This was a very difficult choice for me to make, and I had to make sure that I didn’t let personal feelings get in the way, but the decision kept coming back to the same name time and time again. I don’t expect all of you to agree, and I’m sure that many of you feel that someone else may be more deserving. That’s why there are sites like this so people can voice their opinions, and exchange thoughts. Being as close to the team this year as I was, helped my thought process as well. I watched the game this year from a different perspective, and that perspective played a role in my selection. I narrowed my choices down to three players, all of whom were deserving, but when I said to myself where would we have been without each one of them, the name Jose Theodore continued to be the one name that in my mind made a difference in the Florida Panthers season.
Back on July 1st when free agency began, Jose Theodore was among the first picks signed by Dale Tallon, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t raise my fist in the air at my desk and let out a “whooo hooo” when I heard the news. I had mentioned him in a earlier post prior to the draft that if the Panthers and Tomas Vokoun couldn’t come to terms, that he was the one goaltender that I wanted the Panthers to go after. Despite his critics, and despite what some thought was a lousy choice, all season long Jose Theodore proved otherwise. Even after his awful, or as head coach Kevin Dineen called “stinky” preseason, I hadn’t lost faith. Goaltenders sometimes have a habit of starting out slowly until they find their grove. Much like a pitcher coming out of spring training. It takes a few outings to find their groove.
Jose’s training camp wasn’t great by any means, and the final preseason game at home that he played was when the worry for some began to set in. I kept telling myself, and most if you, especially one of you in particular that you need not worry. Theo would find his stride, and get the job done. Theodore’s first game was an impressive shutout against the New York Islanders in the Panthers season opener, when he confidently stopped 27 shots. Although three nights later the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Panthers with Jose giving up four goals, he bounced back with back to back wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For most of the season he was a model of consistency. His best run however was down the stretch in late February to mid March when he returned after missing five weeks with a knee injury. He never looked rattled, and always seemed to have the same demeanor regardless of the score. Theodore played 53 games winning 22 losing 16, and had 11 overtime loses. His GAA was 2.46 which was the lowest it’s been since he played in Colorado in 2007-2008 when it was 2.44. His save percentage was .917, which was the lowest it’s been since he was in Montreal back in 2003-2004. Out of 53 games he gave up more than three goals only nine times. For those of you who missed Tomas Vokoun, Vokie gave up more than three goals 10 times. Vokoun’s save percentage was .917 and his GAA was 2.51. Those numbers were achieved with what would have appeared to be a better team…..on paper. And if you want to spend over $5 million per year on a goaltender, Roberto Luongo gave up three goals or more 10 times as well. Money on Jose Theodore was well spent by Dale Tallon.
While Scott Clemmensen was an exceptional backup this season, there’s no doubt that when he was healthy and on his game, Jose Theodore was the one that kept the Panthers in games that they maybe should have lost. Had Florida had better scoring and if players like Kris Versteeg who unfortunately hit a slump after his hip injury, or if Stephen Weiss hadn’t run out of gas in the second half of the season, Theodore could have won closer to 30 games. To a man in that dressing room, he’s respected, has the confidence of his teammates, and was called a professional many times during the year by Kevin Dineen.
In person Jose is exactly how you’d expect him to be. A professional who’s personable, and smiling all the time. He can be complimentary too as he told @LilMissRatTrick that her French was pretty good. Always available in the dressing room to speak to the media, I was most impressed with his demeanor after the final playoff game which was won by the Devils in double overtime. Jose was there with a media throng in front of him answering all the questions with well thought answers, as he took the time after a bitter defeat to stand up and give his version of what happened.
Many people doubted this signing. Many people questioned his ability and his durability. I said it after game seven against the Devils, and I’ll say it again, I have significantly more respect for Jose Theodore now than I did when he first came to South Florida. He’s not perfect, but he doesn’t have to be.
For what the Florida Panthers needed in goal this year he was just right.
Theodore said he had fun this season, and that he wants more. For me it was fun to watch him, and yes, I want more too.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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