Monday, April 09, 2007

Goodbye hockey season

Coaching kids hockey in Rabat ended last week. Cheering for my favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, ended last night. They were squeezed out of the playoff picture by the New York Islanders.
For me, the reason the Leafs didn't make the playoffs this year lies on the shoulders of their weakest link - goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Statistically, he is one of the weakest starting goaltenders in the entire NHL. 36th out of 44 goalies in Save Percentage, and 32 out of 44 goalies in Goals Against Average, keeping in mind most of the goalies statistically beneath Raycroft are backup goalies who played less than half a season.
The only playoff bound team with weaker goaltending than Toronto is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have the good fortune of two of the top five points scorer in the league. Arguably, the only other team with weaker goaltending is Phoenix. Even lowly Philadelphia has statistically stronger netminding than Toronto.
With playoff hopes dangling by a thread in the last six games - Raycroft single handedly lost a game to Buffalo and was outplayed by the backup rookie on the Islanders in what proved to be the game that cost them the season. He almost blew the last chance game to Montreal except for the Leafs scoring six goals and pulling him in favour of Aubin.
So where does that leave the Leafs for next season?
They can pin their hopes on Raycroft returning to the form that he broke into the NHL with, winning him the Calder trophy two seasons ago.
They can dump him and trade for any number of solid goaltenders who are in a position of fighting for a number one spot on their team. Minnesota, San Jose, Ottawa and Nashville all being in the enviable position of having two strong backstoppers.
Finally, they can dump Raycroft and pin their hopes on one of the kids they have been so optimistic about for the last five years. Just a tiny bit better goaltending would have been the difference between the post season and missing the playoffs by a heartbreaking point, or two, yet again.

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