Whatever you do today, don’t feel sorry for Vesa Toskala.
Ostensibly shoved into the backup goaltending role for the rest of the Maple Leafs’ awful year, Toskala has nobody to fault but himself for his sub-par, three-season stint in Toronto, which undoubtedly will come to a conclusion when the current NHL campaign does.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. The veteran netminder – an unrestricted free agent come summertime – could point fingers at his defense-averse Leafs teammates. He might even throw the injury bug a little stink-eye action, considering how often he’s dealt with groin, knee and hip woes during his time in T.O.
But as coach Ron Wilson alluded to this week, Toskala’s statistics paint a troublesome picture of the 32-year-old Finn.
Toskala hasn’t had a goals-against average less than 3.00 or a save percentage better than .900 since the ’07-08 season. Again, that’s not all his fault. But to argue he shouldn’t accept the lion’s share of the blame for those numbers is to ignore the personal responsibility all frontline NHL goalies willingly accept as part of the job.
Because of Toskala’s play, there isn’t any chance he would get the Leafs anything in a trade. The NHL’s goalie market is flooded as it is; adding a worn-and-torn, smallish backstopper approaching his mid-30s to the mix won’t seduce a single GM into giving up a player, prospect or draft pick in return.
Toskala could remain an NHLer after the Leafs choose not to re-sign him this summer. But to do so, he’d have to accept a backup role to begin the season or find another platoon-type situation. More likely, he’ll sign to play in Europe, where expectations for him will be significantly lower.
Toskala should at least understand why it has come to this for him. Sometimes statistics are lies and sometimes they’re damned lies – but sometimes they’re true.
And sometimes the truth hurts more than any wonky groin ever could.
This column also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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