The Vesa Toskala Struggle

Tyler HillAnalyst IDecember 11, 2008

I am not sure how many people have noticed the recent play of Vesa Toskala, but I  have noticed that he is not playing like he did last year at this time.

Now, before I even begin this article, I am in no way saying any of the following: Vesa Toskala is no longer a good goalie, Vesa Toskala should be blamed for where the Leafs sit right now and most of all, there is no way I am going to say that the Leafs should trade Vesa while they can.

Whether or not you agree with my statements is beside the point. You can think Vesa should be up for the Vezina, and this article will not offend you in anyway (hopefully).

Toskala is playing in a high pressure city that lives and breathes hockey; a city that has seen people leave because of—and those people said this—the fact they could not handle the pressures of playing in a city that expected nothing less than success every time their team took to the ice

The fact of the matter is Toskala’s recent play, to say the least, sub-par compared to his performance at this time last year: For example, his three game streak of letting in the first shot of the game.

Moreover, after four games during the month of December, Toskala has allowed a total of 16 goals. I will recognize he did face his fair share of shots in those games and I am sure a bit of help for the Toronto defence would help him out in these times of hardship.

Look at the numbers. In 25 games, Toskala has faced 681 shots, which is an average of 28 shots per game. Not an unreasonable amount of shots, but also not a great number. Ideally, for me anyway, I would think somewhere around 22 shots per game would be nice. Vesa is also averaging 3.08 goals-against a game.

So, what is the reason for this and how can we solve it?

The only reason I can think of is that Toskala is being over-worked. He has played 25 of the last 31 games, and the back-up, Curtis Joseph, has played only six.

Was that the reason they signed Joseph - to take some of the work load off of Toskala? Why is there such an imbalance in the number of games these two goaltenders have played? Has Joseph not proven to be a capable goaltender?

The answers are as follows: Yes, Joseph was signed so that Toskala would not be forced to play 66 games, as he had last year, while Andrew Raycroft sat on the bench. Joseph has proven that he is a fully capable goaltender in this league and should be given more ice time to show Toronto, once again, just how much talent he still has—there is the answer to number three.

As for question two, I quite honestly have no idea. I find it ridiculous that at this point in the season Joseph has only played 6 games. There is no excuse for this. If anything, there is an excuse to put him in more games.

In closing, if the Maple Leafs wish to become competitive this season they need to balance out the ice time they give to their goaltenders. Joseph needs more time to stay on top of his game and play at his full potential, and Toskala needs to have more time to rest and be able to play his best without being over-tired and sloppy in his crease.

Check out the new and popular series written by Tyler Hill and Andy Echevarria, Checking the Laundry. Each week Tyler and Andy go head to head debating topics such as: Questionable hit, Diving and Goaltender Interference. Many more are to come, as is the brand new radio show; Maple Leafs This week.