Why does Vesa have to do this to us now? 3 wins in a row with only 2 games left until the trade deadline. Is there any possibility that these points will lead to a team taking Toskala off our hands, or is the damage already done, and now he's just undermining our future success? The answer, Leaf fans, is less then a week away.
Can Toskala make it 4 in a row tonight? My gut says no, but since I'm usually wrong about Vesa I expect him to win. But now that I'm expecting a win, I'm sure he'll do the opposite. I'm gonna stick with that and call it a loss, hoping the Vesa continues to surprise and defy expectations. "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."
Has it really been six weeks since I wrote that? I was convinced that Toskala's terrible play had cost us any return we might have once seen for him.
"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."
Was I right? Was I wrong? We'll find out in less then a week. To his credit, Toskala has done everything he can to either sabotage the Leafs' draft position, or (please God, let it be this alternative!) re-create a market for himself at the deadline. Since I wrote those less then infamous words above, the Vesa has played some of his best and most consistent hockey of the season. In his last 12 starts, the Leafs are 7-1-4, and for that one loss, I'm pretty sure it was Joseph, who gave up the 5th and 6th goals in a 6-4 loss to TB in the 3rd period, who was credited as the losing goaltender. Therefore, Toskala has quietly, and not so genuinely, run up a streak of 12 games without recording a regulation loss, going back to January 19th ( a 2-0 loss to Carolina). Not impressed? He's picked up a total of 18 points out of a possible 24 in his last 12 starts, for an unfathomable winning percentage of .750!
With time ticking down on the Trade Deadline clock, the Vesa is making a mad-dash for the Finish-line out of here. In the process, the Leafs are losing their hold on a top 5 draft pick, but maybe the Leafs can pick up the equivalent of one in a promising prospect if they can trade Toskala. I would actually prefer that - it's more honorable, and it's more exciting as well.
Are we making a big mistake with the Vesa? We have seen him play brilliantly, just not very often. Hs problems don't seem to be mechanical so much as focus. When he's on his game, he's terrific. He's looked bad for most of this season but he's in an awkward position playing for a rebuilding team with a new coach who's trying to teach accountability. Granted, it's easy to hate JFJ and blame him for this mess and for Vesa's salary, but when he got the contract I don't remember too many people screaming, "My God! This is unreasonable!". Mostly I was happy 'cause it meant the writing was on the wall for Raycroft. Toskala could still be a winning goaltender in this league, but he's a tricky one to manage.
At the bottom of my post from six weeks ago is a great comment from MF37, the standard-bearer for bitter excellence:
"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."
Totally agree. This should be the plan going forward. Take what you can get at the deadline from any desperate last-minute shoppers, but if there's no takers, then we should hold on to him through the summer and let him share the duties will Pogge until next year's deadline. With another year off his contract he might seem more attractive to other NHL teams, and with a decreased workload, it's not unfathomable that he might rebound and have a stellar year. Well, not as unfathomable as a .750 winning percentage in the six weeks leading up the trade deadline.