Since the existence of the Florida Panthers I think it’s pretty safe to say that goaltending has never really been a problem. Starting with “The Beezer” John Vanbiesbrouk in the inagural season, Panther goaltenders have had their share of vulcanized rubber shot at them. For the most part these goalies have done a pretty good job of keeping it out of the net. Besides “The Beezer and Mark Fitzpatrick, we’ve seen Mike Vernon, Kirk McLean, Kevin Weekes(briefly), and who can forget Mikhail Shtalenkov, who actually said something about not wanting to be a number one goalie cause it was too much pressure.
Then we had Roberto Luongo, who honestly could have played his entire career here until he decided to tell Mike Keenan how to design a contract. That was a mistake which bought Bobby Lose a ticket out of town. Cry about that trade all you want…it’s history. Move on. We then had a year of Ed Belfour and Alex Auld. Which was quite interesting to say the least as Eddie the Eagle at one point started 27 games games in a row winning 27 games that season. Keeping the Panthers in somewhat of a playoff race. Wonky back and all. Chants of “Eddie, Eddie” at the Bank Atlantic Center made me homesick for Chicago.
In the summer of 2006 Tomas Vokoun came to Florida via Nashville for three draft picks…. a first rounder and two second rounders. A move that was designed to solve the goaltending situation in Florida permanently as opposed to the Belfour and Auld bandaid. At the time Vokoun had just turned 30, and had signed a long term deal the year before with Nashville, who could no longer afford his salary (5.7 million approx).
Vokoun was coming off back to back seasons of 36 and 27 wins, and was thought to be one of the top goaltenders in the league. He would add stability, a veteran presence in goal where he wouldn’t buckle under pressure, and use his work ethic and determination in the dressing room as an example for the team. In the time he’s been here, he’s won a total of 100 games, with 22 shutouts, while averaging 2.58 goals against. All for a team that hasn’t seen playoff hockey the entire time he’s been here.
Vokoun’s contract expires at the end of this season and there has been much talk about what will happen with him. He has been vocal in the past about the play of his teammates in front of him, which has been warrented, but he has also accepted and taken responsibility for his short comings as well. He’s been criticised for giving up soft goals, and goals at the wrong time, which honestly is just a bunch of finger pointing. You think Luongo has been perfect his entire career? Ask him about his playoff performances. As of today, there’s still no championship in his closet. Only goals he’d wished he had saved.
The Panthers as well as some of their fans (Mr. Knowsnothing) seem to have expected Vokoun to give up two goals or less every single night. It’s an unrealistic expectation of any goaltender, especially one who plays for a team that has trouble scoring itself. The troubles of the Florida Panthers over the past few season are many, but goaltending is not one of them. It’s not Vokoun’s fault that the power play has been at or near the bottom of the league all season. Vokoun isn’t responsible for the 5 or 7 passes it takes to get out of the defensive zone. Vokoun doesn’t take soft shots at the crest of opposing goaltenders. You get my point.
I liked the Vokoun trade the day it was made. I was shocked, but pleased to know that the position would be filled by such an accomplished netminder. Vokoun though deserves a chance to play for a winning team. He deserves the chance to experience playoff hockey again as he did with the Nashville Predators. The question becomes, will he be able to get that chance here in Florida? Will he be resigned? Does he want to resign? His recent vocal outburst, or frustration directed at the team in front of him, may have been his swan song. Or was it? He’s dertermined. He’s sick and tired of losing, but has never once said, get me out of here.
If the Blueprint that Dale Tallon has can get this team into the playoffs withing two seasons then Tomas Vokoun needs to be the goaltender guiding them. He’s not overused, still has a lot of hockey left in him, and when you look at what else is out there as far as goalies are concerned, I’d much rather have two or three more years of Vokoun making saves, then what some of the other options are especially next year.
If the the Panther management can find a way to keep Vokoun here for at least two more years, they need to do it. I would be more than happy to see him signed for two or three years with an average cap hit of somewhere around 4-4.5 million dollars. The young goalies that the team has are not ready for full time duty. The combination of Vokoun and Clemmensen for at least one more year is pretty solid. If the other areas of the team can be improved, and I have no reason to beleive that they won’t, then fans like the youngster below will have more to cheer for than a solid goalie!
It just makes sense.
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