Despite their long history, the league's largest fan base, a lot of money and access to the best hockey minds in the sport, the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to miss the postseason for the seventh consecutive time -- the league's longest active futility streak (assuming the Florida Panthers hang on). What gives?
Practically everyone has a theory about the cause of Toronto's struggles. Media pressure, a culture of defeat, poor front-office management, terrible coaching, underachieving on-ice play, even perhaps a touch of really bad luck -- the reasons are as numerous as the losses themselves. There have been countless articles and even entire books devoted to the subject, but do the numbers fit the narratives? The analytic take is that the team has suffered from mediocre goaltending, which is a big no-no for a team that invests in physicality instead of puck possession and strong defensive play.
Leaks Between the Pipes
Goaltending keeps coming up as one of the chief culprits, as Toronto has routinely found itself among the basement dwellers in save percentage. Since the 2005 lockout, the Maple Leafs have tried 14 goalies, and the best of the bunch is league-average James Reimer at .912. In fact, no other goalie beats Jean-Sebastien Giguere's .906, and just three more even topped .900 (Jonas Gustavsson and part-timers Ben Scrivens and Martin Gerber).