What's Brewing in Anaheim?

August 12, 2009

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Jeff Ponder

What's Brewing in Anaheim?

J.S. Giguere is a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Stanley Cup Champion and a 4-time 30-game winner.  There is no way any team would want to dump a guy with these credentials, right?  Think again.

The Ducks have had some unbelievable years with Giguere manning the pipes.  Giguere made his first strong impression on the NHL when he stole the playoff spotlight in 2003, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the playoffs while playing for the losing team in the Finals.  Giguere rolled on after that mark, being a large contributor to the Ducks' Stanley Cup Championship in 2007.  But a mediocre season in 2008-09 saw 27-year old Jonas Hiller steal the Orange County spotlight.

Hiller flew out of the gates in 2008 and took the starting job in Anaheim before Giguere could even get in any groove.  The Swiss goalie racked up a 2.39 GAA with an impressive .919 save percentage in 46 games played.  He then was named the starter for the Ducks in the playoffs, and was lights out in the first round.  Hiller and the eighth-seeded Ducks upset the first overall San Jose Sharks, then took the Semi-Final Series with Detroit to 7 games, losing in Detroit.  In the 13 total games played, Jonas accumulated a .943 save percentage, which was still tops in the league as Pittsburgh skated around with the Stanley Cup. 

The Anaheim Ducks then raised some eyebrows Monday when they acquired 23-year old goaltender Justin Pogge from Toronto with a conditional draft pick.  Pogge has not been the hottest goalie in the league, but is still regarded as a high prospect.  The Maple Leafs simply did not have any room left for Pogge to develop.  Starter Vesa Toskala will be expected to get most of the playing time while recently-signed Swedish prospect goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will most likely be inheriting the back-up role. 

Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations David McNab sure made it sound like Pogge was an important addition for the Ducks roster.

“Bob [Murray] has talked with Toronto quite a bit over the last year and this year,” he told reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon.  “You can never have enough good, young goaltenders in an organization. These trades always take time to manufacture themselves, but this was somebody that Bob was trying to get for awhile.

...He’s a big guy. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s played well. He’s been a top prospect in the Toronto organization for the past three years. I think everybody knows with the way the game is now, we’ve been preached when Francois [Allaire] was here, about the big goalies and the necessity to have bigger guys. He’s just somebody that we think has a chance to be a real good goalie in the NHL.”

Could this have been a move to give the Ducks a quality back-up for Hiller?

It certainly seems that way.  Giguere is scheduled to earn $6 million this upcoming season, which happens to be the last season on his contract.  Jean-Sebastien could be seeing his last days in Anaheim since he would make the perfect rental player. 

Even though Giguere's numbers are not exactly making other NHL General Managers jump for their phones, his credibility could go up after a few spot starts for Hiller.  If J.S. can be that great goalie that teams feared just a few short seasons ago, he could go to any Cup contender for another title shot. 

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