After watching with disdain the way fans of the Montreal Canadiens have anointed and massacred Carey Price over the past two years I now find myself at the precipice of hypocrisy as I anticipate the arrival of of Jean-Sébastien Giguère in Toronto. After being traded today for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake I expect to see nothing less than the rebirth of Giguère.
Others can debate cap hits and cash outlays until they’re (Leaf) blue in the face… none of that matters in this case. How many Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winners were on the Leafs yesterday? None. Today they not only have one in Giguère but they also have former Norris Trophy finalist Dion Phaneuf in front of him. The Leaf universe has changed overnight and despite GM Brian Burke talking about Phaneuf being the centerpiece of the Flames deal, it’s Giguère who’s actually poised to become the face of the Leafs.
The opportunity for Giguère to reunite with his former goalie coach Francois Allaire cannot be underestimated. Good goalie coaches become part of a goalie’s soul. They know when to push you, when to coddle you and when to leave you alone. Adjusting to any new coach is difficult; he will undoubtedly know his x’s and o’s but it takes time for a new goalie coach to bond with his students. Sometimes it never happens, just as it never seemed to happen between Toskala and Allaire. For Giguère, coming to Toronto will be like coming home.
Giguère’s still playing the same type of goaltending (i.e. textbook Allaire goaltending) that won the Ducks the Cup in 2007 but off the ice he’s had to deal with many distractions, including his son’s congenital eye disease and the death of his father last season. His performance against the Capitals last week showed that the old Giguère is still there, ready to regain his position in the league’s goalie hierarchy. Yes, the Ducks lost that game 5-1 and Giguère gave up a goal in the first minute, but he also ended the night with 44 saves including a few goal-stealing ones. What impressed me most was his lateral movement… it was quick and well-positioned, putting himself square to the shooter in a solid butterfly stance that took away most of the net.
In Toronto Giguère will be the starter but will not have to worry about carrying the team on his shoulders while he gets himself and his family settled into new surroundings. Sure, he has a big cap hit of $6M and even bigger salary of $7M but as I said earlier these numbers won’t matter if Giguère recovers his dominant play of two seasons ago.
Giguère is only 32 years old, basically the prime age for goalies. I always felt fans and media were too quick to jump on him when he lost the starter’s job in Anaheim to Jonas Hiller so, objectivity aside, I’m excited to see what Giguère does in Toronto. Despite the state of the Leafs I still get excited to watch them on Hockey Night in Canada, albeit via satellite and from California, but today I’m counting the days to next Saturday’s game. Saturday night games in Toronto are special, regardless of where the Leafs reside in the standings, but now that there’s a star in net goalie fans can tune in with anticipation.
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