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:
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.