Record books are written in pencil so that people like Garret Sparks can come in and rewrite them. They aren’t meant to last forever.
Last night Garret Sparks, the 22 year old rookie goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopped all 24 Edmonton Oilers shots he faced to become the first Leafs goalie to ever record a shutout in his NHL debut. When he found out after the game he was so overcome with emotion that it brought him to tears.
For a guy that was playing in the ECHL just last season it’s understandable why the emotion of the moment got to him. He’s been through pretty much everything you can go through on his way to the NHL.
Brian Burke drafted Sparks in the 7th round, 190th overall back in 2011. Not many players drafted that late even make it to the NHL at all. That in itself is a testament to the work that Sparks has put in to get to where he is today. According to TheScore, just over 19% of players taken in the 7th round between 2005 and 2010 made it to a single game in the NHL.
Once he graduated to the professional ranks from the OHL he managed to have a solid rookie campaign with the Toronto Marlies while also playing 10 games in the ECHL. Last season he battled injuries, and when he was healthy, he couldn’t find work at the AHL level so he played all but 2 games in the ECHL. That’s when he turned his game around.
“As a goalie, I find that my strengths are my size, flexibility, and ability to read plays as they unfold. Coupling those strengths with strong pushes from point A to point B rather than dramatic slides has greatly changed the way I play, and greatly increased my control.”
That quote is from an article that Garret wrote this past February for a website called faceoffcircle.ca. I highly suggest you check it out as it goes into incredible detail about the work that Sparks put in to reinvent his game as well as explains why it helped him.
The Leafs season has been tough so far. James Reimer has given the team some good stretches of play but for the most part the fact that they’re hovering around last place tells you all you need to know. They’ve been better than last season but there’s still a long way to go.
Moments like last night make it just a little bit easier to stick with the rebuild. Every so often you need a reminder that all the losing is going to be worth it in the end. There are players on this team that can be good additions to a contending team
Last night Garret Sparks’ performance wasn’t just good. It was historic
-Another bit of history for you. According to NHLdrafter.com since 1998 Brian Burke has been a part of 14 drafts as an NHL General Manager. Garret Sparks is the first goalie selected by Burke in the draft to play a game since 2002 and the first to win a game since 1998.
-Mike Babcock said last night that if Reimer isn’t healthy enough to play Wednesday against the Jets Sparks will get the start
-Joe Bowen’s call during the final seconds of the 3rd period
Follow me on twitter @_JaredClarkson and tell me what you thought of Sparks’ NHL debut