Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008-2009 Previews: Jose Theodore

Now, we take a look at the new guy…

Jose Theodore

Last year: 53 games, 28-21-3, 2.44, .910, 3 SO

Career average (per 60 appearances):
25-27-4-1, 2.65, .909, 4 SO

Feerless’ Take: OK, let’s get to the happy ending right away. In every year Theodore has played more than half his team’s games in the NHL, he has had a GAA of 2.90 or lower, had a save percentage of .908 or better. Last year, while Cristobal Huet was doing his magic in Washington, Theodore was having a nice home stretch of his own. Starting February 22, with a 3-2 shootout win over Phoenix, Theodore finished the year 13-5-1, 2.29, .916, and two shutouts. Only twice did he give up more than three goals (he did allow three goals in a 7-5 loss to Edmonton on March 22, in which he was pulled early). What’s more, he was 7-1 in one-goal games down the stretch, five of them won in extra time. Whatever issues there have been with respect to his post-lockout play (and there have been), he had more than a solid year last year in Colorado, and he proved clutch down the stretch. There isn’t any clear reason to think that for the Caps, he won't stop pucks as the number one goaltender.

Cheerless’ Take: Clutch, cuz? 6.88, .826. That was his GAA and save percentage against the Red Wings in the second round of the playoffs last year. He was pulled three times in four games, for heaven’s sake (Feerless: hey, cuz, he had the flu in the first two). And there is that “post-lockout” thing. He was 31-33-7, 3.36, .886 in the first two years coming out of the lockout, and it wasn’t as if he was playing for an absolute dog of a team. The Canadiens were a 93-point playoff team in 2005-2006, and the Avalanche were a 95-point team that finished one point out of the playoffs in 2006-2007. In an odd way, there seems to be a whiff of “Olaf Kolzig” here. Yes, he’s won a Hart and a Vezina trophy, but that was seven years ago (2001-2002 season). Since then, he’s a .500 goalie (112-113-11-10). Was that home stretch you went on about a change in fortune? Or was it just a nice little wave he rode into the playoffs with the rest of the Avalanche, only to see it come crashing down in the second round of the playoffs?

Peerless’ Take: You really don’t want your goaltender to be your biggest unknown going into the season, especially when you’re being thought of as a team that can take the next big step to playoff success. But, that is the hand the Caps are playing as the 2008-2009 season begins. Theodore’s career breaks down into two neat phases, and they are, in fact, separated by the lockout. In his four full seasons as a number one goaltender heading into the lockout, Theodore was 103-112-26, 2.44, .918, with 15 shutouts. The win-loss record wasn’t especially noteworthy, but he put up pretty good goals-against and save percentage numbers in spite of it. After the lockout, he’s been 59-54-10, 2.88, .898, with three shutouts.

Theodore did finish up the regular season on a high note last year, and that is a hopeful sign. Lost in the implosion in the second round of the playoffs last year is the fact that he had a good first round against Minnesota. He was 4-2, 1.88, .940 in that series.

Which Theodore will the Caps see this year? The Caps have enough offensive firepower to cover up some bumpy stretches in goal (they had enough to cover those bumps Kolzig had from time to time during the middle third of the season last year), but at some point in this league, successful teams have to rely on solid goaltending. That point usually comes in the playoffs. Is Theodore that goaltender? That’s the biggest unknown heading into this season. But for the regular season…

Projected: 37-19-5, 2.46, .911


Bob said...

We were destined for an "unknown" in goal this year no matter what we did. Was YouEh the man or did the real YouEh lose in the 1st round of the playoffs playing soft in a number of games? Is this the Theodore of yore or the basket case we've all seen? Would Olie have played amazing hockey to close out a stellar career or would he have been the guy with the lost step who did not know when to quit? My faith in JT is certainly tempered, but no more so than if we had brought back one of the other two. Will BJ step up and play like a numero uno, in a word NO. He has had a number of chances to step in get on a roll and never leave the net, he has not done it before and will not do it now. He is what he is, a serviceable backup. Go Caps!

alja said...

It's also worth considering when looking at Theodore's numbers that it wasn't the same league after the lockout. I wouldn't mind seeing some more thorough numbers on this, but my brief crunching tells me that the top ten goalies in '03-'04 averaged 2.05/.922, and in '05-'06 those numbers were 2.38/.914.

nuftjedi said...

let's be honest here... he isn't going to be any worse than Olie was last year and, with Olie, the team was still doing damn well under BB before Huet came in. I don't expect the team to score less or play worse d, so that should help JT during the regular season and hopefully into the playoffs.