Let's see what Tellqvist can do

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

The short-lived Mikael Tellqvist experiment on Saturday wasn't exactly a roaring success.

He took a bad angle on the first Montreal Canadiens goal, mishandled the puck to set up the third, and couldn't stop Saku Koivu's jam shot in overtime.

But that shouldn't preclude his presence between the pipes in the game in Tampa tonight and the game in Washington on Friday.

If the Maple Leafs are going to give Tellqvist a shot at the starting-goaltender's job -- and they should -- they have to give him more than one game.

After all, the job of a starting goaltender is to start most of the games. By definition, you can't prove you're qualified by starting a game here and a game there.

What do the Leafs have to lose? There are only three possible results of giving Tellqvist the bulk of the work.

He can be a) bad; b) good; or c) mediocre.

If he's mediocre, then the experiment hasn't cost them anything. With rare exceptions, Ed Belfour -- who started against the Florida Panthers last night -- has been mediocre as well, so they're merely following a well-travelled path.

PROBLEMS

If he's good, then a number of problems are solved. Good goaltending has a way of sparking everyone on the team. It liberates the forwards because they don't feel they need to fill the net to have a chance to win. They can concern themselves with merely playing a sound, solid game.

It makes the defence look better and gives them confidence. They'll make a few mistakes -- all defences do -- but they won't be made to feel that their lapses are costing games. A good goaltender can cover a host of defensive sins.

That leaves the third option. Let's suppose Tellqvist is bad. That too solves a number of problems for the Maple Leafs.

They'll know that this is the year to start a serious rebuilding of the team. They'll know that the oft-floated plan of having Tellqvist as the starter next year supported by Belfour or some other veteran won't work.

So they can identify a decent interim goalie of their choice for next year -- Curtis Joseph wouldn't be a bad selection -- and plan to make a serious free-agent acquisition the year afterward. That just happens to be the year that Roberto Luongo should be coming on to the market.

In the meantime, they can end the charade of this year's Stanley Cup run and start to build for the future.

By the time the trade deadline kicks in, only six weeks will remain in the National Hockey League schedule.

Even whopping salaries will be manageable by that time, especially if there are no encumbrances for next year.

As a result, the Leafs probably could get a decent return for Jason Allison. They might be able to find someone willing to give up an unproven youngster for Ken Klee. Clarke Wilm and Chad Kilger would help some playoff-bound teams.

They could perhaps ship Tie Domi to one of the many teams he told us had interest in him.

In fact, they might even be able to get a decent return for Belfour himself. Surely, after this season, the Leafs are no longer entertaining any visions of exercising their option on Belfour.

And as a proven playoff veteran with a Stanley Cup ring, Belfour will command some interest. There always will be general managers who think that with their team, Belfour can regain his old form.

Who knows that they'd be wrong? Belfour is nothing if not intense and confrontational. The mere fact that everyone is saying he's finished might be enough to spark him to an excellent playoff.

But he's not going to have that with the Leafs because the rest of the team is too weak. Move him on and make the most of the return.

But all of this depends upon determining the lay of the land. Can Tellqvist take over or not?

There's only one way to find out.


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