Saturday, March 7, 2009

Enter The Gerber

Let's just get one thing straight. I hated Martin Gerber. The idea of Martin Gerber becoming a Leaf made my skin crawl. If I had to describe my feelings for Gerber in one word, it would be "puke". Just wanted to get that out of the way. Now we can move on.

I love a compelling story-line, and I love cheering for the underdog. Let's move on some more.

There's something very interesting happening here. If what they say is true, and Toskala's surgery was inevitable and necessary, then the acquisition of Martin Gerber was a tremendous move. This has the potential to work out for the Leafs in a really positive, unexpected way. Gerber, at one time a very promising goaltender, needed to be thrown a life-line to rescue his career, and luckily the Leafs have done that and given him a chance. It's Kyle Wellwood in reverse, without the pictures by the pool or the obesity, and hopefully it'll lead to some good karma for the team.
Martin Gerber joined the Anahiem Mighty Ducks in 2002, as the back-up goaltender to J.S. Giguere, appearing in 22 games. He then sat on the bench in the playoffs for all but 20 minutes, as Giguere led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final, winning 15 games and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

The following season, Gerber played 32 games with decent numbers (2.26 GA, .918 SV%), while Giguere faltered, and the Ducks missed the playoffs by 15 points. After the lockout, Gerber found a job with Carolina as the starting goaltender, appearing in 60 games. In the playoffs however, after splitting the first 2 games in the opening round, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette, replaced Gerber with Cam Ward, who then led the Hurricanes all the way to the Finals, defeating the Edmonton Oilers to win the Cup. Ward, most improbably, was named MVP and received the Conn Smythe.

The following summer, the Ottawa Senators signed Gerber as a free-agent, while Chara and Havlat departed to Boston and Chicago. That year, Gerber underwhelmed in Ottawa, while even more improbably, Ray Emery emerged as a dressing room leader and a fan favorite. This time Gerber lost the starting job before the playoffs even began, and while Emery was no candidate for the Conn Smythe, he was solid enough to get the Senators through three playoff rounds.

So, for the third time in four seasons, with 3 different teams, Martin Gerber sat on the bench and watched the Stanley Cup Finals as a back-up goaltender, thinking to himself who knows what.

After a good start last year, things began to unravel in Ottawa, with Emery at the centre. Gerber won the starting job for the playoffs, yet failed to win a single game, as the Senators were swept in the opening round by the Penguins. By mid-season the following year, Emery is in Moscow, Gerber is in Binghamton, and the Senators are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

If ever there was a goalie with something to prove; it's Martin Gerber. A quick look at his stats (career: 105-73-21, 2.61 GA, .911 SV%) shows a very capable NHL goaltender. I'm guessing that Gerber, much like Emery, or come to think of it, everyone who's ever been there, got a raw deal in Ottawa. Murray is a horrible GM who, to the joy of Leafs fans, has ruined a strong contender, while trying to lay blame at everyone else's doorstep. If it isn't the goalie it must be the other goalie, and if it isn't him, it must be the coach. After the nightmare he's been through, Gerber's going to be playing for more then just pride. He's also going to be playing for his life right now, because his career hangs in the balance, and he knows it.

"I appreciate being in this situation, and getting another shot, that's all I can ask for," said Gerber. "The last 24 hours have been surprising and emotional. I went through waivers once, and thought that was it for me over here."

Well, in his first game as a Maple Leaf, Gerber was excellent. As Wilson said. "he was a little lucky", but he was also "unbelievable" at times. I thought his positioning was solid even when he couldn't see the puck, his rebound control was good, and he made 2 or 3 eye-popping stops with the help of his defenders. 37 saves for a 2-1 victory, and a very impressive return to the NHL.

"I was a bit nervous, and a little emotional to come back."

There's that word again. Emo-tional? I don't get it.

Emo-Schenn. Ooh. I felt something that time... something good... I want more.

What a suddenly stark contrast from the easy-going Vesa, and his Zen-like approach to winning and losing and season-ending surgery. Cool under pressure is one thing, but Toskala's mellow groove is nearly sedating.

The other reason I like this move is because it might really drive Sens fans nuts to see Gerber succeed after letting him go for nothing, and in fact, actually paying half his salary to play for their most hated rivals. The only thing that'd make them crazier would be if the Leafs picked up Emery over the summer, but I guess that isn't going to happen now. Too bad. I really would have liked that.
Good luck, Gerber. For the next six weeks, with every 37 save performance, I'll hate you a little less. Already my skin has stopped crawling, so that's a positive sign.


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

I was really hoping Gerbs would be in net tonight to beat the Sens, but it looks like it's Cujo.

general borschevsky said...

I was also hoping to see Gerber against his former team. I think he would have been fired up and it would have added some real drama to the game.

Thanks for dropping by, eyebleaf.