Now That They’re Gone: Vesa Toskala
No Leafs fan wants to be reminded of that most hated of Finnish goaltenders, Vesa Toskala. He was ushered into the organization as the next great goalie that would surely be the one to finally right this sinking ship. As any fan will tell you, this has been a disaster. In the nature of looking back at previous Leafs from yesteryear, Iâ€™m going to show you just how bad Toskala truly was. All stats not specifically referenced are borrowed from BehindtheNet.ca.
Weâ€™ll start by taking a look at Toskalaâ€™s season in 09-10. Toskala ended his tenure with Toronto with a record of 7-12-3, appearing in 26 games. His save percentage was a ghastly .874 and his GAA was a monumental 3.66. You donâ€™t need to follow hockey closely at all to glance at these stats and understand why they are so bad. This was a far cry from his stats in 07-08, where he had a .904 save percentage and a 2.74 GAA. Even his rather subpar 08-09 season was better, when he had an .891 save percentage and a 3.26 GAA. Could the Leafs being in second last place in the league have something to do with his decreased stats?
For the answer to that question, letâ€™s now take a look at Jonas Gustavssonâ€™s 09-10 season. Gustavsson had a 16-15-9 record, appearing in 42 games. During this span, Gustavsson had a .902 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. These stats are much better than Toskala in 09-10 and nearly reach his stats in 07-08 as well. All of this on a worse team than in 07-08. Letâ€™s not forget that this was also Gustavssonâ€™s first season playing North American hockey and that heâ€™s a rookie in the NHL. By contrast, Toskala has been playing North American hockey since the 00-01 season and has been a full-time NHL player since 03-04. In comparison to Gustavsson, Toskalaâ€™s stats are wholly unacceptable.
So Toskala was the worst goalie on his team, but was he the worst goalie in the league in 09-10? In a word: yes. Among goalies that appeared in 25 games or more, Toskalaâ€™s .880 save percentage (taking into account his 6 games in Calgary) was good for dead last in league at 47th place. His GAA of 3.48 was again good for dead last at 47th place. For GAA, the three goalies directly above Toskala are Ondrej Pavelec, Martin Biron and Jeff Deslauriers. All three of these goalies were on bad teams this year (Atlanta, NY Islanders, Edmonton) but still managed to have a GAA of 3.29, 3.27 and 3.26, all of which are worlds better than Toskala.
To paint a better picture, one advanced stat can put the nail in Toskalaâ€™s 09-10 campaign. Toskalaâ€™s Goals versus Threshold (GVT, the statistical measure of a playerâ€™s contribution to their team) was a -15.3, once again good for worst in the NHL. Leclaire was second worst at -10.7, not even close to Toskalaâ€™s level. Gustavsson managed a -1.6, which is by no means good, but looks better in contrast to Toskala forcing him into the spotlight as a rookie in the largest hockey market. So there you have it: Toskala was the worst NHL goalie in 09-10.
Now the question turns to how poor Toskalaâ€™s stats are in comparison to other goalies of the last decade. We need to go all the way back to 05-06 to find a goalie similar in performance to Toskala. Andrew Raycroft, then of the Boston Bruins, managed an .879 save percentage and a 3.71GAA. The 05-06 season has finally given us a comparably worse stat line than Toskalaâ€™s 09-10 season. Itâ€™s too bad it had to be Andrew Raycroft.
Arturs Irbe put up a 3.18 GAA and an .877 save percentage in 02-03, which was worse than Toskalaâ€™s totals this past season. Peter Skudra had a 3.33 GAA and an .879 save percentage in 00-01. Brian Boucher had a 3.27 GAA and an .876 save percentage in the same season. Weâ€™ve found 4 goalies in the last 10 years that had worse overall seasons than Toskala. Of importance is that Toskala was traded to the Flames, a team that had a very strong defensive core. This defense helped Toskala to improve his numbers a little before the season ended. If we only take into account Toskalaâ€™s time with the Leafs, his 3.66 GAA and .874 save percentage puts him at dead last this decade.
Before we properly gauge whether the Leafs can make the playoffs this season, there needs to be a certain level of respect given to Toskalaâ€™s stats. He wasnâ€™t just the worst goalie on the Leafs or even in the NHL in 09-10, he put up what was undeniably one of the worst seasons by a goalie this decade. Taking into account his improvement after the trade, Toskala is the 5th worst goaltender this decade. Not doing so places him at dead last. This is good news now, though. With a tandem of Giguere and Gustavsson next season, the Leafs can literally go nowhere but up.