The Toronto Maple Leafs just traded away the only goalie to lead them to the playoffs in the past decade. What the Leafs have now is a goalie that will probably be moved in the offseason in Jonathan Bernier and a prospect in Garret Sparks.
Since the years of Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour, the Leafs have had a history of making bad choices surrounding their goaltending. Let’s take a look at the goalie that have played at least a game for the Leafs since Belfour left in 2006. The list consists of: Andrew Raycroft, Mikael Tellqvist, J.S. Aubin, Vesa Toskala, Scott Clemmensen, Martin Gerber, Justin Pogge, Joseph, Jonas Gustavsson, J-S Giguere, Joey MacDonald, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, Jussi Rynnas, Jonathan Bernier and Garret Sparks. That list will probably include Antoine Bibeau by the end of the 2015-16 season.
Looking at the list, you can see some of the mistakes. Raycroft cost the Leafs Tuukka Rask. Pogge was involved in that situation as well as Leafs management believed that he was the goalie of the future, not Rask. Gustavvson was labeled “The Monster” and the best goalie outside the NHL. He’s currently a back-up in Boston. The trade to acquire Toskala was downright atrocious. Finally, you have Bernier who looks like he needs a change of scenery to reinvigorate his career. The only players who performed well during their time with the Leafs were arguably Giguere and Reimer.
For a team whose goaltending history includes the like of Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante and Turk Broda, the team has certainly fallen on hard times. With the rebuild the Leafs are currently going through, it will all be for nothing if they don’t find a goalie that can become one of the best in the League. Let’s face it, that’s what the Leafs are going to need to be among the best teams in the League.
The Best Teams & Best Goalies
Look at the best teams in the NHL. They all have something in common. The Capitals have Braden Holtby. The Blackhawks have Corey Crawford. The Los Angeles Kings have Jonathan Quick. If the Leafs want to be talked about among the best, the Leafs need their next goalie of the future to actually turn out to be that.
Will that be Sparks or Bibeau? That’s what the rest of the season and next season will be about. Sparks has looked good in his time with the Leafs. Bibeau came just short of a Memorial Cup. Both goalies should get the experience of a long playoff run with the Toronto Marlies this season in the hopes of winning the Calder Cup.
All that being said, the Leafs should probably look into taking a goalie in the next draft or two. Sure, taking a goalie will always be a shot in the dark but the Leafs need to take it. It probably won’t be in the first round or two, but with so many picks in this years draft, one of them should be spent on a goaltender. Trading for a young goalie should not be an option unless they are really sure about it. We’ve seen the Leafs take that route with the Bernier trade and it hasn’t really worked out now has it?
So what does the Leafs’ goaltending future hold? No one knows at this point, but hopefully it’s better than what we’ve seen in the last decade.