Rename the Game
There have been many who have suggested the sport shouldn't be called hockey, but rather, "goalie."
The identity of the player who fills the crease, after all, is the major determing factor when it comes to the success or failure of a hockey club.
It also may be the crucial issue when it comes to the raging debate over whether Brian Burke is a suitable candidate to take over and revive the ailing Maple Leaf organization.
Some argue that Burke turned around a struggling Vancouver team in 1998 and produced a series of winning teams, then went to Anaheim and turned a good club into a Stanley Cup champion.
Others, however, suggest that Burke's team in Vancouver were perennial springtime failures, and that all he did in Anaheim was inherit a solid roster, tweak it a bit, and reap the benefits.
I happen to support the first of these two theories. But there's some evidence to support the second, and that revolves around the issue of goaltending.
In Vancouver, Burke was never able to stabilize the position. He went through an astounding 13 goalies in six seasons, a list that included Garth Snow, Corey Hirsch, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin, Corey Schwab, Alfie Michaud, Dan Cloutier, Bob Essensa, Alex Auld, Petr Skudra, Martin Brochu, Tyler Moss and Johan Hedberg.
The main reason the Canucks couldn't convert 100-point seasons into significant playoff runs was, aside from being a team with a collective low IQ that always took stupid penalties, the fact Burke bet heavily that Cloutier could be a No. 1 stopper, and Cloutier was always either hurt or sub-standard.
Burke stubbornly believed Cloutier would eventually come through when few others outside the team supported that notion, and it led to his downfall in Vancouver.
Now compare that to Anaheim. While Burke did indeed put the finishing touches on a roster that weren't necessarily easy ones, such as luring Scott Niedermayer, dealing for Francois Beauchemin and trading for Chris Pronger, the key player he did inherit was netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Burke has repeatedly called Giguere one of the best money goalies ever, and he's not wrong. Giguere was dazzling in 2003 when the Ducks went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final before losing to New Jersey, and captured the Conn Smythe Trophy.
When Anaheim did win it all in 2007, Giguere began the post-season on the sidelines but in the end supplied the necessary goaltending.
He's often not pretty to watch, but he's a rock back there who plays his best when it matters most, and the Ducks have been able to count on him year after year.
So if Burke had inherited a Giguere-like goalie in Vancouver, maybe the results there would have been different, just as they might have been in Anaheim had Giguere not been there.
Point is, goaltending usually determines the ultimate success of GMs. Coming to Toronto, Burke will inherit Vesa Toskala, Curtis Joseph and youngster Justin Pogge, a group which right now doesn't look capable of taking the club very far in the years ahead.
So if you wonder how Burke will fare running the Leafs, watch if he sticks with Toskala, and if Toskala turns out to be more Cloutier or more Giguere.