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Offseason Evaluation: Tomas Vokoun

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team’s games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who finished his first season with the Capitals but his 14th NHL season overall on this past campaign.

Season Summary: After signing a one year, $1.5 million contract to head to Washington on July 2nd, Vokoun’s season got off to a rocky start when Michal Neuvirth was inexplicably chosen over him to start the season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.  Once Vokoun got in the net, he was great, winning his first six starts with Vezina-caliber numbers and helping fuel the Caps’ hot start.  His play declined in November and parts of December, but by Christmas, he was keeping the Caps afloat, winning all but two of his starts between December 28th and January 13th.  Vokoun began to struggle with injuries as the season wore on, and only played in four games after February 22nd.  Overall, the veteran had a 25-17-2 record, a 2.51 GAA, .917 save percentage, and four shutouts. Grade: B+

Role Play: Vokoun signed in Washington with the goal of making a long playoff run, he said such when he signed. However, his signing also gave the Capitals the first bona-fide star goaltender they had had since Olie Kolzig’s prime.  It had been a long time since the Caps had a true number one guy, and when Vokoun was healthy, he played like that guy – stealing games for the Caps in their anti puck possession system.  He was significantly better than Michal Neuvirth this season, contrary to popular belief, and when he was healthy, he deserved to get the call in goal; this is not a debate.  Vokoun was the reason that the Capitals were able to tread water throughout the winter months, especially through tough patches in the schedule.  Unfortunately, he got hurt before he could prove his worth in the playoffs, but make no mistake: without him, there are no playoffs. Grade: A

Playoffs: After injuring himself late in March against Boston, Vokoun was not healthy enough to play at the start of the postseason.  Though he recovered by the end of the playoffs, he never got a chance to play because of Braden Holtby carrying the Caps to the second round. Grade: N/A

Future Potential: Earlier this week, it was announced that Vokoun, who would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1, had been traded to the Penguins for a 7th round pick in the 2012 draft; Vokoun then signed a two-year, $4 million deal with Pittsburgh later that day.  We all knew that Vokoun was going to leave, but it certainly stinks to see him to Pittsburgh, shoring up the Penguins’ one spot of weakness.  I have no doubt that Vokoun can still be a top goaltender when healthy, the proved it this year on a below-average regular season team and he can do the same next year on a deeper, probably better team with more balance.  Part of me kind of thinks he, and not Marc-Andre Fleury, will start the most games for the Penguins next year. Grade: B+

The next report card will feature center Brooks Laich.

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