The leafs future in net looking bright
With Ed Belfour likely playing his last year with the team and Mikael Tellqvist playing a solid back up role along with the strong number of leafs goaltending prospects in the system leaf fans must be happy with the sudden turn around of fortune this teams goaltending outlook has taken.It was not too long ago when the leafs goaltending future looked shaky at best. Jimmy Waite was the lead man for the baby leafs and Glenn Healy was backing up Curtis Joseph (thank god he didnt get injured for a long period of time during that period). After Healy retired the leafs picked up Corey Schwab after he had a strong camp to back up Joseph and this move paid off as after Joseph went down Schwab was able to fill in and do the job for the leafs. For whatever reason the leafs decided not to reward Schwab and let him and Joseph go in the same year creating a totally new tandem in Ed Belfour (we all know how well that one worked) and Trevor Kidd (well all know how well that one didnt work). The leafs besides the year with Corey Schwab were possibly sporting the worst back ups in the league in Healy and Kidd and on top of that the leafs werent developing anybody on the farm besides Mikael Tellqvist who they were slowly losing faith in. When Kidd went down Tellqvist came in and did a solid job playing back up but then got sent back down. In a move to save room under the cap the leafs decided to hand the back up job over to Tellqvist and this is where we are today. The leafs have been able to draft a few goalies over the last few years who are now finally starting to mature into there own. Jean Francois Racine, Justin Pogge, Tuukka Rask, and Mikael Tellqvist are in in the running to become the next maple leafs starter and I will now rank them as to where I think they fall on the depth chart.
1) Tuukka Rask- Some may be a bit puzzled by my putting him ahead of Pogge due to how well Pogge played in leading team Canada to world junior gold and how he beat Rask in the two games they played against each other but im looking at long term NHL stability. Rask is a quick, agile, and positional sound goalie. He reminds me a lot of Martin Broduer in the way he plays in net, he is great at reading plays and is quick to react and stay in position while playing a hybrid of all kinds of goaltending styles. If not for Rask Finland would have had no chance at winning bronze which is the reason why he took home the best goalie honours at the world junior. Im not saying he is the next Broduer but Rask has the most potential of any of leafs prospects and will most likely play for the big club in some sort of role in two years.
2) Justin Pogge- He was the world junior tournament MVP and seems to have the calm and funny behaviour that would make him a huge hit in Toronto. I only rate him behind Rask for one reason. Pogge plays with massive equipment and I have yet to determine if he can play this well with the new stuff given the fact that he is a strict butterfly goalie much like Ed Belfour in that he plays the angles rather then the puck. Sure Pogge played well in training camp with the new equipment but I still wanna see if he can do that over a long period of time. Pogge will most likely be with the Marlies next year so it should be interesting to see what kind of transition he makes.
3) Mikael Tellqvist- Poor guy. He had one bad game all year against Washington and I rate him third on the leafs future chart for goaltending. He has made great strides this year in the back up role but I still question if he can be anything more but a back up. He tends to let in soft goals at the worst times and tends to go down much too early leaving the top half of the net open before a shot is even away. Tellqvist though wants to prove himself that he is the future now and he is clearly learning a lot from Belfour when it comes to playing angles to become more then just a reflex goalie. If Tellqvist can learn how to be more patient in net and combine that with his great reflexes then he may be able to beat out everybody and be the leafs next starting goalie.
4) Jean Francois Racine- This guy is a typical French Canadian goalie in that he plays the butterfly to perfection and is a big guy who covers a lot of the net. I remember when the leafs drafted this guy in the 3rd round of the 2000 draft and I was excited because of all the great goalies coming out of the Q but just about all those goalies have turned out to be duds with Pascal Leclaire and Maxime Ouellet to name a few. The goaltending power has seemingly shifted to the west. Racine is not at all in the same class as the previous three but I put him here because he has shown flashes of brilliance on occasion but more often then not tends to put some stinky games. In this years pre season he was the leafs best goalie by far and there was actually a chance of him beating out Aubin and Tellqvist as the back up. Since being sent down to the Marlies he hasnt done too much to warrent more attention playing in about 40% of the marlies games and doing a great job in some games and playing poorly in others. At this point he is just goaltending depth for the farm team.