Jose Theodore will take his good looks and flowing mane elsewhere this season.
Hi everyone, hope your summer has been good! Mine’s been eventful to say the least. It’s been pretty quiet on the Caps corner of the hockey world this summer. Then again, perhaps not.
The Caps have signed DJ King and Danny Sabourin, re-signed Ovechkin’s English tutor in Brian Willsie, watched Joe Corvo and Shoane Morrisonn sign elsewhere, and have said Au Revoir to Jose Theodore in these dog days in the lives of us hockey fans. All of our signings are expected to be on the Hershey roster come opening night for the regular NHL season. This is somewhat to the disgruntlement of that hockey fan who loves a good free agent splash or blockbuster trade in the off-season. Or perhaps that fan who wishes the GM would have addressed some glaring issues on the roster (as last year’s roster clearly didn’t get it done) by now.
With the departure of Jose Theodore and the signing of Sabourin, this solidifies the rumor the Capitals are planning on having the net minded by their two young goalies for the 2010-2011 season. Russian Semyon Varlamov and the Czech Michal Neuvirth can rest easy now… or should they?
Has Semyon Varlamov's time come?
Most Caps fans would be lying if they said they were totally comfortable with this idea. Placing the fate of the team in an unproven goalie and a another unproven goalie doesn’t sit well with fans of any team. Is it a bit harsh to call Varlamov an unproven goalie? Perhaps, but I’m going on the whole fact that in two consecutive play-off runs Varlamov has been booted from being the starting goalie by that same goalie we just let walk. One doesn’t exactly want to start planning the parade route with that in mind. Is Varlamov only coming off his first full season as an NHL goalie? Yes, and one must remember that, but two play-off runs have not treated Varlamov kindly. Then again the team in front of him didn’t show up to help some nights, so more leniency must be given with that also in mind.
I also hate to stamp Neuvirth with that same stigma as an unproven goalie with his impressive resumé in the AHL and excellent play in net for the Capitals as a call-up. But truth be told, we’ve not seen what he looks like long-term as an NHL goalie, and until we do, the jury will remain silent. All arrows point to a winner in Neuvirth and for that most fans are excited to see how he will shape up with the responsibility and duty of being our back-up. For all intents and purposes the kid has earned his shot in Washington, and we hope it turns out to win us a Cup before the apocalypse occurs.
Is it Neuvirth time?
This also begs the conversation of which of our two young talents will turn out to be the better goalie? Personally I’ve come to the conclusion that the Czech will beat out the Russian by the time they both hang up the skates (put down the glove?). While I think Varlamov possess the more raw talent of the two, his sometimes jittery play and scrambling in the net will ultimately be his personal evil. He can either dazzle you with the athletic highlight reel save, or make you cringe in horror and disbelief he let in such a soft goal (again) even a person who has never put on skates could have stopped. In some ways I feel his play-off benchings are a warning sign to us all not to pin our hopes and dreams on the young Russian. While I don’t think he will be a bust by any means, I don’t think we should butter our bread just yet with him.
Neuvirth might not possess that same raw talent, but being so technically sound and such a calming presence in net will make him the better of the two if Varlamov does not learn to settle down in games. The team feeds off that calmness and plays better, which in turn makes us fans breathe a little sigh of relief (and lets us actually sit and enjoy the games once in a while). His two consecutive AHL Calder Cup winning seasons in Hershey — while also snagging the play-off MVP trophy in 2009 I might add, Chris Bourque grabbed that honor this past season — certainly makes one pay attention. In short: Neuvirth is the more complete player of the two.
Don’t get me wrong, both goalies are going to be highly successful in their NHL careers. As a Caps fan who has been through the Jagr Debacle and ensuing team firesale, you tend to brace for the worst. However, this is one argument or problem I’d take any day of the week: two young promising young goalies fighting for command of the #1 spot?
Just as they always say, hockey is 20% physical and 80% mental and this is one of those cases where that cliché applies perfectly. So who will win this battle of will?
Photos: Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov by Annalisk19 at Flickr.com. Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Jose Theodore by Reuters.