North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Ballard Impression

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I was actually in the shower when I heard the news and I immediately refused to believe it; it was surely just some crazy draft-day rumor. But it was shortly confirmed by Gary Bettman and I quickly let loose a string of words that would make Ozzie Guillen blush. Then I started foaming at the mouth, lost all of my motor skills and passed out, smashing my head on the toilet bowl.

Okay, that last sentence never happened, but it very well could have – and the rest of that paragraph actually did. After all, the Maple Leafs just traded away Tuukka Rask, their first round draft choice from last year, the top goalie in the ’05 World Juniors and the first really good goalie prospect the Leafs have had in years (since Felix Potvin, as I see it) for Andrew Raycroft? The guy who was replaced by Tim Thomas? Who, according to Hockeygoalies.org, was replaced 5 times and was involved in 21 losses? Who had a 3.71 GAA, a .879 save percentage and let in 100 goals?

That’s worse then Ed Belfour’s numbers last year. That’s worse then Mikael Tellqvist’s. That’s much worse then Jean-Sebastien Aubin’s. And this guy was worth trading away one of the top prospects in the league?

Really, there’s two ways to look at this: One is that the Leafs didn’t need Tuukka Rask; they already have a possible starter in Aubin and Justin Pogge is still a few years off, so they need a #2 goalie (and maybe someone that they can platoon with Aubin) now, so they can get Tellqvist some experience in the NHL (It worked for Aubin).
The other is that John Ferguson Junior is doing his best Harold Ballard impression, trading away a valuable young player for a has-been (Remember the Russ Courtnall trade? Or the Vincent Damphousse trade?) who’ll stink up the joint – and that’s not a direction I want to see the Leafs headed in.

Either way, I think that there’s both some good and some bad to this: Perhaps this means that there is some truth to the rumors about Ed Belfour’s contract being bought out by the Leafs (Indeed, he is no longer listed on ESPN’s depth chart for the Leafs). Perhaps Raycroft will be able to bounce back to his former, pre-lockout form with sparing use as a backup. We won’t have to rush Justin Pogge to the NHL before he’s ready, even if a starter gets hurt – we now have one goalie (yet to be determined, however) ahead of him. And with the goalie situation now (sort of) resolved, the Leafs can now focus on the more pressing problems on the defensive squad.

Still, at the end of the day, trading away a hot prospect like Rask isn’t winning Ferguson any fans. It already seems like the latest questionable move of his (Let’s not forget his re-signing of Ed Belfour and Tie Domi, hiring a coach with a sub .500 record in the NHL or signing free agents like Eric Lindros or Jeff O’Neill).

Now that the trade is done and there’s nothing really left to be said, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth: for the first time in ages the Leafs had a hot goalie under 25 waiting in the wings (three hot goalies, actually, if you count Pogge and Aubin, which I’m not sure the Leafs have ever had) and he was traded away for a goalie who isn’t living up to his potential. But hey, at least a move away from Boston worked for Joe Thornton, right?

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Written by M.

June 25, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Hockey, nhl

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