Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Maple Leafs Goaltending Conundrum

by Jes

What did I do to deserve this?

When Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr., aka "Puppet Boy", put all of his eggs in one basket with the trade/signing of Andrew Raycroft, more than a few eyebrows were raised wondering just what the hell he was doing.

While Raycroft had an amazing rookie season once upon a time, he had just come off of an injury plagued season in which he sucked more than a blindfolded Brian Boucher. In 2005-06, Raycroft played in just 30 games, and sucked with an 87.9 SV%. Somehow, JFJ thought Raycroft was 'The Answer' after Ed Belfour's departure.

It was no surprise, then, that Raycroft completely bombed as the Leafs #1 'tender, finishing with a well-below-average 89.4 SV% (90.5% was the league average), and JFJ was forced to go to a Plan B.

That Plan B? Spend a whole whack more resources to acquire career backup Vesa Toskala, somebody with a pretty decent track record in his brief NHL career.

The overall cost?

Raycroft - Hot prospect Tuukka Rask and then a $6mil/3 year deal.
Toskala - A 1st and 2nd rounder in 2007, and a 4th rounder in 2007 for Toskala and drunk driver Mark Bell.

Well, 4 games into the season, and the Leafs' netminders have combined for a 4.17GAA and 86.5SV%, with both goalies playing equally brutal.

So, what the hell do the Leafs do? Play a goalie and hope he goes on a hot streak?

If I am Paul Maurice, I'd do something about those raccoon eyes, and then play Toskala as my #1 goalie for the first half of the season. Toskala, despite his poor start, has a much better track record than Raycroft. With Raycroft, you know you will not get average goaltending. With Toskala? There is a good chance that you'll get at least average, if not more.

Forget this back-and-forth crap to appease the media and fanbase, go with the talented hand, which is Toskala. Just because the Leafs paid so much for Raycroft, doesn't mean they should continue to play him.

Do what the Avs do, and realize that Jose Theodore is a sunk cost. They are smart enough to know that Budaj is a superior goaltender, so they just sit Theodore on the bench, and know that they can do little but pay Theodore to open the bench door for his teammates. At this point, Maurice should ensure that Raycroft has the same type of job.

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Not to stir up to much angst or hate, but as an unbiased observed, I've had to ask my self this simple question: What do Raycroft and Toskola have in common?

The answer? The Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sure both goalies have had horrible performances and have underperformed, but maybe of some other areas of the team improved, the coming night of doom in goal might not seem as bleak. Then again, the failure to accurately recognize the true weaknesses in your team is something that can still be laid at the feet of JFJ.
I'm still trying to figure out why Anton Stralman hasn't played yet for Toronto. I mean the defence in Toronto isn’t that crash hot. The press claims that he is the light version of Nicklas Lidstrom and if the leafs doesn’t want that, they deserve their inconsistent results.
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