Goaltending Angst Intensifies

TORONTO (Oct. 25) — Yes, it’s true: There are fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs that have already written off Frederik Andersen as the solution to an interminable goaltending conundrum. After only four starts in the first two weeks of the 2016–17 National Hockey League season. This reaction is understandable and absurd at the same time — a product of unfulfilled hope between the pipes that spans an entire decade:

In 2006, John Ferguson wanted us to believe that Andrew Raycroft provided the answer.

In 2007, Fergie changed course and put his faith in Vesa Toskala.

In 2008, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson hoped that Justin Pogge would be the man.

 In 2009, after a summer–long pursuit, Burke told us that Jonas Gustavsson had solved the issue.

In early–2011, James Reimer came out of nowhere to provide goaltending assurance.

In 2013, David Nonis believed Jonathan Bernier to be the long–lost savior.

And, now, in 2016, we’ve been told by Lou Lamoriello that Andersen will break the pattern.

Is it any wonder the bandwagon so promptly evacuates?

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FREDERIK ANDERSEN IS GENERATING FREQUENT HEADLINES EARLY IN THE 2016–17 NHL SEASON.

Perhaps Lamoriello will be proven correct. He likely understands how a goalie stops the puck after two decades in the company of Martin Brodeur. It is grossly unfair to consign Andersen to the scrap–heap in a comparative instant; the Danish–born netminder scuffling for merely a fortnight. Nor is it proper to have burdened a succession of Maple Leaf teams with the 1967 Stanley Cup hex. But, hockey territory in our town no longer lends itself to patience and the science of reason. In Andersen’s case, the image of a tall stopper getting beaten with high shots while “butterfly” floundering on his knees is frighteningly familiar; the promise of yet another goaltending solution ringing hollow. This will undoubtedly continue (and intensify) until Andersen, or the next great hope, provides a season–long stretch of reliability… and then another (the Maple Leafs have committed five years to Andersen). Not since Hall–of–Famer Ed Belfour (in 2002–03 and 2003–04) has the club enjoyed such command. Curtis Joseph did even better — from 1998 to 2002.

As with fans in any hockey market, those here in Toronto wish to believe the tall thinkers atop the executive chain. After 10 years of goaltending misery, that trust has eroded. None of Ferguson, Burke, Nonis or Lamoriello has yet provided an antidote to skepticism over the most important position in hockey. It is Andersen’s job to quiet the discourse; to succeed where so many others have failed since 2006.

He deserves much more of an opportunity than two weeks.

But, the stomach–churning in Leafs Nation is warranted.

AUTUMN LEAFS AND AUTUMN LEAVES

To have a friendly disposition; lots of money; a mansion in the swanky Forest Hill district of our city; more authentic jerseys than in a typical dressing room and a copyrighted tag connected to his favorite team… well, life must be rather dandy for Mike Wilson — better known as “The Ultimate Leafs Fan.”

Now, Mike has his own book. Published by Quarry Press Inc. of Kingston, Ont., INSIDE THE ROOM WITH THE ULTIMATE LEAFS FAN is a handsome, 224–page compilation of glossy photos from Mike’s personal hockey museum. Developed in conjunction with veteran Toronto Sun scribe Lance Hornby and the “ubiquitous one”, historian and film archivist Paul Patskou, the book is available in stores for $29.95 — a wondrous holiday gift for the zealous Leafs rooter in your family. Heck, even a casual observer of the Blue and White will devour it.

The basement of Mike’s house — a stone’s throw from Upper Canada College — is unlike any you’ll likely see on the planet. It is replete with “souvenirs” of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the club’s former home, Maple Leaf Gardens. My souvenirs are such items as media guides and game programs that date to the 1930’s. Cool stuff, but blatantly modest by comparison to Mike’s haul, which includes game–worn jerseys from every era of the club’s history… and, immodestly, the actual door to the Maple Leafs dressing room at the Gardens. The jerseys are displayed in a glass–enclosed monolith that spans the width of an entire basement wall. The dressing room door is around the corner, where there is room for such a unique memento.

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MIKE WILSON HOLDS A COPY OF HIS NEW BOOK, WHICH TAKES US INTO HIS HOME HOCKEY MUSEUM.

Further description would do no justice to Mike’s ultimate collection.

For that, I turned, Sunday afternoon, to my trusty NIKON, as Wilson hosted a gathering for another close friend, Kevin Shea, who has authored THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS HOCKEY CLUB OFFICIAL CENTENNIAL PUBLICATION: 1917 — 2017 (to be featured in a later blog). With the Autumn foliage at its peak in Mike’s exclusive neighborhood, I figured it proper to combine old Leafs with aging leaves:

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MIKE SIGNS A COPY OF HIS BOOK IN THE KITCHEN OF HIS FOREST HILL ESTATE.

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OUTSIDE, AND AROUND THE CORNER, AUTUMN COLORS FLOURISHED.

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THE MONOLITHIC CASE (ABOVE AND BELOW) OF LEAFS JERSEYS IN MIKE’S BASEMENT–MUSEUM.

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LEAFS JERSEYS WORN BY GEORGE ARMSTRONG (LEFT) AND TIM HORTON.

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MORE RECENT MAPLE LEAFS MEMORABILIA.

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A DISPLAY DEDICATED, PRIMARILY, TO THE ICONIC TEAM CANADA OF 1972.

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THE DRESSING ROOM DOOR FROM MAPLE LEAF GARDENS.

IN THE BOOK…

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EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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