Andrew Raycroft is not a rock in the stream. He’s the cork in the bathtub.
After setting a new franchise record with 37 wins, Raycroft was held accountable for the inability of the Maple Leafs to advance to the post-season. It didn’t help that his worst game of the season was his final one, an eventual 6-5 Leafs’ victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
When the Leafs acquired Vesa Toskala from San Jose, trade rumors and conjecture swirled around Raycroft through the summer.
But as with most things, Andrew Raycroft was unfazed by the hubbub.
“He’s probably the most humble player I’ve played with,” said winger Alex Steen. “He’s very down to earth, very calm and he doesn’t get rattled really easy.”
Raycroft has told all comers that he looks forward to competing and improving with Toskala but the questions keep coming. He thinks he knows why.
“It’s kind of tiring sometimes, but it’s probably been a long time since they had two good goalies here. It was always Felix (Potvin), Cuj (Curtis Joseph) and Eddie (Belfour). It’s a new story. I think having Vesa here will help our team. It will help both of us get better. We’ll get along. It’s going to be a good year.”
Raycroft takes his work very seriously. The stuff around it, not so much.
“When I’m on the ice and doing my job, obviously it’s serious,” he said. I’m trying to make a livelihood. I respect what I do. I respect the guys that I play with. That being said, the big picture of life, it’s too short to take yourself seriously. All the stuff that comes after the ice and after the practice and the games, it’s necessary in our job but at the same time, I don’t take it too seriously.”
The best goaltending performance delivered in the pre-season so far may belong to Justin Pogge who shone in a 3-2 loss to Phoenix but Raycroft’s showing in a 3-2 loss to Phoenix is up there with coach Paul Maurice.
“In the blue and white game and his game in Edmonton, I thought he used his net really well and made good decisions,” Maurice said. “He’s such a good puckhandler, he wanted to play every puck. That’s the maturity we’re hoping to see from him and expecting to see from him as he grows. He’s getting a little more subtle. He does less to do more.”
The 27-year-old Raycroft comes at life in Toronto as an outsider. He was not a prospect, fed into the media machine by the time he hit high school.
“I always dreamed about playing in the NHL but I wasn’t that guy who was a first-round draft pick in the OHL or a first-round draft choice in the NHL,” he said. “ I was a seventh-round pick in the OHL, a fifth round pick in the NHL. I just kind of plugged away and somehow found myself here. I haven’t had scrutiny on me like some of these guys who have had it since they were 16.”
The rest, he attributes to experience.
“When you’re 19, 20, 21, every time you get put on the ice, or put in an exhibition game, you read everything into it. You don’t know why you are on this team or not on another. But this is my tenth training camp, I’ve played a bunch of exhibition games. I think the experience of going through some of those things makes it a little less frustrating at times.”