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Marlies Look Follow Pogge Again

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Desperate times do, as Marlies coach Greg Gilbert said, call for desperate measures.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

After a month without a start, Justin Pogge got his first chance Wednesday and looked sharp in a 6-1 Marlies win over the Chicago Wolves.

Now the Marlies head to Chicago for Game 5 of their Calder Cup semi-final down 3-1 but not without hope. The same Marlies team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Syracuse Crunch.  In their last two games in Toronto, Wolves kingpin Jason Krog has been limited to just an assist. Defensively, the Marlies are finding their legs.

But the real story is being written by Pogge who passed through a throng of fans chanting his name en route to the Marlies dressing room after Game 4.

The series is his to win now. He just needs to reel off three straight wins against one of the top teams in the league with two of the three games played on the road.

He must also survive a tendency by his teammates to incur penalties at a suicidal clip. In four games, the Wolves have had a dozen more man advantages (33-21). That’s three a game more than the Marlies. If the Marlies don’t fix that, they will start airing out their gear Friday night.

For Pogge, this isn’t like being handed the keys to the Porsche in the driveway a la Carey Price. This is being handed the keys while the thing is headed 100 km an hour in the wrong direction.

But like they used to say in the A-Team, it’s just crazy enough to work.

Look, Marlies head coach Greg Gilbert has taken some media scrutiny for going with Scott Clemmensen, who, unlike Pogge is not considered one of the pillars of the franchise’s future.

There was plenty of logic behind the idea that if Pogge is the future, why not stick his feet in the fire and see what he’s got?

Fine. But if you wonder about imperiling your best prospect by handing him your playoff fortunes in only his second year as a pro (his first good one I might add), well there is room for your opinion too.

What if the Marlies braintrust had decided to go with Pogge no matter what?  And what if he failed? What you have then is far fewer playoff games for Jiri Tlusty, Jaime Sifers, Alex Foster and Jay Harrison. You also have forsaken a chance to develop an identity in the marketplace.

So you ride Clemmensen a long way and he gets you three playoff series until the wheels of the bus start hanging over the cliff.

Then you hand the job to Pogge. If he fails, well, there is no shame in that, he was playing a virtually unwinnable hand.

But if a miracle happens, well you have a wonderful story, a new star in orbit and a world full of storylines.

Justin Pogge is still a green pro goalie. He struggles to let the game come to him and his penchant for handling the puck will give you ulcers.

But he is undoubtedly talented and in Game 4, he was nigh on perfect.

It is he who will decide on the coming out party. Perhaps this year, maybe, with a lot more pressure, next season. Either way, he now has the chance to grow into the job.
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