Toronto Maple Leafs Mid-Season: Goaltending Report

I know what your thinking. Another tedious article about the over-lavished Maple Leafs. Leaf fans everywhere grabbing ridiculous and preposterous trade rumors out of a hat in an attempt to look informative by calling it ‘inside information’. By no means am I Mr. Perfect, I am guilty just like every one of my peers. It is our nature to speculate, it is our nature to exonerate. As Leaf fans, we expect only the best out of our beloved franchise and when that does not occur we fantasize about the best players launching our team to a level of triumph. Contributing to the fact, the Toronto Maple Leafs are arguably the most loved and the most hated team in the NHL.

Going in to the new year, Toronto has a season-high five game winning streak. Despite still missing five regulars to injury; Eric Lindros, Nik Antropov, Jason Allison, Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. But what happens when they all return? Guys like Mariusz Czerkawski, Clarke Wilm, John Pohl and Staffan Kronwall who have been sitting in the press boxes or sent down to the Toronto Marlies have played their way on to the team and deserve just as much respect as the aforementioned players. So how have the Leafs, winners of 43, 44, and 45 games in the past three seasons of NHL hockey, slipped from the rank of contender to pretender in the NHL? There isn’t one precise answer, however their slide into mediocrity is evident at all positions of the ice. Toronto’s recent history of goaltenders has been respectable; Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour respectively. It has been quite sometime since the Maple Leafs have drafted a goalie and had the faith to use him as their starter. Leaf fans everywhere should rejoice, because for the first time in a long time, the Maple Leafs finally have above-average goaltending depth. Youngsters such as Canada’s WJC back-stopper Justin Pogge and Finnish’s Tuukka Rask have both played exceptionally well for their country as well as respective franchises this past season. Not to mention AHL affiliate Toronto Marlie goaltenders; Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Jean-Francois Racine.

Future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Ed Belfour is a shadow of his former self. With the combination of age and the new rules of the CBA, “The Eagle” has exceedingly struggled in this first half of the season. Throughout his career he has been a perennial slow starter, but it is becoming more evident, that this will occur throughout the entirety of this season. Not overlooking the fact Eddie has been the foundation of the last few playoff runs, backstopping them against the Senators twofold. It is becoming more apparent that this will be his last season in the NHL as he may be on his last legs. So what do the Leafs do? Do they trade him between now and the trade deadline in hopes to get an injection of youth into their system from a playoff contender in need of goaltending help? Or do they ride the season out and see how far mediocrity will get them in the playoffs? Doing both, in turn, raises individual questions. Does Tellqvist have what it takes? What do we do next year if he can’t handle it? It is in this writer’s opinion, at the risk of sounding cheesy, that this Eagle must be put into extinction. And no, I do not believe at this point in time Tellqvist has what it takes to be a number one, especially from pressure by media and fans alike to have a solid number one goaltender. Here is what I would like to see happen at season’s end; Belfour retires, trade Tellqvist, when his values is high, call up one of Pogge or Rask (hopefully Rask, he is going to be fantastic) and sign veteran net-minder Marty Turco, as he is Unrestricted.

In evaluating the Maple Leafs, it’s fair to say that this is a good hockey team. They may finish as high as sixth in the conference if injuries are low. However it’s also clear that the 2005-06 edition of the Maple Leafs is not a “great” team. It’s a team that has slipped from the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference and will have to be very diligent to win a playoff round, particularly if they face their arch-rivals, the Ottawa Senators, who have absolutely thrashed Toronto their passed two meetings by a combined score of 16-2.

Stay tuned for Defensive and Offensive reports….


80 Responses to Toronto Maple Leafs Mid-Season: Goaltending Report

  1. 92-93 says:

    yeah i am not a big fan of bowen either although i have to (gulps) agree with muckies on the Heatley comment.

    as for the leafs OT record, i looked at the schedule and standings on nhl.com and it seems like they are undefeated when they win in OT (5-0) but 2-3 in Shootouts.

    oct 5: lost to ottawa in shootout

    oct 9: lost to ottawa in shootout

    oct 20: beat Carolina in OT

    oct 24: beat Boston in shootout

    nov 12: beat Montreal in OT

    nov 25: lost to carolina in shootout

    nov 26: beat Montreal in OT

    dec 27: beat Pittsburgh in OT

    dec 29: beat Buffalo in shootout

    jan 2: beat Pittsburgh in OT

  2. 92-93 says:

    no way jose. there is no way i want to face ottawa in round 1. forget about it. if there are still people out there who think that this will be just another toronto-beat-ottawa type of offseason, you’ve got another thing coming.

    its also just bad karma to ASSUME that history will repeat itself and that injuries will not eventually catch up to the Buds. its just like assuming that the leaf’s are going to come out of this western Cdn. road trip with a 9 game win streak. its just bad karma to say stuff like that.

  3. Ace_Bailey says:

    Alright, if you wanted to ge technical then the operative word would have been syntax.

    I personally did not take offense to you comment on his spelling. Why would I? They weren’t directed to me. I still feel I have the right to speak my mind when an unnecessary argument is brewing that could very well drive even more of the current community away from this site. No, I don’t have the power to police the board, but I still possess the power of persuasion. Why not use it?

    And listen bud, this is a community, and I can defend whomever I choose. I’ve noticed much more animosity and passion in your posts than previously.

    In my post Muckies and I demonstrated that we can hold a conversation and have a difference of opinion without unneeded tension or hostility.

    Sure, both parties are probably at fault, but is defending a community a problem with you?

    And to be frank, everyone has better things to do than comment on message boards, it’s just that we choose to do this instead.

  4. Gretzkin says:

    Whatever Muckies… I don’t even want the Leafs to win the cup.

    Not my team.

    You should change your name to Norwood.

    “Put it through the uprights, not wide, Ottawa.”

    The Sens suck the hardest for putting their hopeful fans through such promise and then choking so bad.

    The Ottawa Bills. I like the sound of that.

    Oh and Muckies, don’t forget to Buckle Up.

    You might CHOKE!

  5. Gretzkin says:

    They aren’t going to win the Cup.

    Why not wish for the next best thing.

    Taking it away from the ones predicted to win.

  6. Gretzkin says:

    Nice one on the OT record.

    I went off the Leafs site, but it doesn’t show whether or not it was a shootout, or an OT loss.

    As for the Heatley comment, I suppose it was a bit offside.

    Although, I didn’t mention anything about it crashing, being torn in half, and killing the passenger.

    In this case, Bowen…

  7. Gretzkin says:

    Witty and classy are 2 of my strong points.

    Why am I an asshole?

    I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket in my life, let alone speed through residential areas in a Ferrari and crashing it, killing my friend.

    Eat shit?

    Why on earth would I want to do something like that.

    I’m pretty sure it would make me sick.

    OK, I admit it’s a bit harsh, but what do you think is going to happen?

    Everybody is going to just forget about it and let Poor Dany Heatley live his life?

    He took somebody elses young life away from him and gets what? 3 years probation?

    Looks like part of his probation will have to be comments from the people who think he made a huge mistake and hopes that he never forgets what he did.

    That’s what happens when you kill somebody

    He’s one Hell of a Hockey Player, and one Crappy Wreckless Driver.

    Too bad he wont be able to sip Champagne in Ottawa.

    Then he’d have a better excuse as to why he can’t drive.

    But that’s not going to happen, is it?

    LEAFS IN 6.

    I’m just glad I didn’t mention anything about O.J. Simpson from your favorite Football Team. The Buffalo Bills.

    He’s a murderer too.

    WOW! You’re a Sens fan, and a Bills fan.

    Aren’t you just the Perennial Loser.

  8. habs79 says:

    Anyone can win when it’s only one game. Did you think Belarus had a chance against Sweden in 2002?

  9. habs79 says:

    Well Racine should show signs of being NHL ready within the next two years. Goalies tend to develope around 25-26 and I do believe he is 24. Worst case they go with a Tellquvist/Racine tandem. Best case they go for a goalie Turco should be tops on the list. That way they could let Tellqvist and Racine fight for the back-up job. Use the other as trade bait, cause if they can sign Turco for 4-5 years, Rask and Pogge should be just about ready to take over if they are not already by then.

    Here is the big problem this brings. If JFJ wants to talk about getting a big name in a trade. How does he get around talk of Rask and Pogge. He can not submit to any pressure to rush or make a bad trade (like Fletcher and Quinn). Fans were crying for Clark back and it cost them Jonsson, and Luongo (the draft pick). Not to forget what the Nolan deal cost them. I’m sure you would love to have McCauley and Boyes in Leaf uniforms right now.

    Best thing for both the Leafs and Habs right now is to stay with what they got and wait till the off-season, unless they decide to unload upcomming free-agents or contracts.

  10. habs79 says:

    I disagree. In order for the Ottawa Senators to become the Buffalo Bills of hockey, they would have to change their name to the Buffalo Bills.

    However since you are speaking symbolic, they would have to go to four straight Stanley Cup finals and lose them all. Right now they are more like the Colts, good in the regular season but fold in the playoffs.

  11. Gretzkin says:

    I suppose thats a bit more accurate.

    But you get the point though.

    I’m giving them too much credit, suggesting that they could actually make it to the finals…

    Good in the regular season. Yes.

    Fold in the playoffs. Habitually.

  12. burnz30 says:

    That’s great, whatever. I wasn’t bragging. You said that the Leafs wouldn’t make the playoffs cause they are going to run into injuries, and all I did was point out the fact that the Leafs seem to rally around all the injuries and play better as a team.

  13. burnz30 says:

    Areed!! until the the Sens do something or even ANYTHING in the playoff they can’t be called a dynasty!! Seems like this Sens fan is too eager for success. This team still has lots to prove. They have had much success in the regular season but it hasn’t come though in the post season. Clearly this Sens fan is clueless comparing Nieuwendyk to Fisher and suggesting he be on the Olympic team. Fisher is a good player but I doubt that he has the ability to win a Conn Smythe trophy or make an All-Star team. Nieuwendyk is a former 50 goal guy and Fisher will never touch that mark ever, he probably wont break 25. Obviously this Sens fan only sees guys that play for Ottawa, and thinks that they are the be-all-and-end-all.

  14. burnz30 says:

    World Championship VS the Olympics. Like I said he doesn’t have enough international experience!!! That World Championship team wasn’t exactly the strongest Canada’s ever put together. No Iginla, Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Sakic, or St. Louis. One of the reasons he was picked was because he was playing in Europe. Guys like Iginla didn’t play that year so they were forced to take what they had. That’s who was in game shape and ready to play. He basically made the team by default.

  15. 92-93 says:

    nope, no problem here – defend-away!

    are passionate posts a problem with you?

    also, i don’t take things quite as seriously as perhaps they appear. like i’ve said – when it comes to muckies – its all in fun.

    90% of comments/debates are civilized, i try to avoid the shit-flinging but with muckies (or janetty, etc.) i just like to ‘muck’ it up a bit.

  16. 92-93 says:

    yeah – doesnt really matter to me. people get all up tight about Heatley and turn around and start bashing Steve Moore for being ‘whiny.’

    i hope that the Leafs’ OT record bodes well for possible playoff matches that go to OT, because there is no OT (but there’s also no 4-on-4 either).

  17. 92-93 says:

    i meant to say ‘post-season’ not ‘offseason’ – duh.

  18. 92-93 says:

    also, are you telling Muckies to take the ‘high road’ with me??

    that’s hilarious!

    don’t worry ace. in time, you’ll see what i mean when it comes to the kinds of ‘opinions’ muckies has. right up there with jannetty, titans, and tacitus.

  19. Flyaz says:

    Big round of applause Ace, a Leaf fan that I agree with…finally, lol. Your right, we do all have better things to do then to leave comments on message boards and regardless if someone agree’s or disagree’s with our outlook on the hockey world most of us are passionate about the team we cheer for…That’s why we are all here. Hell one of my best friends is a Leafs fan and I respect him because he knows his hockey. We hate eachother during playoffs, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I hate the Leafs…I have for about 15 years now and will for about forever….I do not hate Leaf fans however. I hate fans of any team, if that be Leaf fans or any other team that leave post like LEAFS RULE…basically fans that are so bloody blind to there team that first off they can’t admit that any team may beat there’s, secondly that there love for there team makes them soooooo blind to the rest of the league that they can’t admit there are other solid teams out there and lastly that there comments aren’t worth follow-ups. I like to sit and have a couple beers come playoff time with people that are cheering for the opposing team, it adds excitment to the game. If the last few years mean anything then I will probably be sitting with a Leafs fan hating him at one point in the playoffs.

  20. Flyaz says:

    Come on Muckies, seriously. I’ve defended sens fans for the last two posts I’ve made because I defend the right for anyone to love there team. For everyone, as mentioned in numerous posts you either love the LEAFS or you hate them…there is no in between. But when you leave a comment like that it’s not the Leaf fans that look like idiots it’s the sens fans…your giving them all a bad name…There are about 30 names ahead of Fischer that anyone picking that team would pick. He’s a good player but be serious. Secondly trying to insult a leafs fan by calling them a leaves fan makes you look like Johnny Knoxville in “The Ringer”

  21. Flyaz says:

    In the last few years the Flyers, Sens and Leafs have been like a hockey fans nightmare of rock, paper, scissors. Flyers beat Leafs and lose to the Sens, Sens beat Flyers and lose to the Leafs, and Leafs beat Sens and lose to the Flyers. Will this vicious triangle never end?

  22. Flyaz says:

    I can relate to that muckies. My team has gone through more than a few years of crap goaltending. Esche did very well in the playoffs in 03-04 but that was an exception to the rule with the Flyers. For years they had a different starter in the playoffs. Now after Esche’s great playoff performance in 03-04, followed by the lockout it seems that once again Flyer fans will pin there hopes on an NHL playoff rookie in net.

  23. Flyaz says:

    I agree….both goalies will need more time to develop, but holy crap if there is one thing I’m jealous towards Leaf fans for it’s the future in net…They are both awesome. It would be tough for me to pick who there future starter will be, but regardless if I were a Leafs fan I would sleep easy over the future in net….the next couple years without a free agent coming in might worry me however.

  24. Gretzkin says:

    There’s no 5 minute OT.

    There’s no 4 on 4.

    Just Sudden Death (which is OT)

    I really don’t care about the Heatley thing. It was after all, just an accident. But imagine if the table were turned, and Snyder were driving and Heatley ended up the victim.

    Imagine the backlash then?

    Steve Moore. Not whiny. But good comparison. I think he’s not out of line for anything. He did get his neck broken for cleanly leveling Naslund.

    Bertuzzi didn’t intend for that to happen like that, so you can chalk that up into the catestrophic accident category.

    Enough of that…

    Back to the Leafs.

    Yeah, it’s good that they are doing well in OT, because they often get themselves into 1 goal game situations, so hopefully they can can continue their success in extra time.

  25. -MJ- says:

    just a thought, if turco is a FA this summer, and eddie is offered a goalie coach job in toronto, would it be out of line to at least say the potential to sign turco is there?

    -MJ-

  26. i_know_hockey says:

    sigh… leafs fans….

    Id have to say you either love em or you hate em… and im personally not a fan considering i follow another team in the division =P

    But i have to admit that Toronto continues to put an excellent product on the ice game in and game out… some of the most exciting games occur in toronto. The games are always filled with high intensity and energy only adding to the enviroment. Leafs fans are very passionate about their team and the game in general. You kinda have to respect them, but at other times you may wish death upon them all.. so to speak, but toronto has been great for the game of hockey and im def looking forward to some more ottawa, montreal, and toronto games in the future… btw, go sabres !!

  27. 92-93 says:

    just thought this had a nice ring to it:

    “How good is the Leafs’ goaltending of the future looking? Pogge was Canada’s player of the game last night, went 6-0 to tie a record for most wins in a tournament by a Canadian goalie, had a .952 save percentage and set a Canadian record for best goals-against average at 1.00 (of the six goals that got by him, only one was at even-strength).

    But he was not named the top goaltender in the tournament by the IIHF, an honour that went to Finland’s Tuukka Rask. He was the Leafs’ first-round pick last year.”

    http://www.torontosun.com/Sports/Hockey/2006/01/06/1381406-sun.html

  28. 92-93 says:

    well the leafs have won 8 of their last 10 including against the Oilers last night.

    hmm.

    has anyone noticed the disappearance of Jannetty in the last week?

    sine the oilers lost 6-5 to the Flames a week ago (and especially since the Leafs beat the Oilers last night), it looks like he has gone into hiding. in other words, he only posts WHEN HIS TEAM WINS. but when his team loses, he is nowhere to be found.

    now, why would i hold anyone to this condition? well, jannetty is the only person on this site (or the worst case) who always crams his oilers’ victories – impressive or not – down other people’s throats. if the thread has nothing to do with the oilers, it doesn’t matter. and i have never heard him make a negative comment about his team.

    you just can’t take anything this guy says seriously because you know its always going to end with ‘go oilers go.’ its automatic. its pavlovian!

    anyways, i am not going to rub the Leaf victory in his face. Tellqvist was amazing in net and his team lost. big deal. it happens and it doesn’t mean anything really. the leafs will go through a losing streak soon enough and the oilers a winning streak. no reason to lose all perspective over just one game.

  29. 92-93 says:

    after his amazing performance against the oilers (and another subpar peformance by Emery against the struggling Habs):

    Tellqvist (5-11, 194 lbs.):___6-3-1____2.44 GAA____26 GA___1 Shutout____.923 Sv%___236 Total Shots Against___310 Saves

    Emery (6-2, 203 lbs):______8-3-1____3.07 GAA____35 GA___1 Shutout____.893 Sv%___326 Total Shots Against___291 Saves

    well, no one is talking about Tellqvist and the talk surrounding Emery has died down a little. one thing i have noticed is that in terms of talent and team play, ottawa is a better team than toronto. good for them.

    but when adversity (and injuries) strikes, i’d pick toronto over ottawa any day. now, i am not saying they will win anything in the playoffs. i am just saying that the way ottawa folds when they lose a key player or two (Alfie, Spezza, periodically Hasek) has exposed how little the Sens step up when guys go down. the leafs have lost similar key guys (well ‘key’ in terms of importance to their team) and have stepped it up. depth guys like Wilm, Kilger, Czerkawski (!), and Pohl all seem to play better.

  30. 92-93 says:

    very briefly (lol), lets compare the Leafs so far this year with last year’s club:

    Goaltending _______improved

    Despite Belfour’s struggles, his play of late has been very good and people are blowing his GAA and Save Percentage way out of proportion to all the games he has kept the Buds in it. Also, anyone who thinks Kidd is a better back-up then Tellqvist is a moron. Tellqvist is playing like a #1 on most nights and is – right now – a BETTER goalie than Ottawa’s Ray Emery. Toronto has one of the best and effective goaltending tandems in the league considerning the D and the defensive play in front of them.

    Defence______________still sucks

    Well, offensively this defence seems better – McCabe and Kaberle are both in the top-4 in defenceman scoring. however, they lack the offensive depth on the blueline with Leetch and Pilar gone (especially the former). If Coliacovo – and even Kronvall – could get some more ice time that could change. But the biggest knock and against the leafs is their shallow defensive depth. Good news is that the youngsters like Kronvall, Woz, and Coliacovo are making Berg and Khavanov look expensively redundant. Klee, despite his solid defensive play on most nights, seems slower in the new NHL and it might be time for the Leafs to move on or move him to a #5 or #6 spot.

    The Leafs need to make a deal using their offensive depth to get a defensive, mobile blueliner or else they have no shot at getting to the 3rd round this year. otherwise, hang on and make that deal in the offseason. In any case, the leafs are relying way too much on McCabe and Kaberle – both of whom are not very impressive in their own end.

    Offense_______________Improved

    Yes, that’s right – improved. No Nieuwy, No Roberts, no Mogilny, No Francis, No Fitzgerald, No Renberg, No Reichel, No problem.

    Allison and Lindros – despite their recent injuries have played solid for the Leafs and one of them WILL have to go by the start of next year in order to make room under the cap (or get a defenseman this year). Sundin is back and is getting better with each game (still a point-a-game player). Tucker has been a surprise and leads the team with 18 goals. Other players like Kilger and Wilm are doing an effective job for the limited ice time that they see. O’Neill has not worked out too well although his stats are still pretty good (once you ignore his +/-).

    But its the young players that ultimately make this group of forwards better than last year’s – quicker, more defensively conscientious then any of the team’s veteran players (which is sad). Wellwood, Poni, Stajan, Steen make up 1/3 of the Leaf’s forwards and they are Toronto’s future.

    the Leafs are easilyin the league’s top 10 in offense and have incredible depth. Other teams have seemingly better stats in every offense category (teams like the Sens and Rangers) but the Leafs have way more depth.

    After McCabe, Allison, Kaberle, and Sundin – who are, combined, scoring at a point-a-game clip – there’s Tucker’s 18 goals and 30 points (who, along with O’Neill makes it 6 Leafs with 25 points or more). Lindros and the two rookies – Wellwood and Steen – are next with 22 points each (both rookies are in the top-10 in rookie scoring). but what is really impressive besides these 9 players are the PK offense stats of Stajan and Poni – the latter who leads in PK goals and the former who leads in PK points.

    Overall, the Leafs are actually a cheaper, younger, and more improved sqaud then a year ago. however, this must be tempered with the fact that the problems last season – and throughout the Quinn era – that have prevented the Leafs from going to the Cup finals are still around: poor defensive play by the veteran forwards and the defence. moreover, other teams in the East have improved and will knock toronto out of its annual spot in the top-4, meaning that the Leafs are going to be on the road in the first round and will likely not get as far as the team they had last season (one that since and during that season has been incredibly over-hyped as ‘toronto’s best chance to win a cup.’).

    not in my books, with Rask, Pogge, White, Harrison, Bell, Williams, Pohl waiting in the wings – plus a new prospect-first philosophy, the leafs will have their best shot at the cup in the next few seasons.

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