Jumping on the Bad Goaltending Bandwagon

For those that have been reading this blog for the past couple years know that I have been one of the harshest critics of the Leafs goaltending for a long time..

When Andrew Raycroft was setting records for wins by a Maple Leaf, I was contending that he was a bad goalie and benefited from a good team in front of him but far too many in the media and the Leaf fan base blamed the Leafs woes on their defense and lack of scoring punch (which was largely a myth). In the seasons since, Raycroft has proven to be a bad goalie at best.

Last year there were many calling Vesa Toskala very good goalie and the lone bright spot on the Leafs. Some were even calling him an elite level goalie. I on the other hand believed otherwise.

Most hockey analysts seem to believe that Vesa Toskala is a top tier goalie and that goaltending will be the least of the Leafs problems. I am not so sure. While Toskala looked good last year his numbers were still fairly unspectacular. His .904 save percentage was only good for 32nd in the league just behind Cam Ward and just ahead of Peter Budaj. Neither of those two goalies are anything to get excited about either.

The past two seasons have seen the Leafs have finished 4th last and second last in team save percentage and this season they sit in second last with a downright dismal 86.9% save percentage. That is measurably worse than last year. Toskala has been extremely bad, and Joseph has been worse.

Over the years media and fans seemingly often defended the Leafs goaltending by saying ‘but look at how bad that defense is, no goalie would be very good in the Leafs net.’ But the team in front of the Leafs has changed dramatically from last season, including bginging in new defensemen Van Ryn, Finger, Schenn, and Frogren as well as bringing in a more defensive minded coach. But the only thing that seemingly happened was that goaltending got worse. The Leafs defense actually gives up relatively few shots on goal, as it has the past several seasons. They were probably an average defensive team and yet they gave up a lot of goals.

As we approach the quarter pole of the 2008-09 season people are starting to take note of how sub-par the Leafs goaltending is. James Mirtle has written a couple of stories on it (here and here) and there have been several other stories (i.e. Leafs Toskala continues to Struggle, Toskala an early season Disappointment, etc.) and Coach Ron Wilson has publicly stated that Toskala needs to be better. I am fairly certain that he can be better, but can he be good enough to be worthy of a starting role on a playoff contender? That I am not so sure about and will be one of the key questions Burke needs to answer when he takes over as General Manager. As a Leaf fan I can only hope he sees Toskala as inadequite and puts finding a prime time goalie as his top priority.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. In my opinion Toskala was barely average last year. He had a few good stretches but overall he was weak.

    There were 71,503 shots last year and 6,691 goals were scored. That equates to a 90.64% save percentage. That would put Toskala’s save percentage of 90.41% slightly below average. He had a really good December and a pretty good February but was mediocre or worse the rest of the time.

  2. I’m not sure I’d lean entirely on that .002 difference in save percentage to determine he was below average, especially given with how the Leafs killed penalties last season. I’d love to have easy access to a stat measuring the shot quality a goalie faces.

  3. I’ll grant you that 0.002 is a tiny difference and really not that meaningful, but

    a) I am not sure if the stats include empty net shots and goals (they probably do). If they do then the difference will be greater as they will drag down average save percentage.

    b) The .906 league average save percentage included all the sub-par backups that are out there. If I just looked at starters (say goalies with > 50 starts) I am sure Toskala falls well below average. If I look at ‘qualified’ goalies then Toskala’s save percentage ranks 31st of 44 goalies. To me that puts him ‘below average.’

    Even if we gave Toskala a lot of benefit of doubt (i.e. he faced tougher shots, had bad luck, etc.) it is a challenge to say that he was an average or better than average starter in the NHL.

    And this year, if it weren’t for Turco, you could argue is the worst starter in the NHL.

    As for the Leafs PK, well don’t they say that the most important penalty killer is the goalie? I suspect he is a big reason (though I’ll accept probably not the only reason) for the weak penalty kill. He did have a .867 save % on the PK which is well down the list of goalies as well.

  4. I hope that Burke doesn’t go out for a prime time front line goalie.

    I hope he goes out an gets one or two top flight goaltending PROSPECTS.

    There are some decent ones in the AHL right now and if he can pry one or two away from teams that perhaps are looking to shed salary (ie we’ll take this big contract of your hands but you have to throw in a goalie prospect) it would be a great start.

    I would love to see Toskala traded. Joseph told he has to retire or be waived and then Pogge plus another decent prospect to push him up with the Leafs with two more younger guys playing for the Marlies.

    If we are planning for 5 years out this would be a great move in my opinion.

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