Is Vesa Toskala the Victim of Bad Timing with the Maple Leafs?
There are several things about being a goaltender on a losing team that can make you lose sleep at night. Vesa Toskala is probably all too familiar with most, if not all of them.
At the age of 31, just coming into his own by goalie standards, Toskala never could have imagined the hardships he would have to endure as a No. 1 netminder in the NHL.
Born in Finland in 1977, he made his way to the NHL in 1995 as the 90th pick overall with the San Jose Sharks, but didn't see his first NHL action until the 2001-2002 season and then only played nine minutes of one game.
Toskala didn't start playing consistently with the big club until the '05-'06 season where he posted a record of 23-7. The following year his starting role increased and he posted a record of 26-10.
He was then traded to Toronto along with Mark Bell for the Leafs' No. 1 pick in 2007. Since arriving in the "Center of the Hockey Universe" for the '07-'08 season, he has started a total of 110 games and has a record of 50 wins against 42 losses.
Career-wise though, his stats don't appear that bad. With an overall record in the NHL of 225 games played, he has 115 wins vs. 70 losses to go along with 19 overtime losses. Toskala's goals against is a somewhat respectable 2.66, while he has an NHL career save percentage of .904.
Not that bad. Unfortunately for him, he's human. Last year was his best year to date in regards to overall playing time and wins, by which I mean he hit career highs in both departments: 66 games played and 33 wins.
That was before all hell broke loose in Leaf land. Now, with the emergence of Brian Burke and Ron Wilson at the helm of this "fish out of water" of a hockey club, will Toskala get the chance to develop into the goaltender that the Leafs originally hoped he would be? Probably not.
In my opinion, you HAVE to rebuild from the net out. You can't put a group of young, inexperienced players in front of a young developing goalie and expect that goalie to maintain the level of confidence it takes to become a superstar goalie in this league.
Conversely, you also can't put a young, developing goaltender behind a group of young, impressionable, and inexperienced players and expect them to have the confidence to develop to their full potential.
So, the solution seems simple enough. The Leafs have to go out and find themselves a proven, experienced No. 1 goalie who would be willing to help build a franchise, and be able to take a few lumps in the process.
Having a guy like Luke Schenn, who looks like he will develop into one of the league's best, and "hoping" to land the No. 1 pick in the draft, leaves too much to chance.
I am enjoying the fact that the team is in a rebuilding mode. There finally seems to be a plan in place for the future. Although, I have to admit, it would be nice to hear exactly what that plan is.
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