As if the world needed another Toronto Maple Leafs blog.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Good soldier or bad teammate?
Tonight Vesa Toskala let in three goals in a span of 3:14. Shortly after a shorthanded shot handcuffed him deep in his net to give the Islanders their three goal lead, Toskala went to the trainer's room and did not return.
After the game, it was revealed that Toskala had tweaked his (chronically injured) groin after the second goal. Knowing this sours the outcome of the game a little bit. Toskala was just trying to be a good soldier, battle on through his injuries to give his team a chance to win. However he let in a decisive goal while doing so.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Earlier this season on Oct 12, down 3-2 to the Rangers in the second period, Jason Blake shoved Chris Drury into Toskala, aggravating his groin. After the intermission, Toskala remained in net and surrendered 2 goals in 3:13 to start the period, going on to lose 7-2. Toskala would not play another game until the 31st, 19 days later, even though he played for over 20 minutes after his injury.
Last season at the trade deadline the Leafs revealed that they had picked up Martin Gerber off of waivers and that Toskala would miss the rest of the season for groin surgery. The impetus for the move had been Burke calling Toskala out on his poor play down the stretch, the Leafs of course having a poor record. Toskala became incensed, citing the injury that he had been playing with for some time even though he and the team had been faring poorly with his efforts.
Goaltending is a crucial position in the NHL, a position which has been consistently weak for the post-lockout Leafs. Obviously there is more wrong with the team than just one player between the pipes. Obviously Toskala, in the face of inconsistent back-up performances, has been trying to help the Leafs by staying in while wounded.
So when does being a good soldier turn into being a bad teammate? When does the altruism of playing through adversity for one's team begin to reek of self-importance? Are Leaf fans supposed to sympathize with Toskala for losing games when he's not at his best? Or should they wonder about what might have been if Toskala was up-front about problems that the team could address.
Maybe it's time for Vesa to understand that the team needs him to be honest with his abilities. Maybe it's time for the Leafs to realize that a goalie that can't last 20 games without getting injured probably shouldn't be counted on as an NHL goaltender, and that they might have a player that cares more about ice time than wins.