Leafs goaltenders no threat to Marty's mark

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brian Burke wants to make this much clear: The Maple Leafs organization remains hopeful concerning the future of Justin Pogge.

Having said that, both the Leafs general manager and coach Ron Wilson made it clear yesterday they would have liked to see more improvement recently from the young goalie, who has struggled of late on the farm.

Asked if Pogge would be summoned from the AHL's Toronto Marlies over the final few weeks of the season, Wilson said post-trade deadline callup restrictions make such a move difficult.

Then came a candid analysis from the coach of Pogge's progress -- or lack thereof -- over the past few weeks.

"He has not performed well since he went back to the minors," Wilson said. "He has to play better.

"We're not going to reward him for poor play."

Burke is not going to throw Pogge under the bus. Far from it. At the same time, he is not about to mince words, either.

"Would I like to have seen him play better? Yes," Burke said. "He hasn't actually kicked the door down for another shot (at the NHL). He's been just okay.

"But we haven't given up on Justin Pogge yet. Goalies develop at their own pace."

Burke then took a shot at the league's stipulation that limits how many players can be beckoned from the farm at this time of year.

"We may have called him up if it wasn't for that stupid asinine Four Callup Rule. That's ridiculous."

The rule Burke refers to is one in which teams are allowed just four callups between the trade deadline and the end of the regular season. Exceptions are made only in emergency situations.

Pogge is just 4-4 in his past eight decisions with the Marlies, posting an .897 save percentage in that span.

Burke makes no secret that Vesa Toskala, if healthy, will be the starter next season. Despite a rocky start to the 2008-09 campaign, Toskala's game had improved significantly until the team shut him down two weeks ago to undergo hip surgery.

"The last four games before his operation, he was very impressive. That's the Vesa Toskala we think can backstop this team next season," Burke said. "We just want him to be healthy."

Aside from Toskala being the No. 1 next season, all bets are off concerning the backup in 2009-10.

"That is still up in the air," Burke said.

Ideally, Pogge would seem to fit the bill. At the same time, management will keep a close eye on him in the coming weeks to see if he can pick up his game.

Martin Gerber, picked up on waivers at the trade deadline, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and might look for a situation that is more beneficial than playing behind Toskala.

As for Curtis Joseph, last night's starter against the Tampa Bay Lightning, most observers expect him to retire this off-season. Wilson said he hopes to give the veteran "one start per week" the rest of the way.

Then there is the peculiar circumstance surrounding goalie Olaf Kolzig, acquired from the Lightning at the deadline along with Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a fourth-rounder in 2009 for defenceman Richard Petiot. The Leafs, in essence, were taking on salary to get the draft choice, especially since the three players that came to the Leafs were injured.

Kolzig met his Leafs teammates yesterday for the first time.

"Bizarre," said Kolzig, a pending free agent. "But in the salary cap era, you'll probably see more trades like that.

"Two weeks ago, I would have said there was a 95% chance I'd retire. But it's hard not being around the game."

Burke would like to bring Kolzig to Toronto soon, perhaps as a tutor for the organization's young goalies. But that won't happen until Kolzig is examined by doctors on March 30 to see how his injured arm is healing.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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