|Toronto Maple Leafs goalie J-S Giguere tees off at Toronto's annual Charity Golf Classic. (Dave Thomas/QMI AGENCY)
MARKHAM -- Putting a humble spin on it, J-S Giguere said he sees the puck as being his prime competition.
Heading into Maple Leafs training camp, the veteran netminder may be onto something.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson essentially said that the starting goaltender's job is Giggy's to lose with promising sophomore Jonas Gustavsson entering the pre-season as his backup.
"I think the No. 1 goalie is Giggy, but he has to perform," Wilson said on Tuesday prior to the team's charity golf tournament at Angus Glen. "Whoever plays best is going to play, but I envision it being Jiggy right now."
By any measure, the Leafs goaltending situation is dramatically more positive than it was a year ago.
At that time, the team was optimistic (falsely it became apparent all too quickly) that Vesa Toskala had recovered from off-season injury and would lead them to the promised land.
And while he was at it, the Finn would mentor a young Swede (like that was going to happen), Gustavsson. The result was a disaster.
Toskala essentially played his way out of the league while Gustavsson was forced to undergo two minor heart procedures early in his NHL life while learning the nuances of the North American game under trying circumstances.
No matter who is starting, the Leafs goaltending situation is clearly a strength this year. Since arriving in Toronto in March, Giguere willingly took Gustavsson under his wing. At the same time, he proved he still has the goods to be a No. 1 goaltender.
"This can change on a daily basis, but I see myself as a No. 1 goalie," Giguere said. "I want to play as many games as I can. I'm sure Jonas is the same, which good for the Leafs.
"I know that we will work together and push each other as much as we can."
Gustavsson, who put together a decent rookie campaign with a 2.85 goals against average and .907 save percentage, didn't seem bothered by Wilson's early call.
"I don't think so much about being No. 1 or No. 2," said Gustavsson, who arrived in Toronto this week. "Of course I know it's going to be tough with Giggy in net, but I'm happy with that.
"Whatever role they give me, I'll take it. It's perfect for me to have Giggy here because he always works hard in practice. That's just going to help me."
It's a safe bet that Wilson won't hesitate to go to Gustavsson regularly, providing his play merits it. The Leafs are determined to continue this development, which included a seven-game winning streak late last season.
A former Stanley Cup winner who plays a similar style, Giguere can only help in that progress.
"You look around the league right now and most teams have two very good goalies," Giguere said. "We want goaltending to be a strength of our team."