Going into this season, if you forced me to pick any team’s goalie duo – factoring in skill and cap hits* – I might just have chosen Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. Of course, not much has gone as expected in Washington this season – and that cost-effective pairing hasn’t been excluded from the disappointment.
CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley asks a tough question, then: do the Capitals really have a No.1 goalie?
The current situation doesn’t it lend itself to an easy answer. Michal Neuvirth is scheduled to make his fourth start in a row tomorrow, so he’s carrying the torch right now. Vokoun’s crisis of confidence doesn’t help, either.
Still, Vokoun’s individual stats are better than Neuvy’s numbers and he certainly has the thicker resume. There are other goalie “situations” in the league, but there are a few things that make this one a little different:
1. Future vs. Now: When you look at battles such as Curtis Sanford vs. Steve Mason and Brian Elliott vs. Jaroslav Halak, they’re fights between should-be franchise youngsters and scrappy veterans trying to keep a job in the NHL. The scenario is different in Washington, as Vokoun is a should-be veteran starter while Neuvirth is the backup fighting for the No. 1 spot.
2. Contracts: While Mason and Halak are getting paid more and for longer, Vokoun only has a one-year deal while Neuvirth isn’t making much less and has an extra season in writing. In other words, there’s little to no price tag pressure to force the Capitals to throw Vokoun out there.
So what does it all mean? I’d say that the Capitals’ top job is fair game, which is a viewpoint backed up by Dale Hunter’s comments. Still, I’d say that – at this point in their careers – Vokoun is likely to produce better results. Perhaps sitting on the sidelines will allow him to get out of his head a little bit and rebound to the form that made him a nerdy blogger’s delight for so many years in Florida and Nashville.
* – Vokoun’s cap hit is $1.5 million and Neuvirth’s is $1.15 million. Only the Los Angeles Kings’ duo of Jonathan Quick ($1.8 million) and Jonathan Bernier ($1.25 million) is anywhere close in the “bang for buck” category. Or, maybe I should say, the expected bang for buck category.