March 26, 2008

Blame Raycroft

The Toronto Maple Leafs' season is over. The Boston Bruins delivered the knockout blow last night. If you're like me, you are: a) drinking away the pain, and b) looking for someone to blame. Well, dear friends, look no further than the end of the Leafs' bench. Blame Andrew Raycroft.

Before I completely rip Raycroft apart, I'd like to spend a few moments discussing yesterday's game. First of all, it was atrocious. Second of all, the officiating was awful. Just awful. Thirdly, I hate the Bruins.

Really though, what a bullshit game. Boston scored some terrible goals, and Toskala didn't have a prayer on any of them. In the biggest game of the season, his teammates left him all by his lonesome in the crease. It's a testament to Vesa that the Leafs were still even in the race for the playoffs going into last night. Dude has stood on his head. Mad respect, Vesa.

Ok, somebody help me out here. What the blood clot was Mark Bell thinking last night when he took that bonehead penalty two and a half minutes into the game? It was a bogus call, but Bell should never have given the stripes the choice to call it. What an idiot. The Bruins, of course, scored on the power play and never looked back. Bell handed Boston all of the momentum on a silver freakin' platter.

I'm off Bell, huge. He should report to jail tomorrow and start serving his time. He's obviously not doing much around here. His first, and I hope only, season in the blue and white was a complete bust. He is under contract for next season, for an unworldly $2.5 million bucks, and the Leafs should buy out his contract, straight up, because he's useless.

As for the officiating, it definitely helped me in reaching for the bottle last night. An awful display, plain and simple. Sure, you can say it's typical that here I am, bitching and moaning about the officiating when the Leafs didn't show up, but, well, you're entitled to your wrong opinion. The refs blew it last night. They missed a ton of calls. Off the top of my head, Wellwood was blatantly tripped on a rush near the Boston goal in the first period and Stajan was interfered with while battling for a loose puck in the slot in the second. In both cases, no call. McCabe was given a ridiculous delay-of-game penalty after Boston went up three-love for shooting the puck over the glass. How can the call be delay-of-game when the play was dead? Unbelievable. And the goaltender interference penalty to Alex Steen in the third period was a joke as well. He was clearly pushed into Tim Thomas, yet still made an attempt to avoid hitting the Bruins keeper. If Steen wanted to, he could have killed that clown Thomas, but he still was charged with an infraction. Un-freaking-believable. Five power plays for the Bruins, including one two-man advantage, and two power plays for Toronto. Well done, stripes.

Anyway, it's all over. The Leafs had to run the table in their final nine games and, while they got off to a good start, it was an improbable mission to begin with. Toronto reminded me of a boxer who was on the ropes, continuously being beaten and knocked down, but always getting up before the count reached ten.

Well, the count reached ten last night. A spirited and gutsy effort by the Leafs the last month or so, but a TKO nonetheless. The Bruins, with 86 points, are now six points clear of Toronto and hold a game in hand. The best the Leafs can do now is finish with 90 points, and that simply won't get the job done. As most everyone predicted, the hole the Leafs dug themselves was too deep to dig out of.

While last night's contest was an extremely disheartening disappointment, it wasn't yesterday's outcome that killed the Leafs' season. It was the games they should have won back in October, November, December and January, against teams like Phoenix, Los Angeles, the Islanders, and Tampa Bay, and against goalies like Craig Anderson, Patrick Lalime, Jocelyn Thibault, Jason LaBarbera and Wade Dubielewicz, that led to their eventual demise.

The Leafs played a ton of home games in the first half of the season, but couldn't get the returns on home ice that they so desperately needed. I can't for the life of me figure out why the Leafs have struggled so much at the Air Canada Centre in the last couple of years. Under Pat Quinn, the Leafs couldn't be fucked with at home. We were dynamite. Not anymore. It may have something to do with the fact that the atmosphere at the Hangar is about as lively as a funeral. I don't know, but even after last night's debacle, the Leafs own a better road record than they do a home record. Toronto's 17 victories on home ice is the lowest of any team in the Eastern Conference. With that in mind, it's no surprise they won't be going to the dance and hitting golf balls instead.

A lot of players on this year's Leafs team underperformed and underachieved. Perhaps no one more so than Andrew Raycroft. Actually, screw the word "perhaps," it was Raycroft who sucked the most. Without a capable backup goalie, Vesa Toskala was forced to carry the load and, while he made a valiant effort, he couldn't single-handedly take the Leafs to the playoffs. Think about it, with a half-decent backup goalie the Leafs would have picked up another three, four, or five wins, and would likely be where Boston is today in the standings; in the playoffs.

While guys like Jason Blake and Bryan McCabe didn't light up the score sheet as most people, including myself, expected them to do so, at the end of the day there is no position more important in hockey, and probably all of sport, than that of goaltender. You live and die by your backstop. You can only go as far as your goalie takes you. You've heard all the bloody cliches. So, if there's one person that deserves the lion's share of the blame this season, it's Raycroft.

Now I know that Toskala didn't exactly come storming out of the gate this year. He struggled in the pre-season and early on in October and November, and lets not forget that Raycroft actually started Toronto's season and home opener against the Ottawa Senators (and blew a third period lead in the game). Raycroft had every opportunity to be the number one goalie, or at worst split the duties down the middle with Toskala, but, as usual, he couldn't deliver, because he is one pathetic mother sucker.

Raycroft's stats speak for themselves, and they are straight ugly. Crazy ugly. Brace yourselves.

A win-loss record of 2-8-4, a 4.07 goals against average, and a dry-heaves inducing .868 save percentage. Raycroft has played a total of 17 games this season, 14 as a starter, and has won a grand total of two of them. Two wins. In 17 God damn games. Of the 14 games he started, he was pulled in three of them. That means he was yanked in 21% of the games he started, folks. That just isn't right. The last game Raycrap was called upon to start was on January 20th against New Jersey, a 3-2 loss, more than two months ago. The last time he saw any action at all was on February 5th against the Florida Panthers, when the Leafs got their asses handed to them 8-0. Raycroft came on in relief of Toskala that night, and allowed four goals on 11 shots. We learned, once and for all that night, that Raycroft certainly does not spell "relief." Even more astonishing than all of the above is that the last game that Raycroft actually won was on November 9th, 2007, more than four and a half months ago, when he shutout the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. The Sabres should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves, and should still be having nightmares about that game.

Like I said, there's a ton of blame to go around the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room. The season has been another colossal failure. I am simply choosing to throw most of the blame on Raycroft's shoulders. You know, because I hate him. After reading the above I think you'll understand why Raycroft sits at the end of the bench, night in and night out, with his hat pulled down so low on his brow. If I were him, I'd have trouble looking people in the eye, too. What a douche bag if there ever was one.

It will certainly be interesting to see whether Raycroft gets any action now that the Leafs have all but been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. I'm as big a dreamer as they come, but even I know that Toronto is done. Personally, I think Toskala deserves a break. He's earned one. I just don't think Raycroft should be the one to give him a rest. I'd rather Cliff Fletcher call up Justin Pogge, or even Scott Clemmensen, and stick him between the pipes. Anyone but Andrew Raycroft. He does not deserve to play another game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not this season, certainly not next season, not ever.

With an NHL-calibre backup goalie at their disposal, the Leafs wouldn't find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoffs today. Instead, they'd probably be gearing up for a first-round showdown with the Montreal Canadiens.

Fuck you, Andrew Raycroft. See you in hell.


Chemmy said...

Remember the game on Long Island the Leafs lost, followed by the game in Philly they lost the next night with Raycroft starting both?

Guess who was in attendance both times. I hate Raycroft.

Greener said...

Dude, I saw them in L.A. on Jan. 17th. Raycroft started and let in 4 in the first period. Against L.A. The Kings have no right getting 4 beers let alone goals.

Anonymous said...

All we have left is the future....and it aint lookiing good...why did the leafs choose me to be a fan...why couldnt i have been born in Pittsburgh....

Jaredoflondon said...

I can't believe I defended this turd all last season, cripes.

Anonymous said...

by the way annoymos is me...Bhattorious......