This question may well define the entire Maple Leaf season. Andrew Raycroft was the No. 1 last year and he went 37-25-9 in 72 appearances. He posted a respectable 2.99 goals-against average, but could only manage a .894 save percentage. In fact, it was Raycroft’s perceived inability to make the game-changing saves that convinced Ferguson to go out and make the trade for Toskala, an established backup in San Jose who is on the brink of becoming a bona fide starter. Toskala had a 2.35 GAA last season in a career-best 38 appearances. He was 26-10-1 and on the verge of stealing the No. 1 designation before Evgeni Nabokov laid claim to that job for the playoffs.
Both goalies have legitimate claims to be the top dog in Toronto this season. Raycroft is the incumbent and Toskala is the vaunted new kid on the block. If one can’t claim the job outright, Toronto may end up being blessed with one of the strongest goalie rotations in the League. But no matter how things shake out, these two alpha dogs will have to find a way to co-exist if the Leafs hope to develop a winning chemistry.
Scott Clemmensen was brought in as a veteran free agent to give the Maple Leafs some flexibility. If both Raycroft and Toskala ended up sticking around and sharing goalie duties with the Maple Leafs, Clemmensen will likely find himself with the Marlies of the American Hockey League. If one of the two established goalies is moved, Clemmensen is ideally suited to step into the back-up role at the NHL level. After all, he has spent the past three years as Martin Brodeur’s backup in New Jersey. He made just 23 appearances at the NHL level during that time.
In the Wings
Justin Pogge -- The Leafs’ goalie of the future, but he does not appear ready to shoulder the load just yet. The former Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year struggled at times in his first pro season, going 19-25-2 with a 3.03 GAA and .896 save percentage in 48 appearances with Toronto’s AHL affiliate. The arrival of Toskala assures Pogge -- a third-round pick in 2004 -- he will get another year at the minor-league level if that is what is judged to be best for his career.
James Reimer -- The team’s fourth-round selection in 2006, Reimer will return for another year of seasoning in the Western Hockey League. He laid claim to the starting job in Red Deer last season, playing in 60 games and posting a 2.66 GAA and .912 save percentage. He is expected to make even bigger strides this season in Red Deer and emerge as a viable option behind Pogge in an organization that lacks bountiful goaltending prospects.
Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. on the recently acquired Vesa Toskala:
"We look forward to Vesa joining our hockey club this upcoming season. He has proven to be a valuable goaltender with strong statistical numbers, who will help solidify our team defensively."
1. After a rough start, Justin Pogge finished his first season in the AHL by posting a 8-8-1 mark in his last 17 decisions. He also had a 2.13 GAA in his final six starts of the season.
2.Vesa Toskala, at 65-28-5 in his career with the Sharks, is 37 games above .500 at the NHL level.
3. Raycroft’s 37 wins last year tied the franchise record, which is also held by Ed Belfour (2002-03).
NHL.com's 2007-08 Maple Leafs Season Preview Package:
The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.
— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres