Boudreau: Theodore's My Man

Varlamov to start on the bench -- for now

By Chris Needham
|  Thursday, Aug 13, 2009  |  Updated 1:01 PM EDT
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Theodore's back! Everyone's excited, right?

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If you went out and bought a Semyon "Don't Call Me Simeon" Varlamov jersey in hopes of wearing it opening night, well, you better have saved your receipt.  Bruce Boudreau said that Jose "Don't Call Me Alvin or Simon" Theodore is the team's No. 1 goalie heading into next season.

So much for that playoff run, eh?

At a presser today, Gabby said:

"Right now Jose is the No. 1 guy and the other two young men [Varly and Mickey Neuvirth] have got to come in and play the way they did last year and try to push him out. Jose won 33 games for us last year, and like the year before when Cristobal Huet got hot down the stretch, Varly came in and did a great job where we just couldn't take him out.

"But that was 13 games. It doesn't make up for 12 years of experience. I've seen an awful lot of goalies come in at a young age and go into a slump for a year or two. I think Jose has earned and deserves the right [to be] the No. 1 guy."

That's certainly frustrating to hear for Caps fans who were hoping the kid would carry the team on his back, as he did in so many of those playoff games last season.

But in some ways, it's demonstrating what makes Bruce such a good coach.

Were he to come out at this point in the season and say that Varly was his guy, he'd risk losing Theo.  Like it or not, he's going to be here, and he's being paid starting goalie money.  That doesn't mean that that's an entitlement to start, but it means he should receive consideration.

And although he had some shaky streaks, Theodore, as Bruce points out, did have a pretty successful regular season for the Caps.  And with the team's concern about Varlamov's conditioning and endurance, having two strong, mentally focused goalies is important.

Saying this now also knocks Varlamov down a peg.  That's a good thing.  It tells him that he's going to have to earn it.  For all the huge saves he made last spring, he also let in a few clunkers.  The job isn't just his to waltz right into; if he wants it, he'll have to earn it.

That's not to say that the team doesn't want him to win the job.  As evidence of that, the Caps announced the hiring of former goalie Arturs Irbe as the new goalie coach.  Caps Insider says that "[p]art of the reason Irbe was hired, according to GM George McPhee, was because he speaks Russian and will be able better convey the nuances of a complicated position to Varlamov, whose English is still spotty."

So for now, Theodore's the number one.  But he was also the number one at the start of the playoffs last year.  In hockey -- especially in net -- things are never static.  And there's no reason to expect anything different here.

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