Has Pogge worn out his welcome?
Goaltending prospect Justin Pogge may have played his final game in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. The one-time WHL and World Junior standout was relegated to backup status in the Marlies’ final game of the season on Saturday as his team bowed out of the Calder Cup playoffs.
After an average three seasons with the Marlies, combined with a few forgettable starts in the big league in which he won just once in six appearances with the Leafs, Pogge’s time to shine came when he was named the team’s main playoff starter for the first time in his career as Toronto opened the North Division Semi-Final against Manitoba.
It appeared that the netminder – who turned 23 on Thursday – was on the road to proving his doubters wrong, turning in a stellar 30-save performance in Game Three to give the Marlies a two-to-one series lead.
But then the wheels fell off as the Marlies surrendered ten goals in the next two games in Toronto to put themselves into a 3-2 series deficit heading back to Winnipeg. While not all of the goals were Pogge’s fault, he seemed to be a shadow of the game-stealing hero that he was in Game Three. Nor did he endear himself to the fans at Ricoh Coliseum when he allowed a weak goal from the corner to his right, in the third period of the fifth game.
Pogge also had a propensity for undisciplined penalties, taking three minor penalties throughout the series.
The ultimate snub may have come on Saturday night, as he watched from the bench while the Moose celebrated their series win.
Following what turned out to be the Marlies final win of the season in Game Three, Pogge told my friend and fellow scribe Michael Traikos of the National Post “I’m never going to play with this group of guys again. So I’m trying to make the most of it and try to win a Calder Cup.”
Pogge has undoubtedly set his aspirations high for an NHL job.
But his prophecy of never playing with this group again may ring true, not because of any impending promotion, but simply because his time in Toronto has run out.
One prospect to watch in training camp next fall is Viktor Stalberg. A swift skater who battles in the tough areas in the corners and in front of the net, Stalberg had a strong pro debut in Game #5 on Thursday, earning his first AHL point.
On the play, Stalberg raced to the left-wing corner on a dump-in, outworked the Moose defenceman for the puck, then fed a perfect cross-crease diagonal pass to Jamie Sifers on the right point. Sifers’ original shot was saved, but Darryl Boyce pounced on the rebound for the goal.
“I’ve got to come here and work hard all summer, and see where training camp takes me,” said Stalberg, the sixth-round pick of the Leafs in 2006.
Former Leafs coach Pat Quinn has been suggested by no fewer than two Toronto newspaper columnists as a possible candidate to lead Canada’s national women’s team.
With the Canadian women having lost back-to-back World Championships for the first time in their history, head coach Melody Davidson seems uncertain about her future, heading into the Olympics next year.
Quinn’s possible appointment should be given strong consideration for three reasons: 1) He’s available. 2) He has proven success coaching Team Canada at the international level. 3) Looking back at Quinn’s last two seasons with the Leafs from 2004-06, he’s apparently used to coaching players that don’t bodycheck.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Blue And White Beat, and will be blogging at TMLfans.ca throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.