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Leafs play to goaltender -- Part I

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Elliotte Friedman is a reporter and commentator at The Score, Canada's 24-hour sports highlights and information network. He has covered the Leafs extensively for a number of years and has a birds-eye view of what's going on with the Leafs and the NHL.

by Elliotte Friedman

TORONTO -- You have to love Pat Quinn. When Maple Leaf nation hollers for another goaltender after Curtis Joseph's injury, Quinn plays a modern-day Nero. Seemingly fiddling while Rome is burning, he refuses to make an immediate trade, sticking with Corey Schwab.

Just as Quinn's faith in the career backup is being rewarded and fans are no longer screaming for a deal, the coach/GM/czar goes out and gets Tom Barrasso.

Give him credit. He's consistent. He'll do things his way regardless of what anyone else says. There certainly were millions of Maple Leaf fans unable to function properly last Friday, so consumed with the possible ramifications and reverberations of this trade. There were many questions asked, and so few answers available:

Tom Barrasso will start sometime this week.
Graig Abel Photography
Why make the trade now? Who will be the No. 1 goaltender? Will Barrasso - a notoriously crusty and cranky guy - totally wreck any and all harmony in the Maple Leaf dressing room? Does this mean that Curtis Joseph will not be back this year? Does this mean that Curtis Joseph will not be back next year? Will Barrasso chew out Schwab like he once did Jean-Sebastien Aubin in Pittsburgh?

It's better drama than Law & Order.

But the bigger question is: What does this do to the Maple Leafs right now?

Joseph's injury was supposed to be the iceberg of this Toronto season. There was no way the team could gamble, because the MVP (even in this, a down year) was not back there to bail out whichever skater made a mistake in front of him.

Even though a collapse of historical proportions would have been necessary for the team to miss the playoffs, the faithful were preparing for a panic run to the postseason, much like last year's. An ugly loss in Detroit that featured Schwab getting yanked only increased those fears.

But a funny thing happened. The 18 skaters in front of him, realizing that Detroit debacle was as much their fault as it was his, rallied around Schwab. The Leafs dominated Montreal, deserving more than a tie. They played a near-perfect road game in Philadelphia. Schwab then made three saves on breakaways to preserve a tie with the Flyers in the return match.

(Imagine 1998 Olympian Mark Recchi so psyched out by a goaltender who came to Toronto on a tryout contract that he missed the net on an overtime breakaway. But that's exactly what happened.)

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