Why Penguins’ Fans Should Love the Tomas Vokoun Trade
June 5, 2012 Leave a comment
Almost everything I had to say about the matter was touched upon in these two articles:
Still, because I always have to get The Last Word in, here are my additional thoughts on the matter:
* First, pretend this is a one-year deal with an option for a second year. There are no guarantees with a 35-year old goaltender, not the least of which is a guarantee of continued health and effectiveness multiple years into the future; the most glaring recent example is the wheels falling off the bus for Dwayne Roloson one year after taking the Tampa Bay Lightning to within one game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Without knowing the future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s very possible there will be multiple ways to make this contract disappear if T-Vo is ineffective as Flower’s backup. If he plays well in 25-30 games and keeps Flower fresh for the 2013 Playoffs, then there would be no reason not to continue the relationship into 2013-14 (assuming T-Vo remains effective and healthy).
The Pens haveto go all-in next year. 2012-13 is the team’s last guaranteed year of Sid, Geno, and Staal (as long as, God forbid, he isn’t traded), not to mention most of the 2009 Cup team’s forward corps (Cookie, TK, Duper, and Craig Adams are all up for new contracts). This is the last guaranteed year to go for it with the Three-Headed Monster model; after a new contract is negotiated for Sid, the team will have a better idea of how to most-effectively the team around Sid and Geno for the second-half of their respective careers. It remains to be seen whether the model that was so effective in the ’08 and ’09 Cup runs is still effective in 2013.
* Ignore the 2011-12 season with Washington. Even though T-Vo put up very respectable numbers for the Caps, as you likely know that team went through a season-long identity crisis before pulling it together down the stretch.
Prior to Washington, T-Vo was well-known by Fantasy Hockey players and stat-heads as Save Percentage beast, performing nightly heroics for Florida teams that had no interest in preventing shots against. In his six post-lockout seasons as a starter, T-Vo put up .920+ Save Percentages like clockwork despite facing an absurd number of Shots Against during his time in Florida. In my view, he is a difference-making goaltender, and an exceptional value if he’s completely healthy.
* This is a player who has willingly re-signed with a team to the backup goaltender after years of being the uncontested Number One. He had made it clear through his actions that he would rather be on a winner than be the uncontested starting goaltender at this point. That is Character, plain and simple.
Vokoun is a player who wants to solidify his NHL legacy by playing for a winner, evidenced by his willingness to leave money on the table in two consecutive contracts to sign with presumptive Cup Contenders. Make no mistake, had T-Vo gone to July 1st, some team would have given him a higher annual salary to be its starting net-minder; T-Vo not only took less money to sign with Pittsburgh, but signed on a team that had an established starting goaltender.
T-Vo might play up to 30 games (barring injury to either he or Flower), but this is not a 1A/1b situation. Flower is still the guy, but now the Pens are guaranteed competent to exceptional play on the nights Flower gets a rest. I should not have to remind anyone that despite amassing 108 regular-season points, the NHL’s level of parity is so high that playoffs are not a guarantee for any team, nor should I have to mention that the Pens got some atrocious play in the second half of the season from Brad Thiessen and Brent Johnson.
I am not trying to flame Thiessen (who was not ready, in my view) or especially Johnny (who I suspect was injured), but the team was forced to overuse Flower in their chase for the 1st Seed in the East. Do you think the Pens would have made it to the second-round if they had seen Ottawa instead of Philadelphia? I do too, and the games the team lost because of inconsistent or ineffective goaltending down-the-stretch are what locked them into the fourth-seed and the unfavorable match-up with Philadelphia.
T-Vo represents a massive upgrade at the back-up goaltender position, and a terrific insurance policy in the event of ineffectiveness from or injury to Flower. Penguins’ fans should be thrilled that the inimitable Ray Shero was pro-active in addressing the goaltending situation, and again positioning the team as an Eastern Conference front-runner. Next up: Addressing the Sid/Staal contracts and the Paul Martin problem.