by PuckStopsHere on 10/13/09 at 07:01 PM ET
As the NHL season progresses, I like to track the player who is getting regular ice time who has been the worst in the league. Last season, it was Riley Cote of the Philadelphia Flyers who “won” this award. He was a player who regularly dressed in Philadelphia, but played in limited ice time against weak competition and nevertheless rarely scored, while allowing opponents to control the play. His main “value” came from his ability to fight and draw penalties. On a team that has the team toughness of the Philadelphia Flyers; one must wonder if that adds anything to the line-up.
It is very common that the worst NHL regular by season’s end is a hard working guy who lacks talent. Coaching staffs and fans like him because he works so hard, but he cannot get the job done. Earlier in the season, it is much more common for a bigger name player to be the worst regular. The lesser players have not had as much ice time yet. One must be somewhat highly regarded to have already been given the chance to fail.
This year, the early season worst player has been Vesa Toskala of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toskala’s failures have been well documented since he plays in the hockey-crazed Toronto market. In four games played, Toskala has a 5.56 GAA and a .812 saves percentage. No team can win with that kind of goaltending.
Toskala suffered a knee injury in his last game - and quite possibly had been playing hurt so far this season. He is out. His opening day backup Jonas Gustavsson is also hurt. He has a groin injury. That leaves Joey MacDonald and minor leaguer James Reimer as Toronto’s goaltenders.
Toskala has proven himself to be an NHL goalie in the past. He has been unfairly given lots of the blame for Toronto’s failure last year. This year has been an awful start. Here is the Behind the Net opinion on Toskala. It is far too early to declare him the worst goalie in the NHL, but his play so far has made him the worst player in the NHL this year. It is a good bet that he turns things around. If he doesn’t, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in for a long season.
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