When Tomas Vokoun, arguably the most coveted goaltender available during last summer’s free agency period, went unsigned July 1 and fell into the Washington Capitals’ lap the following day, everybody was surprised. Fans were surprised, General Manager George McPhee was surprised. Even Vokoun himself was incredulous.
“I never had a chance to play for a team like this,” Vokoun said upon signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract last summer. “It came to me almost as a surprise.”
Yet, what did not come as a surprise to anyone was the end of Vokoun’s tenure in Washington, which effectively ended Monday as the Caps held their final meetings of the season at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Vokoun admitted that this season – one where he battled through bouts of injury and inconsistency – was the “most disappointing” of his career and that he has no intentions of returning to the Caps next season.
“I wasn’t plan on being back here anyways,” he said. “For me, it was never intention to be here more than a year,” Vokoun said Monday. “I was looking at it as a one-year thing and I’m sure that’s how it’s going to be.”
Vokoun’s arrival seemingly signaled the return of a bona fide No. 1 goaltender to Washington for the first time since Olaf Kolzig left in 2008, but his status as such was in question at different points throughout the season, most notably when Michal Neuvirth started the season opener October 8. Vokoun’s less-than-impressive debut, where he allowed five goals on 28 shots in a 6-5 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning October 10, did not help matters.
Even though Vokoun redeemed himself and started most of Washington’s games through the middle of the season, he never truly wrangled the starting position away from Neuvirth. Injuries played into that; Vokoun suffered a groin injury in February that he aggravated March 29 against the Boston Bruins. The “pretty severe tear” cost him the rest of the season and, more importantly, the postseason that had eluded him throughout most of his 12-year career.
“For me, it’s more disappointing about how it went and obviously getting hurt and not having the chance to play in playoffs,” Vokoun, who only has 11 games of postseason experience despite 680 regular season games, said. “That’s what I regret more than worrying about what’s gonna be next year.”
Based on statistics, Vokoun’s season was one to forget; his 48 games played were his lowest in five years, his .917 SV% was his worst in eight years and his 2,583 minutes were his fewest in 10 years. According to Vokoun, however, padding his statistics is not the reason he signed with Washington last summer; it was to win a Stanley Cup. But now that that opportunity has passed him by, he is left to wonder what could have been.
“When you play and you don’t make the playoffs, it’s kinda like, ‘Well, we didn’t make it,'” he said. “But we did make it and I wasn’t able to play. Especially for me, that was the reason why I came here. I didn’t come here to make my stats better or win 40 games in the regular season or anything like that. I wanted to play in the playoffs. I didn’t get the chance. It’s disappointing, but that’s life.”
“It was a great chance,” he continued. “There was a great chance for me to do well.”