Toronto Turning Over New Leaf: Justin Pogge Makes Debut

Dino MoriAnalyst IDecember 23, 2008

We likely witnessed the beginning of one NHL career and the end to another in Atlanta last night.

Toronto Maple Leafs callup Justin Pogge made his NHL debut against the Thrashers.  The 22-year old was subbing for the injured netminder Vesa Toskala, who was nursing a sore groin following Toronto's 7-3 win in Pittsburgh last Saturday.

Pogge, born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, allowed just two goals on 21 shots as the Maple Leafs trounced the Thrashers 6-2 deep in the heart of Dixie.

It was by no means a spectacular show put on by Pogge, but nonetheless solid as the Leafs won for the fifth time in six games.

The promotion of Pogge to the parent club probably means that the career of 41-year-old back-up Curtis Joseph, at least in a Maple Leafs uniform, is over.

Joseph was signed as an unrestricted free-agent for one-year in the off-season by acting GM Cliff Fletcher for $700,000.  The Keswick native hasn't played particularly well in his return to the Leafs.  He has appeared in just seven of Toronto's first 33 games, making just three starts.

Joseph is 0-4 with a lofty 4.34 goals-against average this season. Not great numbers for the goalie who was the toast of Toronto from 1998-2002.

Back then, Joseph backstopped the Buds to three consecutive 30-plus-win seasons. In 2002, he won 29 games in 51 starts, before severing ties with Toronto following a much-publicized feud with coach Pat Quinn.

That summer, Joseph signed a three-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings, a move he says he later regrets making.  He's also been a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and played for Team Canada in the 2007 Spengler Cup.

Cujo began his illustrious 17-year NHL career with the St. Louis Blues in 1989-90, before he and Mike Grier were set to the Edmonton Oilers for two first-round picks in 1996 and 1997. 

Pogge, meanwhile, was touted to be Toronto's goalie of the future back in 2004, when the team selected him in the third round, 90th overall in the NHL Entry draft.

Justin was a standout in the Western Hockey League, playing for both the Calgary Hitmen and Prince George Cougars. 

He captured a gold medal for Team Canada's junior team three years ago in Vancouver, going a perfect 6-0 in this annual Christmas tournament.

Toronto, if you recall, were so enamored with Pogge that they traded another highly-touted draft pick, Tuukka Rask, to the Boston Bruins for goalie Andrew Raycroft in 2006.

Rask, a Finnish netminder, was chosen 21st overall by the Leafs in 2005.

Since then, Pogge has enjoyed moderate success playing with the AHL Marlies, compiling a record of 55-44-9 in two-plus seasons.  Last year, he shared the spotlight with Scott Clemmensen, who is now starring in New Jersey following a severe elbow injury to Martin Brodeur.

It maybe a bit premature to pronounce Pogge as the Leafs goaltending savior, especially after just one start.  But my guess is he's here to stay.  Just another indication that Toronto is turning over a new Leaf.