Toskala the worst goalie of the decade?

We all know that Vesa Toskala had a bad season last year and is having an even worse season this year, but how bad is Toskala historically? The short answer is he is probably having the worse season by any goalie in recent history.

It is generally believed that the best simple statistic for evaluating how good a goalie is is save percentage because it factors out the quality of the team in front of the goalie more than any other simple goalie statistic (i.e. wins, goals against average). Save percentage still isn’t perfect because not all shots are created equal, but it is the best simple stat we have. So, in an attempt to put Toskala’s 2009-10 season into perspective I took a look at the past 10 seasons and which goalie had the worst save percentage in each of those seasons. Here is what you get:

Year Goalie W L T/OTL GAA Save%
1999-2000 Damian Rhodes 5 19 3 3.88 0.874
2000-01 Mike Vernon 12 23 5 3.23 0.883
2001-02 Manny Fernandez 12 24 5 3.05 0.892
2002-03 Arturs Irbe 7 24 2 3.18 0.877
2003-04 Sebastien Caron 9 24 5 3.74 0.883
2005-06 Andrew Raycroft 8 19 2 3.71 0.879
2006-07 Marc Denis 17 18 2 3.19 0.883
2007-08 Johan Holmqvist 21 16 6 3.04 0.889
2008-09 Manny Legace 13 9 2 3.18 0.885
2009-10 Vesa Toskala 7 12 3 3.66 0.874

Only Damien Rhodes, of the 1999-2000 expansion Atlanta Thrashers had an equally bad .874 save percentage as Toskala this season and I can guarantee you, as bad as you think the Leafs team is this season, they probably aren’t as bad as the expansion Thrashers which finished the season at 14-57-7. Aside from Rhodes, the only other two goalies with a save percentage under .880 are Arturs Irbe in 2002-03 and Andrew Raycroft in 2005-06.

Arturs Irbe’s 2002-03 season took place during the pre-lockout defense first era which likely means that he faced fewer tough shots than we would expect a goalie to face post-lockout when both scoring and power play opportunities have increased. In the 2002-03 season Carolina’s starting goalie was Kevin Weekes who posted a solid .912 save % which was significantly better than Irbe’s .877.

Andrew Raycroft’s dismal 2005-06 season came in the more offense oriented post-lockout era so we have to take that into account but it didn’t hurt Raycroft’s teammates all that much as Tim Thomas posted a .917 save percentage and Hannu Toivonen (what ever happene to him?) posted a nice .914 save percentage. We have since learned that Thomas is an awfully good goalie posting a league best save percentage last season but even so, Raycroft’s season looks awfully bad in comparison.

This season Toskala has shared dutied with Jonas Gustavsson who has generally been ordinary at best with a .899 save percentage But since Gustavsson is a rookie and we don’t really know how good he is it is difficult to evaluate exactly just how bad Toskala has been this season. I’ll be interested in seeing how Jean-Sebastien Giguere performs behind a Phaneuf-upgraded defense the remainder of this season as well as how well Toskala will do in Anaheim in what I expect will be a very small number of starts. This will help put Toskala’s season in perspective for us.

Another way to look at it is to look at how much each goalies save percentage is below the second worst goalie in the NHL in that particular year. Of the 10 goalies listed above, Toskala trails the second worst goalie by the greatest margin trailing Pascal Leclaire and Steve Mason by .016. Next is Sebastien Caron who trailed Mike Dunham by .013 and Damian Rhodes who trailed Dan Cloutier and Rob Tallas (who?) by .011. Next were Irbe and Vernon who trailed the second worst by .006 while everyone else trailed by .002 or .001.

It is almost impossible to perfectly compare goalies from season to season on different teams but when all things are considered, if Toskala isn’t having the worst season by a goalie in the past decade, he is awfully close.

Posted in NHL

This article has 12 Comments

  1. LeClaire and Mason have a .89 so its .026 not .016. (even worse…sigh)

    There was a point in the season where Gus’ PK S% was better than Toskala’s S%

    On another note, do you want a good laugh:

    If Hiller gets injured Anaheim’s goalies are Toskala and Pogge!

  2. Come on and say it. .26 behind the next worst goalie? That is by far the most shocking tell. He IS the worst goalie of the last 10 years. Read up on him, he never wanted to play hockey. He got coaxed by the Sharks. He went to chef school and he even admits he stinks at cooking. Brutal. He also likes purses. Francois Allaire and Ron Wilson have both said he is uncoachable. He fooled the Sharks into trading Kipprusoff and the Leafs into giving up a 1st and 2nd for him. He is the destroyer of teams. He’ll be out of the NHL when his contract expires. What a total nightmare.

  3. You seem to have omitted Dan Cloutier in Los Angeles when he posted a .860 saves percentage in 2006/07. That is my vote. Injuries limited him to 24 games played that year

  4. I omitted it because he didn’t officially qualify due to not enough games played. Or at least that is why I assume that Yahoo Sports didn’t include him in their stats. But yeah, that would definitely qualify but then he fought through injuries that year. Toskala presumably can’t use that excuse for this season.

  5. Toskala has been struggling through injuries for at least the last couple years. I think that is a big part of his struggles. He has missed time this season with knee and groin injuries – both of which appear to be chronic conditions as neither were clearly caused by events in the previous game played.

    Injuries play a big part in any established NHL goalie playing this far below his proven levels. Toskala had a .910 career saves percentage before the last two seasons. Clearly something has happened to keep him at previous levels and since he has struggled through injury in the last couple years I think that is the clear reason for the decline.

  6. The three years before last season Toskala had a .904 save percentage which isn’t great. Last year he played through groin problems and didn’t play well. He was shut down early last spring to have surgery and was supposedly fully recovered before training camp. He has had some groin issues but I don’t think you can blame all this seasons failures this season on injuries. I just don’t think his head is in the game. Rumours are that he never talked to goalie coach Francois Allaire and for a struggling goalie, that just seems ludicrous. I think he had given up on his Toronto career and he was just playing out his contract. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has already decided that he’ll continue his career in Finland or Sweden next year and he just intended on collecting his pay check until then.

    Either way, he has been downright horrible and in my opinion it cost the Leafs a playoff spot. With consistent reliable goaltending the Leafs are probably right in the playoff hunt.

  7. It is a strong claim that Toskala cost the last place team in the East Conference a playoff spot by himself. I am not sure that holds up, but it is reasonable to say that with above average goaltending (replacing Toskala with somebody who is better than an average starter – and Giguere looks like he could be that someone since he got to Toronto and clearly was that someone as recently as 2008) that Toronto could have 170 or so goals against this year. That would make them approximately equal to Boston or the NY Rangers or Florida or Montreal in terms of goal differential. Most of those teams will miss playoffs this year and I imagine Toronto probably would as well – but they would be in the race as you say later in your comment.

  8. Also, I would argue that Toskala’s lower than career average saves percentage in Toronto is due partly to poor quality defences that allow more high quality shots than most teams.

  9. Actually, the Leafs defense has allowed an average of 29.8 shots per game, which ranks 13th in the league – that’s not bad. The goalies are bad. Tosk and the Monster. We hope Giggy brings the answer.

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