Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Step Back From The Ledge

Jose Theodore is no Cristobal Huet. Or perhaps Huet is no Theodore.

Jose Theodore has played in more than 52 games in a single season before (five times) and has won a playoff series (four times, in fact). Jose Theodore has won a Hart Trophy and a Vezina Trophy. Jose Theodore has scored a goal, failed a drug test, and probably nailed Paris Hilton.

But as the Jose Theodore deal isn't as much about the past as it is about the future, let's focus on that.

Rather than commit huge dollars and years to a goalie who has never played a full season as a number one netminder and who missed time over the past three campaigns with a groin injury (five games in December of 2007), back spasms (one game this past March), a knee injury (18 games in 2005), and a season-ending hamstring injury (twenty games in 2007), the Caps went with Plan B - a short-term deal with the second-best goalie on the free agent market.

Best case scenario? Theodore plays well, and when his deal is up Simeon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth is ready to take over the starting spot, giving the Caps a cheap, young netminder while they worry about re-signing RFA's Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Worst case scenario? Theodore is awful, and the team either addresses the problem via trade at some point along the way, or the parties part ways after two years, leaving the team in search of a goalie and having high-profile RFAs to sign... not unlike the position in which they found themselves at noon yesterday.

But let's not sugarcoat things - Jose Theodore is an average goaltender with the ability to get scorching hot or fairly putrid for decent periods of time (though the former stretches outnumber the latter). He has a 2.96 goals against average and an .895 save percentage since the lockout (2.44/.910 this past season), but had a 21-13-2 record, a 2.24 GAA and a .919 save percentage in his last 37 starts of 2007-08 [Sidenote: Le fantastique Cristobal Huet was 25-8-4 with a 2.35 GAA and a .917 save percentage in his last 37 starts of the regular season. Sidenote Sidenote: If you're not already reading The Red Skate, who goes into more detail on the Theodore/Huet comparison, you need to be doing so.]

Clearly Huet is a better goaltender than Theodore (or so we're told), but look at it this way - the Caps went 23-13-7 (a 98-point pace) from the day Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench until Cristobal Huet was acquired. Over that span, their number one goalie went 17-9-6 with a 3.02 GAA and a .886 save percentage. Does anyone doubt that Jose Theodore can do at least that well? I sure don't. If he can go the entire season without giving up more than three goals in back-to-back starts - a feat he accomplished last year - he's going to win an awful lot of games, which, as I recall someone mentioning not long ago, is all that really matters (and don't give me that "Quennville's defensive system" crap - the Caps gave up 0.2 more shots per game over the entire season than Colorado did, and nearly a third of those shots were on juicy Kolzig rebounds).

Bottom line: if you were of the belief that Cristobal Huet was the kind of goalie that could take a team all the way, you're probably inconsolable today. But for the rest of us, the reality is that provided that everything else comes together over the next few days/weeks/months, there's no reason to believe the Caps won't be perfectly fine in both the short- and long-term. And hey, at least they didn't sign Ray Emery, right?

52 comments:

Andi said...

Thank you for posting this, JP. It so eloquently puts what I have been trying to express to other people on other forums half the way yesterday. I don't think it was about the money. I think it was about the term -- GM doesn't want a long-term goaltender, not with Neuvirth and Varlamov in the wings, and definitely not for the kind of money that would keep him from re-signing Semin and Backstrom.

Rage said...

Thanks for the explanation about Colorado vs. DC, JP. That definitely puts things in some perspective. There's always the argument about the quality of those shots, but I'll just shut up now.

Except for this: can you host a poll to gauge fan feelings towards Kolzig? As I told you yesterday, I'm a little bitter, but I'm not sure why.

Oh, maybe it's because he's acting like a baby. Maybe that's why.

JP said...

@ Andi: Given what was on the market, there was not a goalie available that made any kind of long-term sense, and there was only one that I'd have liked to have signed for as much as long as three years (and none I'd have signed for longer than that), but he decided he wanted a four-year deal. Did any goalie other than Huet sign a deal of more than two years yesterday?

@ Rage: I'll probably have something up on Oldie, err, Olie later.

FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Well said. Certainly you have to give GMGM big credit for being proactive, and not waiting for Huet/his agent to continue to jerk them around to get a better deal somewhere else.
2) It could have been much worse when the music stopped playing in this musical chairs game. The big losers are the Avalanche who now have Raycroft as their goalie, and possibly Chicago if they can't unload Khabibulin and have to carry 12 million in salary for their goalies alone

JP said...

FYI - "the Hawks also acquired their goaltender of the future in Cristobal Huet."

A 33-year-old (when the season starts) who has never played 53 games in a single season is their goaltender of the future. Killer.

Charlie G. said...

Meh, good luch to Huet in Chicago, I have a feeling he'll need it to last all season. I'm excited as it is to see what Jose can do for us. I'm personally glad they (GMGM) didn't give into Huet's demands for a longer term contract.

Thomas said...

Wow. Caps fans landed the best goalie in the UFA market for less than what the 2nd best signed for and you guys actually have to fight to rationalize it?

Jose Theodore was stuck playing for a coach who was notorious for ruining goaltenders by playing musical-goalers. He went to Colorado in a slump and Quenneville did everything he could to make things as difficult as possible as Theodore. At no point was Theodore ever given a realistic opportunity of having the #1 job until January of 2008.

And what happened when Theodore was given said shot and shown the confidence of being named the #1? He went out and put up either the best performance or a top 3 performance (depends which metric you use) in the NHL over that span.

Theodore was lights-out from the time he took the #1 role until he came down with the flu prior to the Detroit series.

I'm no Theodore fan, but you guys are very lucky to have him.

Andi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andi said...

Wow. Caps fans landed the best goalie in the UFA market for less than what the 2nd best signed for and you guys actually have to fight to rationalize it?

The problem, I think, is that Huet saw us through the run to the playoffs, and thus there's a deep emotional attachment that has people threatening to throw season tickets away because he didn't come back. A lot of people just don't think with their heads.

Andi said...

@JP: Dunno. Doubt it. I think the deal makes sense -- now if people would just stop hyperventilating about it.

JP said...

Huet was our drunken hook up - awesome at the time, but not nearly as good before and, frankly, it probably wouldn't have worked out in the long-term anyway. Now let's just hope we don't have a nasty hangover.

Rage said...

Or crabs

b.orr4 said...

Oh sure, cite stats to win the argument. That's fighting fair. I like how you conveniently avoided the fact that we had a REAL frenchman in Huet and now we've just got a cheap imitation. And how about hip-hip-Huet? What kind of chant can we do for Theodore? Ho-Ho-Jose? Not even close. I don't care what you say, we're doomed. Doomed I tell you. Doomed! (I'm the Caps message boards and I endorse this statement)

JP said...

That too.

Theo fallout from Denver: "An Avs source said the team offered a two-year deal worth a little more than $7 million, and was miffed Theodore wound up leaving over such a relatively small difference — after paying him $11.5 million the last two seasons, one of which was a total washout." [Link]

Nearly two million dollars - more than 25% - is a "relatively small difference?"

Anonymous said...

Who is better, Huet or Theodore, who took their team deeper into the playoffs???

This works, hats off to GMGM and the Caps for sticking to their plan and what makes sense for the team long term.

If Theodore does not work out, there is no saying that Huet would have. There was a lot of emotion in the teams push this Spring, it was a wave that Huet fed into and benefitted from.

JP said...

You Image of the Day (love the GMGM portion).

Stella said...

Good post, JP. (May I reiterate how much I love you?) Especially your reminder about our success post-Gabby and pre-Huet, the Jez-Olie-Sucked Months. It was an important stretch of success that shows what we can do. (Also puts the pressure on Spunky to sign Mo asap.)

Folks are a bit shell-shocked right now, particularly with that last seemingly random Kolzig+Bolts+Melrose cherry bomb. (I was so hoping Olie'd go to Vancouver. Or maybe even further west.) But hey, they'll come around. If we can't take optimism to delusional levels, we wouldn't be Caps' fans.

To your Best and Worst Case Scenarios, I'd like to add a Nother Case Scenario. That's that Theodore plays just okay at the beginning and Johnny gets to play more -- and shines. They duel each other. Both get better, actually red hot, and we have a very happy dilemma going into next year's playoffs.

dcrock said...

Speaking of crabs...he looks kind of pathetic slumming on Paris in those photos. Just sayin'

Elizabeth said...

FURTHERMORE, it's a fact that with Johnny and Theodore and now with the addition of Varlamov (see pic here), the Caps have a best-selling Goaltenders Pin-Up Calendar. Huzzah!

Wes said...

The Hawks & the Oilers get high marks for actually getting out there and making something happen for the benefits of their clubs. Check out Edmonton now eying Hoss. I doubt it but still, they have a set, heh heh...

luke said...

you know the funny part about kolzig....

i'm pretty sure that signing with tampa bay will hurt his hall-of-fame potential.

i mean he's pretty borderline anyway (for hall-of-fame status)...but having played your entire career for one team was a really nice career stat nowadays

bigonetimer said...

luke, I agree that Kolzig's one team career was a nice anomaly (until now), but I trust that you're not serious in considering Kolzig borderline HOF material. He'll get his jersey in the rafters at the Phone Booth, but that's it.

luke said...

BIGONETIMER

i believe kolzig should be considered...but history has shown he won't be

he won 300+ career wins
made a stanley cup final appearance
35 career shutouts
a vezina
a first team all star
and 2 or 3 all star game appearances

his numbers correspond nicely with richter's (though richter won the big show once)and hextall's (though hextall won a conn smythe) and neither of them are in.


but then again, at the very least hextall really should be in...

luke said...

actually taking a look back

in the past twenty years FIVE goalies have been added to the hall of fame and one of them wasn't in the NHL

Roy (duh)
Fuhr
Smith
Esposito (and tretiak)

apparently all that matters with goalies is winning LOTS of cups...guess cam nelly is glad he wasnt a goalie

DMG said...

On one hand, JP, I am thrilled with you for your mature analysis of the decision to sign Theodore, complete with stats and facts.

On the other hand, I kind of hate you for getting a Third Eye Blind song stuck in my head.

JP said...

@ DMG: I assure you that it was unintentional, as I wouldn't know Third Eye Blind if they kicked me in my third leg.

DMG said...

JP, if you're not familiar with Third Eye Blind you should consider yourself lucky (in my humble opinion)

JP said...

I've spent enough time in the bars of Dewey Beach to probably recognize (and dislike) some of their stuff.

Marky Narc said...

...or Dan Cloutier.

jason said...

As for Olie, I'm not thrilled, but I can't blame the guy. He wasn't wanted here, and TB is a good opportunity for him. While I'm not looking forward to the grudge match games vs Tampa, let's not forget that the Caps can now benefit from those big rebounds.

I just hope Olie has the perspective to realize that the Caps did not do him wrong (seems unlikely). The way last season progressed after the trade deadline should have shown him that the Caps were acting reasonably.

wittcap79 said...

I love the polarization of the fanbase over this one move. Got the pragmatic JP over here, and P&B the doomsayer over on OFB. Huet didn't want to stay, end of story. Should we have gone out and got Raycroft, Conk-block, Auld, or Emery instead...I think not.

b.orr4 said...

While I think that Olie going to Tampa was a cheesy move at best, anything that creates a little hate between teams in this lousy Southeast division is always a good thing. And believe me, I won't be shedding a tear if Ovie shreds Kolzig.

JP said...

@ Wittcap: I certainly appreciate the diversity of voices on this and other topics, and anyone who takes just one opinion as gospel is probably more than a little foolish (unless it's my opinion, in which case it's a wise move).

DMG said...

I think WittCap hits on a very important point: this isn't a fantasy league and it isn't a video game. The Capitals were limited to a small number of legitimate NHL goalies and picked up one of the two, making the best of the situation.

Jimmy Jazz said...

"Wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend."

Goddamn, I hate that song, and now it's stuck in my head.

Maybe the recent Tyler Sloan signing will assuage this.

DMG said...

@ jimmy jazz: I knew I wouldn't be the only one. JP, what have you done?!

bigonetimer said...

hossa to the Wings--the rich get richer. And the Pens are diminished

wittcap79 said...

Looks like Hossa would prefer to win a Cup after all.

Paul Nichols said...

Huet pisses me off. "Test the market". What bullshit.

Hopefully we play whoever he signs with and we light his ass up.

Shaggy said...

Randomly:
Olie's act is beyond sad - I went on a rant at dinner last night about the schmuck and my wife and daughter looked at me like I had a Third Eye (get it?)

I think Pens fans just stepped on the ledge, with that epic dissing Hossa just executed. My God - he left $50 million guaranteed on the tabel with a pretty good club. Is he f'ing nuts?

GMGM has turned into a helluva GM, if you hadnt already noticed.

Anonymous said...

"GMGM has turned into a helluva GM, if you hadnt already noticed."

I agree with this 100%. Bravo to George. He has been fairly brilliant lately.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of McPhee, there was an interesting quote in the Post article this morning, him talking about Theodore: "We were interested in him last year near the [trade] deadline, but he was playing so well [Colorado] didn't want to move him."

Sort of throws his whole Huet Story ('the trade just fell into our laps -- we really weren't looking for a new goalie -- it's not my fault -- I just couldn't say no -- too good to pass up -- yada yada yada') into doubt, eh?

I guess GMGM is really waaaay smarter, and cleverer, than we think.

es said...

Please couldn't GM come up with at least 500k to give Kolizg a reason to say in DC. He only got 1.5mil for one year, just hope this pays off for them and they don't end up missing the boat on the other players they want to keep.

exwhaler said...

@anon--when he talked about the Huet trade, he said it fell into his lap, and it most likely did--the Canadians were looking to get something for Huet before he left through free agency. From my recollection, he never said they were not looking for a goalie, just that they weren't looking for Huet and weren't shopping Kolzig. McPhee's usually very careful with his "lies"--witness his Anton Gustafsson remarks, which he even reiterated after he drafted him. People assumed it was a smokescreen, but McPhee always said that he found out later that Anton was injured when he saw him the one time. Didn't change what the Caps' scouts thought about him, though....

Anonymous said...

Good Post. But, for the record "Nailing Paris Hilton" is about as unique as breathing.

Ditto the failed drug test.

The Hart, Vezina and Playoff wins are all good, though.

The Peerless said...

Let's erase our trading deadline-to-end of playoff memory for a moment.

The problem for the Caps, goaltending-wise, has (and is) crossing the bridge from Olaf Kolzig to either Simeon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth.

If someone had come to you yesterday and said, we can get a former Vezina/Hart Trophy winner, who is still at worst a serviceable goaltender, for a million less than Kolzig, as that bridge, what would be your reaction today?

Rage said...

Well Kolzig was "serviceable". I think we were all looking for something more than just passable/serviceable.

That's a tricky word to spell.

Andi said...

@rage: I know I sure wanted Huet back. That would have been awesome. But I'd rather have Laich and Federov now and Semin and Backstrom in 2010. Am I disappointed? Yeah. I think we all are. But the fact was that Huet tried to bend McPhee over the table, and McPhee said "you first" (and rightly so). Given the circumstances, McPhee did the best he could, and that best isn't likely to be as bad as our love affair with Huet tells us. I wouldn't say no to a 98-point season. Would you?

Besides, Chicago will likely find itself up the creek without a paddle when the time comes to re-sign Kane and Toews (sp) and he's got Brian Campbell and $12 million in goalies alone on his stack. Schadenfreude, maybe, but who knows?

One thing I've learned in my 30+ years on this mudball -- things always work out the way they're supposed to, and generally it all comes out in the wash. I'm disappointed too, but the hyperventilating and the threatening to trash season tickets and the rest of the childish bullsh*t coming off the message boards this week has me wanting to kick a few people's butts so hard they could wear their colon as a hat.

Tapeleg said...

Four words: Been there, done that. Last season's stats are nice, but did you look at the season before, where he was benched for the later half?

Look, I understand that there are reasons to think Theo might work out. There were those same rationalizations when the Avs had him. Only his play will tell the tale. But still, I think that rationalizing Jose over Huet is taking a lot of effort, more than may be sustained over a season.

Oh, BTW...

Wow. Caps fans landed the best goalie in the UFA market for less than what the 2nd best signed for and you guys actually have to fight to rationalize it?

This is why Jose could command the money he got. Look at the market. Two number one goalies, and one of those wasn't a number one last season. There were number two goalies everywhere, but number ones were slim.

Montreal fans were happy to see him go, Colorado fans wanted to see him bought out last season, and Caps fans seem to be in the next stage of denial. I hope it works out, really. But breath holding isn't an Olympic sport. I wouldn't go about training for it.

JP said...

I don't think I ever said Theodore is better than Huet. In fact, I wrote "Clearly Huet is a better goaltender than Theodore."

All I'm saying is that there's a pretty good chance that Theodore will be good enough and more than that, was the best GMGM could do when Huet fell through (my sources tell me that Vancouver nixed a Fleischmann-for-Luongo trade).

Andi said...

@tapeleg: All that negativity and a five will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. You've forgotten one thing in the mix: Gabby. That man worked a frickin' miracle last season, and you're saying there's nothing he can do to save the situation? Montreal was happy to be rid of him? One man's trash is another man's treasure, dude. The world is full of surprises, and has a way of working itself out in the end.

The numbers that JP has posted suggest that it could be good or bad; after all, JT has said several times publicly that he wants to be in Washington, and that alone can do wonders for a man's psyche. Sports is as much a mental and psychological thing as a physical one, and confidence is a big issue, especially in goal.

I guess what I'm saying is that you're too quick to declare the season over because you didn't get what you wanted. The world goes as it will and not as you or I would have it. We don't always get everything we want, and that's a fact of life that we'd all better get used to quick. Let's see what happens, hmm?

Tapeleg said...

@andi: Wow. I mean, wow. Seriously, that last paragraph, was just, ridiculous. Was there any kind of point there? Was it just a wait and see throwaway, or was there some sort of compelling argument there?

Perhaps I would see a point if I were a Capitals fan. Sadly, I have had to watch the Theo wreak his havoc on the Avalanche for the past few seasons. Really, it would be one thing if I didn't have any idea what the fallout of Jose was, but I've seen it happen. A comeback season after several flops (including one where he was benched while the backup took over) was something I experienced as a fan, and the comeback ended in being swept but the hard core rivals. Not exactly a great resume for confidence.

JT can say what he wants, and he can say all the right things in the press, but he wants to be where the cash is. Any player would follow the money, and with his track record, he can't afford not to. He was able to capitalize on a situation (a goalie poor free agent market), and he did so masterfully. Good for him, and bad for the Caps.

Fine, if you want to work the numbers, you have to include the year before, since this is a two year deal the Caps have signed him to. How about a $6 million goalie playing 33 games (and that low number was not due to injury), going 15-16-1, with 3.26 GAA and an 8.91 SV%. Or perhaps you would like to look at his playoff record for that season. Oh, wait, there were no playoffs for that season, the first time in the Avalanche franchise history. Never mind, I'm sure that isn't relevant.

Just because the guy is the second best goalie on the market, it doesn't make him a great goalie.

I'm not trying to be a jackass here. I'm not even trying to make you feel bad about the choices that the team has made. I just think you assume that this is my first BBQ, and it isn't. I've seen enough of Theodore to form my own opinion about him, and I'm more than happy to share it. I hope it works out for you, I really do. It would be nice to see a franchise like the Caps get the shot in the arm it deserves, and even for a player like Theodore to find his form again on a consistent basis. I just wouldn't place my bets on it.

Oh, and two things about this:

"One man's trash is another man's treasure, dude."

First, one man's trash was another man's trash. See above. Second, did you call me dude?