December 31, 2009
Drew Doughty is officially a member of Team Canada. Luke Schenn is most definitely not. He wasn't even on the radar. I know, I know ... that's unfair. But don't blame me. Blame the Crown Royal. And my burgeoning man-crush on Doughty. Actually, can it even be called a "man-crush" when Doughty is only 20 years old? He's a bloody child. And nobody wants a "boy-crush." Fuck. This is going to be a huge problem as I - gracefully - age.
I'm getting sidetracked. On a path I do not want to travel further upon. My point is: any Toronto Maple Leafs fan will tell you that he'd rather have Doughty in the blue and white than Luke Schenn. Obviously. And I don't care how high on Schenn you are. I'm low. Very low. Right now, I don't believe in Luke Schenn, I worry about Luke Schenn.
My second point, after another Leafs loss in a game they should have won: Doughty isn't a Maple Leaf, and it's all Vesa Toskala's fault. Much like last night, it always is. Yeah, yeah; looking back in hindsight is about as easy as Toskala's five-hole. But it really is his fault.
With the 2007/2008 Paul Maurice-led Maple Leafs sputtering along into February, headed toward draft-lottery freedom (Imagine!1), one Toskala decided to turn his game up a notch. Through the first four months of the season, our Finnish friend had won 17 of the 39 games he'd played. In February and March, Toskala won 16 out of 26 games. Eight games a month. His .915 February save percentage was only eclipsed by December's .935. Down the stretch, Vesa was busy, and he was pretty good. It was his best season as a Maple Leaf, after all.
Looking back, some of the blame surely falls on coach Maurice's shoulders. At least you'd think so, since Vesa Toskala was the only Maple Leafs goalie to start a game in February and March 2008. The bastard played them all!1 Andrew Raycroft got into one game during those two months. In relief. And he allowed four goals on 11 shots. But I can't blame Maurice. He was fighting, in vain, for his job. And if your job was on the line, and you had to pick between Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft (poor Maurice), who would you tap on the shoulder?
You see, it is in fact all Toskala's fault. February and March 2008 were the most fruitful of Vesa's Maple Leafs career. Since then, he's yet to win more than five games in any given month. If he had continued his frustratingly mediocre play that fateful winter two years ago, Drew Doughty might be a Maple Leaf today. Who knows where the Leafs might have ended up in the draft. Who knows how high Cliff Fletcher might have been able to trade up.
Last winter, in February 2009, Toskala was up to his old tricks again, sporting a 5-0-3 record. His 3.01 GAA wasn't too pretty, but his .912 save percentage was sublime. Especially considering he'd posted a .895, .878, .875, and .887 in the months prior. Management knew Toskala was out to screw the Leafs again, and ordered him to undergo surgery. I'm going to go ahead and give Brian Burke props on that one.
The bottom line: Vesa Toskala is a disease. One the Leafs cannot be cured of soon enough. Here's to 2010 being, hopefully, as Toskala-free as possible.