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The Assassination of Justin Pogge

Michael Traikos of the National Post wrote a lovely article last week; "Pogge Unable to Handle Centre Stage".

It has been five years since he was drafted 90th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and more than three years since he backstopped Canada to a gold medal victory at the world junior championship. And after a disastrous NHL debut, it has been months since anyone within the franchise referred to the 23-year-old as the franchise's goaltender of the future.

It's almost like the Leafs had terrible goalie coaches and Pogge's development so far has been under terrible conditions. Between Greg Gilbert and whatever dolt coached our goalies from 2005 to 2008, I don't think any rational person would see the Leafs situation and say "that will develop a young goalie just fine".

"Justin Pogge is basically comparable to a child actor, who's had success at a young age and just can't handle it mentally," said Steve McKichan, who was the Leafs' goaltending coach from 2005-06 through 2007-08.

That's weird, ever since Steve McKichan showed up the Leafs have had goaltenders that couldn't handle it mentally. As long as we're throwing around unprovable zings, Steve McKichan is the goalie coach who got canned for turning Calder winning goaltending phenom into Andrew Raycroft professional sieve. Did anyone else notice Pogge, like Raycroft, had a really hard time with his glove hand? That's probably a coincidence and not a symptom of poor coaching.

Funnily enough, if you wander over to Steve McKichan's website you can read this excellent blurb:

Under Steve’s guidance, Justin Pogge developed into the WHL MVP, Goaltender of the year in the CHL, and was a star player on the 2005-2006 Canadian World Junior Championship team.

Steve McKichan waffles more in this article than John Kerry no how about a man made entirely out of Eggo waffles hmmm a goalie's blocker during an Emrick broadcast a hot griddle at a Belgian fair.

"I have full faith that he can be a great NHL goaltender," said McKichan. "And I have no doubt, that if handled properly and if he matures as a human being, that he'll be able to do it. He has the physical skills. He's a tireless worker. And he's extremely coachable.

"There's nothing bad I can say about him. He's just a young kid who got put into a difficult situation. He came in as the saviour -- and not to take anything away from him -- but he's got to earn his stripes."

Is this Steve McKichan admitting that he's a shitty coach? If Pogge's so coachable and works so hard and McKichan thinks he'll be a great goalie then what happened? Did Steve McKichan convince Pogge to shut his eyes when players shoot so that tiny particles of ice don't get into his eyes?

More importantly what the fuck is wrong with McKichan and Traikos? Pogge's a 23 year old who plays for a crappy team that until recently has had awful player development systems and coaches. Most goaltenders develop later as prospects than position players and Pogge's only twenty three. If Pogge is talented and coachable and his only problem is mental toughness I really doubt his ex-coach going to the media talking about what a bust he is will do wonders for Pogge's game.

Is this an assassination? Does "Corporate Big Goaltending" have an ax to grind with Justin Pogge? Does Brian Burke think Pogge's a bust? The Leafs fired every coach associated with Pogge's development and hired the best goalie coach in the world. There's probably a decent chance Pogge has a good year.