I recently read your column that ran in The Washington Post regarding the Washington Capitals’ current struggles during their six-game losing streak. In said column, you made many great points. You’re right; “If the Caps’ record at this moment was 32-0-0 instead of 18-11-3, no one would be celebrating. What you would hear – correctly – is this: The games that matter begin in April.”
Things were all well and good until you decreed that the Capitals must trade for a veteran goaltender to replace Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth before the postseason begins in the spring. Consistency in net has been an issue for the Capitals since Olaf Kolzig left a few years ago, but to think that a veteran presence in net, especially the specific ones that you mentioned, is what will launch the Capitals into immortality is dumbfounding. The “veteran goaltenders available at the trade deadline, especially those on bad teams” in question are New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and New York Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson. The chances of Brodeur going anywhere are microscopic. There are not many players in professional sports that define their teams anymore. Like you said yourself, “Brodeur is the New Jersey Devils.” Brodeur has three Stanley Cups and has made the playoffs every year but one since 1990. I think he’ll take his chances ending his historic career as a Devil.
Roloson was another choice that was quite interesting, but not in a chin-stroking kind of way. More of a head-scratching kind. Roloson has been mired in the disaster on Long Island for a few years now and his 2.67 GAA (2.50 when the column was published) on a tanking team is impressive. But looking at his postseason numbers compared to Varlamov’s, there is no distinct advantage to having Roloson in net. Don’t worry, though, because ESPN also made the same notion.
- Roloson: 13 year veteran; only made the playoffs during three of those years (1999, 2003, 2006); 33 total playoff games; 18 wins; .915 SV%; 2.56 GAA; one shutout.
- Varlamov: Three seasons; two playoff appearances (2009, 2010); 19 total playoff games; 10 wins; .915 SV%; 2.49 GAA; two shutouts.
Two summers ago, the Capitals “decided to go with Jose Theodore.” For “two years in a row, the Caps have gone into the playoffs with Theodore as the No. 1 goalie and two years in a row they shook hands as losers after Theodore had been quickly yanked in favor of Varlamov.” Why would George McPhee want to take a chance on a rental veteran in the playoffs after his last rental veteran was pulled from two consecutive first round series? Ironically, that contradiction is exactly the reason why head coach Bruce Boudreau recently said that Varlamov and Neuvirth will be the tandem for the foreseeable future.
The Capitals just acquired one of the missing pieces that they will need for a long playoff run: a veteran defensive defenseman. While Scott Hannan’s statistics since arriving in Washington (six games, minus-7, six PIM) are much to be desired, it will take him time to adjust to the new system. If the Caps need anything, it is a solid/natural second-line center, but that is a discussion (and a possible future column) for another time.
Varlamov and Neuvirth are not the problem. The team as a whole must take the blame for this slump. But if you’d like a scapegoat, there’s always the flu. Regardless, Washington has set itself up nicely to have two possible franchise goaltenders in the same tandem at the same time. A 40-year-old journeyman is not the answer.