Thursday, February 28, 2008
Why are the Maple Leafs still starting Vesa Toskala?
In the midst of a post-deadline mix-up that saw the Toronto Maple Leafs trade away three role players in an attempt to build for the future there seems to be a conflict of interest between the suits in the suites and boys behind the bench.
Prior to the aforementioned moves the Maple Leafs telegraphed their intentions to wipe the slate clean by replacing defunct John Ferguson Jr. with current interim GM Cliff Fletcher. This signaled the well overdue rebuilding process had initiated itself, and while the most significant trade deadline maneuvers were those that couldn't happen, Toronto punctuated its commitment towards short-term loss for long-term gain by picking up four future draft picks.
Their path to ascendancy is slowly being etched out from below the layers of incompetence, but is there some resistance remaining? It would seem so -- irrespective of the parallel commitment made by management, media and the fans -- given the contentious conduct of the coaching staff over the past two weeks. The agreement to rebuild was broadcast loud and clear, unfortunately for Toronto fans it appears to have been lost in translation when passed down to the coaching staff. What else would account for Paul Maurice's decision to continuously overwork starting goaltender Vesa Toskala in lieu of falling in line with his superiors?
Paul Maurice is not a stupid man. He recognizes the state of limbo which his employment lies. His leadership has been questioned and his methodology flawed based on his failure to maximize the below-average talent on his current roster. This all but punches his ticket to the unemployment line, if and when, his team fails to make the playoffs for the third season in succession.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
Just like the famous feline from Lewis Carrolls' Alice's Adventures in Wonderland the last sentence of the above paragraph magically presents itself to answer the question that has puzzled many Leaf fans; the same question lends itself to the title of this piece: why is Toskala still starting in goal? Because it is the only way to save Paul Maurice's job – and potentially – his career.
Toskala is overworked having long eclipsed career highs in starts, minutes played and shots against, while defending the goal of a team that needs to win at least 75% of its remaining contests in order to realize their playoff intentions. Notably, of those remaining contests 16-of-17 are against teams with a superior record, making the task measurably more difficult and unlikely.
So in light of this seemingly incurable illness that has precipitously sunk the Leafs into the basement of the Eastern conference, Coach Paul Maurice has diagnosed more Vesa Toskala to benefit himself and his future as a head coach in the NHL, at the expense of the organization in Toronto. The sooner Maurice and the Maple Leafs correctly assess their potential the better, as it will open a window for Raycroft to start and potentially boost his trade value (while concomitantly improving their draft lottery status).
Maurice can argue that his distribution of playing time amongst his goaltenders is done merely out of necessity. However, it is through this very decision that his firing is thus equally necessitated. The rebuilding process is already slow and painful enough, and I begrudgingly urge Trader Cliff to hasten the process by dismissing Maurice and abolishing the deleterious conflict of interest that currently exists.