate changes, the path set out for the Buds at the beginning of the season says otherwise. In line for a decent draft pick at the end of the season, the Maple Leafs also have assets that may be peddled at the trade deadline for prospects and picks.
With the youth movement that the Leafs are currently undertaking, itonly seems logical that Justin Pogge would be in line to stand between the pipes in the near future. In order for Pogge to get the chance to prove his worth at the NHL level, one important thing must happen: Vesa Toskala needs to start playing like the Finnish phenom that he is.
Once Toskala begins to put up the numbers that he is capable of producing, his trade value will immediately skyrocket.
As the trade deadline nears, teams in the playoff hunt will be looking to improve their positions, especially on the blue ice. At this point in the season, a few options exist around the NHL for teams that may be looking for a goaltender. Always impatient with his goalies, Calgary's Mike Keenan could use someone to light a fire under Mikka Kiprusoff's hockey pants.
Across the province, in Ottawa, the Senators are in dire need of consistent production in net, and Jason Spezza's name has continually surfaced in trade rumours this season. Moreover, the New York Islanders have been more than happy to wheel and deal with Toronto in the past, and could definitely use some support in net.
With Rick DiPietro's wonky knees and hip, Toskala may be just what they need to stabilize their back end. Lastly, Dallas' Marty Turco's woes could very well be turned around with someone like Toskala sitting in waiting behind him.
In the AHL, Pogge continues to progress well, putting up a GAA of 2.71 and a save percentage of over 0.900 while shouldering the majority of the starts. After carrying the Canadian juniors to a gold medal in 2006, as well as playing exceptionally well for the Toronto Marlies last year, Pogge has demonstrated poise and consistency in the most demanding position on the ice.
Always improving, Pogge is a bright spot in the Leafs' not too distant future. More so than with forwards and defencemen, goalies take time to develop. With a little bit of patience, we may see Pogge blossom for the Buds.