Saturday, January 17, 2009

No One Wins The Showcase Showdown

There's been some discussion here and there about what the Leafs might be able to get at the NHL trade deadline for Vesa Toskala. I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and I think the truth is, the Vesa ain't worth a bag of pucks. We're not getting anything for him. Toskala's going nowhere. Except maybe the Marlies. 
I don't think there's anything that Vesa can possibly do between now and the trade deadline that's going to undo the damage he's done to his reputation as a starting goaltender. At 4 million dollars a season, he's too expensive to be a backup for anybody. His best hope at continuing his NHL career may be to platoon alongside Pogge next year in Toronto. I can't imagine any other NHL team would have a job for him when there are goalies with better numbers clearing waivers.

Let's take a look at the train wreck that is Toskala's last 2 weeks, shall we?

(Jan 6) A 4-2 loss to Florida. 4 goals against on 34 shots. 1 goal in the 3rd period on 8 shots.

(Jan 8) A 6-2 loss to Montreal. 5 goals against on 21 shots before being replaced by Joseph for the 3rd period.

(Jan 10) A 4-1 loss to Philadelphia. 3 goals against (Flyers had an empty-netter) on 29 shots. 2 goals given up in the third period on 6 shots.

(Jan 13) Vesa's best performance; a 2-0 loss to Nashville. 2 goals against on 23 shots. Both goals came in the 3rd period on the Predators 7 shots.

(Jan 15) The Leafs win but Vesa still lets in 4 goals. A 6-4 victory over Paul Maurice and the Hurricanes, mostly thanks to Jason Blake. 32 shots against total, 3 goals against in the 3rd period on 15 shots.

(Jan 16) A 4-3 loss to Atlanta in overtime. Garbage. Another 4 goals against on 38 shots. 2 goals against in the 3rd and the OT combined on 13 total shots.

Clearly his game is not improving. In fact, his numbers are steadily declining. His goals against for the month of January is 3.5 heading towards 3.9 the last 6 six games. I calculate his save percentage over that period at .875, down from his season average of .883. The really bad numbers though, come at the worst time to have them; the 3rd period. Including the overtime in Atlanta, and not including the 3rd period in Montreal for which he was pulled, Toskala has allowed 10 goals in 5 critical periods on just 49 shots. That's a GAA of 6.00 and a save %. of .795 for the 3rd period of his last six consecutive games. 

We are passed the half way point now, and these numbers are going in completely the wrong direction. It's too late for Toskala to turn it around and salvage the season. The promise of any return at the trade deadline for Vesa has disappeared. The only thing his playing better would do now is add further harm to the franchise's ability to rebuild itself. There was a time earlier in the season when it made sense to try to snap Toskala out of his slumber. Now, the only smart thing to do would be to leave him alone to figure things out - or not, and forget about wins and losses, and concentrate on improving specific areas of the game. In a way it's a good thing: players will learn to be defensibly responsible the hard way; by losing games they should be winning. Mistakes will be noticed. Sometimes a goalie can bail out a poor effort with a big save and the lesson is missed. Toskala is going to help these players learn to play their best and when they finally have a true goaltending sensation between the pipes they're going to be unstoppable.

At least, I really hope that's what's happening here.

The Maple Leafs' ship, without a Captain, continues to go nowhere, thanks to the anchoring effects of Vesa Toskala's goaltending, pinning us to the bottom of the NHL floor.


wrap around curl said...

Oh honey, we could probably get some Doritos and half a Snapple for the Vesa.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

This post is depressing. Fucking Vesa. Fucking Leafs.

blurr1974 said...

good stuff. I've noticed his meltdowns have now shifted from the 1st to the 3rd period. In fact, last night against Atlanta, his 1st period was really good. Same against the Canes.

As you succinctly stated, he's not going anywhere. Next season is a contract year for him, so I hope, for his sake, he pulls it together by then. Someone might take him by the deadline in 2010.

I eagerly await eyebleafs next series, the Toskrap report...

mf37 said...

Before joining the Leafs, Toskala had never been a starter, never played more than 38 games in a season, and his total NHL experience was 105 career NHL games.

He has now played 105 games for the Maple Leafs and his numbers indicate he's either lost his edge, he can't handle the rigors of playing 60 games a season, or a little of both.

Perhaps the best case scenario for the Leafs and Toskala is hanging on to him to platoon with Pogge, lessening his workload and hopefully repairing his game.

Otherwise, the only way Toskala could bring back something in a trade is if JFJ gets a GMs job in the next six weeks or if the Leafs make him a salary dump add-in a la Mark Bell.

bkblades said...

Otherwise, the only way Toskala could bring back something in a trade is if JFJ gets a GMs job in the next six weeks or if the Leafs make him a salary dump add-in a la Mark Bell.

So it has come down to this: Toskala has become Mark Bell. If that isn't asset depreciation at the highest degree, I don't know what to say.

What does worry me about Vesa, while he's doing his best job to ensure the Leafs get the best draft pick they could, is the damage he's doing to our young guys. How willing are they to keep competing and brush aside every loss when they know that Toskie will let in a bad goal or two every single game? More often that not, their hard work isn't being rewarded at the end of the day.

general borschevsky said...

Thanks W.A.C., eyebleaf, blurr, MF37, and bkblades. That's some good company on a Saturday with no Leafs game. Those are all great comments.

I totally agree that motivation is going to be a difficult thing for the players as the results of each game get more and more meaningless.