Raycroft issue a non-starter

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

A season after tying a Maple Leafs franchise record with 37 victories, it's appearing Andrew Raycroft will be lucky just to play in that many games in 2007-08.

Vesa Toskala started in the Toronto net for the seventh time in the past eight games last night against the Nashville Predators, but Raycroft was adamant that he was not going to moan about it.

"I'm not going to come in here and be a little bitch about everything and complain and pout," Raycroft said after the morning skate yesterday. "It's not my character and it's not the right thing to do."

Raycroft would only go as far to say the major cut in his playing time is "definitely different" and "it's not something that is going to bring me down too much," but one has to wonder. Imagine achieving a lofty status at work and during your holiday, your boss decides to hire someone who he thinks can do a better job. It's what happened to Raycroft after he hit the 37-win milestone and then watched as general manager John Ferguson traded for Toskala at the draft in Columbus in June.

If there was a plan for Toskala and Raycroft to be partners in goal, few outside the organization believed it. The job became Toskala's to lose when he signed a two-year, $8-million US extension that kicks in next season.

Raycroft has not played well enough to justify keeping him between the posts. With two wins in 10 games and an .882 save percentage, it has not been hard for coach Paul Maurice to nail him to the bench.

"Andrew has handled all this every day very professionally," Maurice said. "He does not need his hand held. He is a big boy and he knows we are going to need him to win some games for us this year."

In other words, sit tight, don't say a word, and be damn sure you're ready when we call on you. There will not be many takers for Raycroft and his $2-million salary, a sum he will be paid in 2008-09 as well, so the Belleville native has little choice. There are not many backups in the league who make more than Raycroft, and some starters, including Toskala ($1.375 million) and Nashville's Chris Mason, earn less.

"Any variable you can't control, don't spend any energy on that," hockey analyst and former NHL goalie Greg Millen said. "It's hard thing to do, but you have to deal with it. Andrew is one injury away from being a starter, and he has to keep his game in order."


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