From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Jose Theodore.
#60 / Goalie / Washington Capitals
Sep 13, 1976
UFA after the 2009-10 season
Key Stat: From the start of the season to the end of 2009, Theodore posted an 11-6-4 record, with a GAA of 3.05 and a save percentage of .896; in the 26 remaining games, he posted a record of 21-1-4, a GAA of 2.62 and a .920 save percentage.
Interesting Stat: Both of Theodore's assists came on the power play, a secondary assist on an Alexander Semin goal against Detroit and a primary assist on a Nicklas Backstrom goal vs. Ottawa.
The Good: Theodore picked up his fourth career 30+ win season, passing the 30-win plateau for the second straight year and picking up just two fewer wins than last year in ten fewer games played. He also posted his best save percentage since the 2003-04 season, and turned aside all three penalty shots he faced - the best record in the League in that department. The 121 goals he gave up was the lowest of any season in which he was a starter and the second lowest since 1999-00; his seven losses, the fewest in his career.
But it was really in the second half of the season where Theodore truly found his stride. His last regulation loss of the 2009-10 season came on January 12 - he followed that up with a franchise-record ten straight wins, working in tandem with Michal Neuvirth to backstop the Caps to another franchise-record fourteen game winning streak. He had at least a .900 save percentage in all but four of the last twenty-six games and allowed four or more goals just four times during that span. Theodore ended the season on an amazing 20-0-4 run, proving to be the difference maker on many nights and giving Bruce Boudreau confidence enough to name him the playoff starter as the season drew to a close.
Most amazing of all was the fact that Theodore achieved all this while dealing with a great deal of personal tragedy, a fact that was recognized by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association when he was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy. And his efforts on the ice were equaled - if not surpassed - by his efforts off it, as he established Saves for Kids to benefit the NICU at Children's Hospital; Theodore presented the charity with $35,000 and inspired others to add to that total, as well.
The Bad: Despite the wins and the second-half rejuvenation, Theodore's overall numbers never really earned him the same prestige as "elite" NHL goaltenders. His 2.81 GAA put him in the bottom third of all goalies, the 2nd highest GAA among starting goalies for playoff teams. He fared slightly better when it came to save percentage, .911 moving him into the middle of the pack but still trailing goalies having less-than-stellar seasons like Marty Turco and Tim Thomas.
Many believe that your best penalty-killer is your goaltender; whether or not that's true, Theodore's .857 save percentage while shorthanded certainly didn't help the team's overall numbers (or his own) - although granted, the team often didn't do him any favors while down a man, either. And while his second half was stellar, the first half saw more of the inconsistency and mediocrity for which Theodore has been criticized in the past. In eleven of his first twenty-one games he put up a sub-.900 save percentage, allowing four or more goals six times during that stretch and 58 total.
Making him the playoff starter was a no-brainer heading into the postseason; regardless, he never really seemed to earn as long a leash from his coaching staff as that role would imply. Despite performing admirably in the playoff opener, he dropped Game 1 in overtime and was pulled after allowing two somewhat questionable goals on four shots in Game 2 - likely his last game in a Caps' jersey.
The Vote: Rate Theodore below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Regardless of recent reports, is there a price and term at which you would like to see Theodore back next year? How much of Theodore's success this season would you attribute to the team, and vice versa? What would it have taken for Theodore to earn a 10 rating this year?