October 06, 2009
I certainly ran with that whole "I Believe In Vernon Wells" shtick. It was a grind; he took a ton of abuse this season. But I like to think I pulled it off. I never stopped believing. And Wells rewarded me: he hit .312 in September, the month that doesn't matter. Vernon's going to ride that average into the off-season, and into 2010. Next summer, he's going to earn all $12.5 million of his salary.
Okay, fine, maybe not all of it. But certainly three quarters of it.
My point is: I don't have the energy to believe in Vesa Toskala. And, frankly, I'd rather believe in Jonas Gustavsson.
At least Wells has a track record. A few successful seasons, Gold Glove awards, and a couple of All-Star selections to hang his very expensive coat on. Even, believe it or not, MVP votes.
Toskala's got nothing. I'm holding on to February 2009 and his .912 save percentage for dear life.
It was up to Toskala to make sure there was no goaltending controversy in Toronto this season. Four periods and an overtime later, he's already failed that test. An .800 save percentage? Sample size be damned, get out of the crease.
With Toskala taking home $4 million this season, and his trade value likely as low as it's ever been, it's hard to believe the Leafs gave up a first-round pick to acquire him. Actually, it's not, but you know what I mean.
San Jose sold high back in June 2007, a concept the Leafs are still trying to grasp. And that's where it gets tough for the current regime. Do you play Toskala, and hope he regains some of his mostly average form, in the hopes of getting something, anything, back in return for him? Or do you unleash The Monster (I've been sitting on that one for a while), and see what he can do?
I'd love for Brian Burke to be able to trade Toskala. Perhaps give Detroit a call. They did take Larry Murphy.
But Gustavsson's here on a one-year contract and, if he's the real deal, he needs the opportunity to showcase his talent. One legendary pre-season save later, I think we all agree that young Jonas can better Toskala's numbers. I mean, that save was out of control. And Jesus knows Vesa hasn't set the bar high enough.
If the Leafs are going to be unbearable to watch, which it seems they might, I'd rather it be Gustavsson being shelled than Toskala. Vesa's worth little to nothing to us now.
I could defend Vernon Wells because of his, and I use the term loosely, "glory days." Toskala has yet to see his own, and it's hard to believe there are any in his future.
UPDATE: Gustavsson has been emancipated. He'll be in goal tonight. It will be his first of many victories against the Ottawa Senators.