Since the days of Curtis Joseph and Eddie Belfour, we the people of Leafs Nation, have not seen a goaltender capable of carrying us into the postseason. So what makes Tomas Vokoun the solution in Toronto? Let’s review his resume..
Though Vokoun was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1994, his career never really began until 1998, when he was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the NHL Expansion Draft. Even then, he only played backup to Mark Dunham until a trade sent Dunham to the New York Rangers in 2002, leaving Vokoun the starting job in Nashville. In 2004, he led the Preds to their first ever playoff berth and earned a trip to the NHL All-Star Game. He registered the first ever franchise playoff shutout, stopping 41 shots. Though they lost in just six games to the Red Wings, they gave the front-runners a run for their money.. led by Tomas Vokoun. In fact, following the NHL lockout in 2005, Vokoun became a Predator fan favourite and would be routinely rewarded with “VOO-KOOON” chants after every save. He brought an excitement and that image of a saviour to the city of Nashville. The Preds would have back-to-back 100+ point seasons, before dealing Vokoun to the Florida Panthers after their 2007 playoff exit.
In Florida, Vokoun walked into a helpless situation and still earned his spot in the 2008 All-Star Game, finishing the season with a winning record on a terrible team. In fact, he finished the following season with a winning record as well. Remarkably, Vokoun finished every NHL season with a save percentage higher than .900 and a goals against average of less than 3.
His statistics speak for themselves, and don’t overlook his outstanding GAA for the Czech Republic in the 2010 Olympics and World Championships:
Why all the extensive background on Tomas Vokoun, you ask? Just look at the respective teams he played for. He stepped into two foggy situations with young teams, that were not playoff teams by any means, and led the Predators to 3 consecutive playoff appearances. Is anybody else drawing any similarities between the Preds then and the Leafs now?
Along with an incredible track record, his low price makes Vokoun a nearly risk-free option for the Leafs. He was signed for $1.5 million on a one year deal in Washington. Yes, he may be a little injury prone, but his intangible leadership and experience qualities would greatly effect the players, notably the goaltenders, in the locker room.
For those who don’t believe that Toronto is an appetizing destination for Vokoun, it was reported that a day before he signed with the Capitals last summer, a representative of Tomas’ contacted the Leafs and inquired about their interest in him. The Leafs declined, but this report confirms his desire to play in Toronto, despite the situation he would enter.
At age 35, turning 36 this July, Tomas Vokoun is an ideal short term fix and long term solution, in terms of working with two very young and capable netminders in Ben Scrivens and James Reimer. I believe Vokoun gets us into the postseason and gets the Leafs to that next level of competition. Yes we have seen flashes of brightness in the past two seasons, but never at a consistent pace that lasts the length of a season.
Long story short, goaltending is the answer to consistency and Vokoun is the answer to the goaltending in Toronto.