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Covering anything hockey but mostly stories involving my favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I try to update the blog every day or two and encourage comments and suggestions. Some of my influences are TSN's Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie. Enjoy

Thursday, February 4, 2010

J.S. Giguere and why he is a major key to the Leaf's future

While every Leaf fan has been going off about how great the Phaneuf deal was and how key the 24 year old defenceman will be to the future of this team, Burke's brilliant trade for all-star goaltender J.S. Giguere is equally monumental if not more..

Anaheim parted ways with Giguere for 3 simple reasons:
- Jonas Hiller has been absolutely stellar in his first 3 years of NHL service and put on a spectacular display last spring helping the Ducks upset San Jose in the first round of the playoffs before almost eliminating the reigning Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
- Giguere hasn't quite been on the ball for the past couple seasons and let his starting goalie role slip away
- With Hiller having recently resigned with the Ducks, there was no room for 2 high paid goaltenders so Giggy had to go

The Leafs have not had much success with goaltenders since the lockout as both Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala failed to meet expectations and pretty well bombed in Toronto. So why should we expect Giguere to be any different?

Raycroft and Toskala were both relatively unproven goalies who appeared to have the potential for #1 netminder duties but when put to the test, proved otherwise. Giguere on the other hand is a proven number one goalie in the NHL, evidence by his solid and relatively consistent career numbers both regular and post-season. He is a Stanley Cup Champion (2006-07) as well as a Conn-Smythe trophy winner for MVP of the playoffs (2002-03). It should also be noted that these prestigious awards were gathered in 2 separate post-seasons which shows that Giguere is obviously a determined playoff performer who has the ability to go all the way. Such a resume is pretty hard to come by for a goalie who, at 32, is still in his prime and should have a lot more to offer.

As for the concern with his declining play over the past couple seasons, there shouldn't be much to worry about there. NHL players will have their up and down seasons.. look at other star goalies like Mikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov or Backstrom. All are star level puck stoppers but hit a slump at some point or another in their careers. Giguere's career numbers have simply been to good to ignore and if you saw Tuesday's game vs. the Devils you'll have a pretty good idea how great the change of scenery has been for him.

Let's take a look at some of Giggy's career stats:
Regular Season
Career Save % - .913 (5th place all time!)
Career GAA - 2.51 (Top 25 all time)
Save % - .925
GAA - 2.08

- 2nd place among active goaltenders in career OT wins
-  4th most playoff wins among active goaltenders

If his season-by-season numbers are of any indication, Giguere should easily be capable of good enough play to earn his 6 million dollar paycheque and potentially take this team on a long playoff run in the next few years. He will be an excellent role model for young Jonas Gustavsson who should learn a lot from the veteran as well as taking a burden off his shoulders and providing some legitimate competition for playing time.

Giguere has many more productive years left in the tank and for the Leafs to have obtained an All-Star quality goaltender for almost nothing but a weak predecessor in Toskala and an aging, unproductive leukemia patient (Jason Blake) is a huge streak of luck for a Toronto squad dying for some better fortune.

Mark my words, Giguere is for real and his trade was probably the best one the Leaf's have made post-lockout.

- Scott Urquhart

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