Pogge Suits Up For A Second Time

Justin PoggeTotal Pro Sports – Some fans are saying ‘the time has come’, others are still skeptical, Justin Pogge will suit up for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight when they face the Wild in St.Paul. In reality, Pogge’s AHL numbers are not that bad and again, in reality they are not a true reflection of what he is capable of in the NHL.

Wilson said Pogge will be part of a rotation that will see him go back and forth between the Leafs and the Marlies. Pogge made his NHL debut Dec. 22 in Atlanta, giving up just two goals in a 6-2 Toronto win. However, he was immediately returned to the Marlies. Pogge was the Leafs’ third-round pick, 90th overall, in the 2004 Entry Draft. He has been with the Marlies since 2006 and in 32 games this season is 15-13-4 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Reports Sportsnet.ca

Some fans believe that this may be the first move to begin the process of leading Curtis Josephinto retirement and seeing Pogge become a full-time NHL back-up for the remainder of the NHL season, again this is only speculation. While others have mentioned that bringing Pogge up into the Leafs’ mess and keeping him for an extended amount of time may be a mistake. Some examples of goalies who have been thrown to the wolves in Leafs land include the likes of Ken Wregget andAllan Bester. Though Wregget survived and managed to play a few more seasons, Bester was never the same again.

So while some are eager to get Pogge into the cage, it may be wise to groom this goalie in the minors for a few more months. Seeing as Pogge has had issues with confidence it may be wise to see if he can handle losing at the NHL level, because losing comes with the territory. At some point you have to forget about his confidence and put him in there or else… They can only protect him for so long. We know that his numbers went through the roof last time they called him up and then sent him down again. Maybe the management’s theory is that a nibble at the carrot every once in a while can keep him motivated.

Ron Wilson and Brian Burkeseem to be stern on their reasoning with Pogge, their attitude seems to be that if he deserves another start he will get one and that NHL starts shouldn’t fall right into his lap. The best bet would be for Pogge to take it day by day and if he doesn’t perform then he gets sent back down. It may be hard to determine what he can do in such a short amount of time, but there is no point in ruining his confidence. Also, with the Marlies standing currently in 5th spot, in the hunt for holding onto a playoff spot, it makes sense to keep Pogge involved seeing as it may be possible for them to make a serious run for the Calder Cup. While people play the blame game and place it on Vesa Toskala, others claim that the problem is not Toskala and that the teams defensive breakdowns which materialize due to a lack of a better system, are what is causing the numbers to pile up in the goals against column.

Some people say that the Leafs’ owe Toskala big time. Fact is, no one should be running this guy out of town when the entire team is not doing the job. However, the problem may lay deeper then just the Leafs’ dressing room. This team has been built to lose, it has come to a time where Pogge needs this exposure to wet his appetite for the NHL. This competition between Toskala and the rookie goaltender pushing him in order for him to start his game is exactly what the doctor ordered.

The only possible way Toskala can get started (even though some say it’s too late) is if he has another goaltender that is right up there taking his job away. For example last year, when Paul Maurice was flip flopping on who the started was going to be, Raycroft and Toskala were neck and neck, Toskala was stealing games and playing like a starting goaltender. However if Pogge is going to use this opportunity to play and pass Toskala as the starting goalie. Pogge will needs chemistry and experience in the NHL, not just one game.

It seems like Wilson’s plan is to do exactly that, attempt to give Pogge some exposure to the NHL and allow him to gain some chemistry.

Head Coach Ron Wilson said that Pogge will be called up from the minors every now and then until the end of the season. Pogge should play enough to gauge “whether he’s an NHL goaltender or not,” Wilson said. While I like the idea of getting him into NHL games every now and then, I don’t like the idea of making the decision to send him back to the minors beforehand. What happens if he gets lit up in tonight’s game versus the Wild? He’ll get sent down and probably recalled for another game later this month. Then, what if that game doesn’t go well either? His confidence will be shot and he won’t believe that he belongs in the NHL.

It may be hard to grasp where Ron Wilson is going, the fact is that Pogge may get lit up, but then again he might not. The fact again is that if he lets in 5 goals, it doesn’t matter. How he performs overall throughout the game is what will be remembered. With the Leaf defence not being the greatest all the blame could be place on Pogge if he is lit up. Though it is easy to forget that Pogge’s Leafs’ debut was a 6-2 win over Atlanta. So maybe the pressure is good ? Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak were put under tremendous pressure, playing for Montreal, and look how well they perform. The reality may be that giving him spot starts may actually be taking pressure off of him. If they say “you win, you stay” he has a ton of pressure heaped on him to make it with the big club, however if he already knows his fate, he can go out there and just play. There is no pressure on him to succeed. Just look at Fluery in Pittsburgh. He came in took his lumps and is now a true #1.

Tags: 2004 Entry Draft, AHL, Brian Burke, Calder Cup, Carey Price, Curtis Joseph, Fluery, Jaroslav Halak, Justin Pogge, Montreal, NHL, pittsburgh, Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs, Wild,