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Tasca's Take

Missing the Point

Steve Simmons continues to beat a dead horse:

People can grouse all they want about the Phil Kessel deal and how it has worked out with the Bruins — and too often we hear this debated — but not enough is said about the Rask mistake.

Yet (former Leafs GM John) Ferguson may have had the right idea in trading a young goalie to Boston for Raycroft. He just picked the wrong goalie, preferring Justin Pogge over Rask. That’s the Pogge who now stars for Ritten Renon of the Italian Hockey League, if he stars at all.

The Rask trade isn’t necessarily the worst deal ever made by the Leafs, but it’s certainly part of any conversation on the subject.

It's quite obvious that Toronto fans will have to put up with garbage like this for the indefinite future.  The fact that Boston pummels the Leafs on a regular basis only compounds the problem, and it provides all the ammunition Steve Simmons needs to take potshots at the organization, riling up an already disenchanted fan base. 

Back in 2009, everyone knew the Kessel trade was a huge gamble.  As bad as Toronto was at the time, Brian Burke had to know that the two first round picks he was surrendering in the upcoming drafts could potentially prove to be top-10 selections.  The Leafs would lose out on Tyler Seguin and Doug Hamilton, two of the best OHL prospects in recent years.  Burke would never admit it publicly, but it's hard to believe he wouldn't want a mulligan on that deal. 

The Rask trade is a different kettle of fish.  The team needed a replacement for Ed Belfour in 2006, as neither Mikael Tellqvist or Jean-Sebastien Aubin had shown much promise.  Andrew Raycroft, on the other hand, had won the Calder Trophy a few years prior, and was considered one of the best young goaltenders in the league.  And while Rask was a hot teenage prospect in Finland, Raycroft was already established. 

Seven years later, it's easy to tear apart John Ferguson for giving up on Rask.  But to compare the trade with some of the other royal gaffes in Leafs history in nothing short of asinine. 

As long as he stays healthy, Tuukka Rask will more than likely win the Vezina Trophy.  But it's worth noting that the young Fin backstops the best defensive team in the league.  Rask faces very few quality scoring chances compared to most NHL goaltenders because he plays on a grinding team that tries to win 2-1 every night. 

Tim Thomas won two Vezina Trophies in Boston.  With all due respect to Timmy, he's not exactly what you'd consider a Hall of Fame netminder.  After all, he did spend nearly ten years in Europe and the minor leagues.  It can be reasonably argued that Thomas would've never reached the top of the goaltending mountain had he suited up for the Toronto Maple Leafs or another dog team. 

The fact of the matter is, in Boston, Thomas didn't have to be great.  The same can be said for Tuukka Rask.  In fact, the one time when Rask had his mettle tested was in the 2010 playoffs, and it resulted in one of the greatest collapses in NHL history.  But this season, his team is much deeper, particularly on defense.  Put simply, Darrin Madeley could play goal for the Bruins.

With that said, winning a Stanley Cup is never easy, and nobody should take anything away from Tuukka Rask should the Bruins bring home the bacon this spring.  At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that, if the circumstances were different and Rask was now toiling away in Toronto, his numbers would quite likely be comparable to those of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. 

History has shown a standout defensive corps can make an average goaltender look very good, especially in the playoffs.  From Bill Ranford to Tom Barrasso to Arturs Irbe to Dwayne Roloson, the examples abound.  And while it's certainly not fair to place Tuukka Rask in this category, it's equally as unfair for columnists to repeatedly pummel the Leafs for trading away this so-called "elite" goaltender, particularly when such a distinction has not yet been earned. 

If Tuukka Rask pulled his groin tomorrow and Anton Khudobin led the team for the rest of the season, would the Bruins fall off the face of the earth?  Not likely.  Ottawa's incredible success in the absence of Craig Anderson shows how the importance of elite goaltenders in today's game is, in many ways, greatly exaggerated (Ryan Miller, anyone?).  Above all, it's paramount to have a solid blueline, as Los Angeles demonstrated during last year's playoffs. 

That's the real problem plaguing the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Until the situation is rectified, the club will continue to give up lots of goals.  No goaltender can save the franchise in its current state, as much as Steve Simmons wants us to believe otherwise. 

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.