Since their inaugural season in 1993 the Florida Panthers have had one seemingly constant strength. Goaltending. From John Vanbiesbrouk to Tomas Vokoun there haven’t been too many seasons where the area of their game you worried about was in net. Even the year between Roberto Luongo and Tomas Vokoun’s first season with the Panthers, the team was in the capable hands of Ed Belfour. As we all know, we are approaching some unchartered waters this season in goal, as Vokoun had decided to test free agency after turning down a multi-year contract with Florida, and will be in Washington this season.
Acting fast general manager Dale Tallon signed veteran Jose Theodore to a two year contract in hopes that Theodore would man the pipes until young phenom Jacob Markstrom was ready to take over. With an injury to backup Scott Clemmensen, Markstorm won the backup battle with Tyler Plante, yet isn’t satisfied in that role, and will attempt to push Jose for the number one spot. Theodore like many experienced goalies has had a slow start in training camp. Before you start jumping off bridges, you need to relax and know that no Stanley Cup championshop was ever won in the preseason. Theodore is a guy I pegged going after if we couldn’t sign Vokoun, and I have faith that you’ll end up liking what you see. Rather than here me blabber about him, since I already have confidence in him, I went to our FanSided counterparts in Washington, Capitals Outsider. I asked Jeff Kleiman five questions about Jose and he was gracious enough to give me his unbiased opinions. The Q & A begins after the jump.
Frank: Theo has taken a lot of criticism in his career. Is it warranted or not?
Jeff: I don’t think that all of the criticism he has received is warranted. If you look at his career stats, it really is looking at two completely different goaltenders. In 580 career NHL regular season games, he boasts a 260-232-55 record and a 2.69 GAA. In 2001-2002 season, he won the Hart and Vezina Trophies. In that same year, he led the league in saves and save percentage, was tied for second in shutouts, and came in fourth for goals against. However, his playoff stats tell a completely different tale. In 51 career NHL playoffs games, his record is a measly 19-28 with a 2.82 GAA. His biggest knock is that he is inconsistent, and that I can wholeheartedly agree with. However, he has the potential to be a great NHL goaltender, even though he will be 35 years old this season.
Frank: He played extremely well for the Capitals for two seasons, then was pulled in the playoffs. Was that right? Were there other issues that led to a poor performance in the post season?
Jeff: I think that it was the right decision. As I stated before, he is a very inconsistent goalie. In my opinion, when he got pulled after a shaky start in game two after losing game one in the 2010 playoffs, there was more to it. Theodore was signed to a two-year contract in 2008, which was to expire in the off season following the 2010 playoffs. I think that once Bruce Boudreau had pulled Theodore, that was the verdict on the front office resigning him. The team felt that with Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth waiting in the wings, not resigning Theodore would be in their best interests in order to look ahead into the future while giving the Caps more cap flexibility. As far as other issues, I cannot speculate as to whether it was specifically one thing, but here are two things that did happen to him during that season. During the offseason before the 2009-2010 season, tragedy struck the Theodore family when he and his wife lost their two-month old child. Also, on January 26th, 2010, he left a game with a lower-body injury. Maybe he never really recovered from that injury during the season. Or maybe the loss of his child weighed on him so much to the point where he could not concentrate. But like I stated before, I cannot speculate on what exactly happened that caused such a poor performance.
Frank: We need a starting goalie here in Florida to play 55 games and win about 28-30 of them, stealing about 4 or 5 wins along the way. With the team we now have in front of him, is this possible?
Jeff: I feel that as the starting goaltender, Theodore is more than able to play 55 games for the Panthers. During his stay in Washington, he played 57 and 47 games in respective seasons. Last season, he was limited to 32 games due to his role in Minnesota as a backup. Florida made some big upgrades during the off season (to include ex-Caps Theodore and Matt Bradley), and while the playoffs still seem like a reach for this team, the 28-30 wins for Theodore do not.
Frank: Goalies seem to start out slowly and Jose has had a shaky camp according to most reports. Should we be concerned, or relax?
Jeff: I would relax. Please understand that Jose is coming to a brand new team and is learning a brand new system. The Capitals have looked extremely shaky as well, ending their preseason campaign with a 3-3-1 record. Also, the lines aren’t set in training camp and Kevin Dineen has been tinkering with things to see what works and what doesn’t work. He’s also been giving the players who will end up in San Antonio and Cincinnati the opportunity to make the team and showcase their talents. Once the lines are finalized and the regular season starts to get underway, Jose will find his groove and will impress you.
Frank: What can we expect out of Jose Theodore overall as a goalie and as a player in the dressing room.
I would like to start this off by stating that Jose Theodore is NOT Tomas Vokoun. Theodore is not an elite goaltender like Vokoun is, so I would not try to compare the two otherwise you’re going to end up hating Theodore real quick instead of giving him the time to show you what he can do. Jose is streaky: when he looks good he will be very good, but when he’s bad it is going to be very ugly. Just support him through his rough patches and don’t be too quick to turn his back to him if he does go through one of them. In the locker room, he’s a well liked guy. His experience will also be beneficial for your team. He is also very charitable and donates to the community. During his time in Washington, Jose donated $2 for every save, $100 for every win, and $500 for every save during the regular season. He will be an asset to your locker room as well as your community.
Thanks Jeff for doing this for us. I greatly appreciate it.
The games have yet to start, and I know you’re all anxious to get the season underway and want to feel comfortable that the goaltending is in good hands. It is. Number one, Theo is a veteran who isn’t going to let his preseason performance affect him during the season. Two, we have players who can score. More scoring potential than we’ve had in years. Don’t expect Jose to stop every puck and make every save. He won’t, and neither will anyone else. Let him and everyone else settle into their roles and become adjusted to each other. It will be fine! Take a look at these video’s and see for yourself.
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