Gustavsson The Real Deal? + Svatos

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have been in search of a number one goaltender since the National Hockey League's lockout, and after a four-year trial period---relinquishing a number of draft picks in the process--- they may have finally found their man.

Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson has produced a .901 save percentage, a 2.98 goals-against-average, one shutout and a 8-10-7 record. While those statistics are not exactly flattering, they are certainly respectable in light of the Leafs' dismal 2009-10 season.

Yes, Gustavsson does seem to struggle with consistency, but the 25-year-old has shown considerable strides towards becoming a legitimate and respectable No.1 goaltender for the Buds.

The question, however, is if Gustavsson is good enough to eventually lead the Leafs to the promised land.

Well, quite simply, that question cannot be answered because judging the Swede's career so quickly into his NHL career is outlandish and a prime reason why Toronto is such a pressure-cooker.

But hey, when has that ever stopped the Toronto media?

One reporter in particular suggested that the Leafs need to be certain that Gustavsson is their No.1 goalie heading into next season, and outside help should be considered if he falters during the next 38 games.

I disagree with that stance, and here's why:

I understand that Brian Burke traded away two first-round draft picks for the next two years, but why has that created the fallacy that the Leafs need to do everything in their power to avoid relinquishing lottery picks to the Boston Bruins?

Seriously, who cares?

We're not going to have a first-round draft pick for the next two years, so get over it. If the Leafs acquire short-term aid by means of trade or free agency, are they not entering the same hole they were in before? What picks we give up to the Bruins is not our concern anymore, what matters is the long-term vitality of the Leafs, you know, our team.

Just a year into Burke's tenure as GM, there's already pressure being put on him to trade for outside help? It's fairly obvious the Leafs are not yet ready to compete with the NHL's elite, so I was under the impression the franchise was supposed to be developing its young players?

While Gustavsson has had his problems---rebound control, lateral movement and puck control most notably--- he has shown glimpses of becoming a legitimate No.1 goaltender at the NHL level. Considering he's one of the only goaltenders post-lockout to register a save percentage above .900 for the Leafs, and at the youngest age, I'd say it's a good indication he could be their man moving forward. But to suggest the Leafs should look to outside help after one season with a mediocre Leafs lineup? I don't think that's fair. It would be in the Leafs' best interest to hold on to the assets they have, and give Gustavsson a shot as the No.1 goaltender heading into next season.

If anything, the Kessel trade should reinforce the plan to stockpile young talent and not sign or trade for short-term fix ups. I understand it's frustrating to give up a quality pick (or two) to the Bruins, but Burke has to think about what's best for the Leafs in the long-term,and not his personal pride.

As I've said before, criticisms should be kept at a minimum before questioning the Leafs' future. Like any rebuilding (sorry, "retooling") plan, the first season or two is always a period of adjustment, and the Leafs need to determine their assets in order to move forward. That won't happen unless they let them play.

Please, let's not get sucked in to this "race for eight place" stuff again.

*****

A recent rumour from The Fourth Period suggest that the Toronto Maple Leafs may be interested in the services of Colorado Avalanche forward, Marek Svatos. The asking price, it is presumed, would be as much as a third-round draft pick unless the 27-year-old picks up his game considerably.

With only six goals and three assists in 35 games with the Avs this season, should the Leafs honestly consider acquiring Svatos?

The Slovakian winger registered his best season in his rookie campaign, producing 32 goals and 50 points in 61 games. Since then, his most productive season came in the 2007-08 season when he scored 26 goals and 36 points in 62 games. Also, in his five years in the NHL, Svatos has yet to play over 70 games.

Quite simply, I do not think Svatos---who, by the way, stands at a menacing 5'9 and weighs 185 pounds--- is worth a third-round draft pick, especially considering the Leafs' shortage of draft picks already.

Instead, I think it'd be beneficial to unload the players that have no future with the Leafs---the upcoming trade deadline and off-season should help. Once that is done, Burke can begin to determine the value of the Leafs' young players and get a better assessment on what the future holds.

ronguillet@gmail.com

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