As most of you have already heard, a “class act” Capital as everyone has described him, Brent Johnson has decided to move on after four years with Washington that saw him start only a little more than a full season’s worth of games. The arch-enemy Pittsburgh Penguins picked him up off the free agent goalie list at below market value of $525,000 on a one year deal as reported by www.capgeek.com.
This signing, while it may seem like the treachery of a fan favorite, is nothing more than the salary cap getting the best of a team near the ceiling.
Let’s face it though – we have better options in net. Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvrith will carry this team for years to come. Jose Theodore still had 32 wins in a campaign in which he played only 57 games behind a renowned lackluster defense. I am not a Theodore fan, but to have a former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner as backup on a team put up those stats as a starter one season ago isn’t a bad thing.
Johnson is a career backup, having only played as a regular starter for one season – 2001-02 with St. Louis – in which he started 58 games. While Caps fans really got on Theodore’s back this season for not performing to his highest standard in addition to inconsistencies, I don’t believe all the hate was warranted.
Like most of you, I try and watch the East as much as possible and only really like to watch the Detroits, Anaheims, and Chicagos of the West. So when Theodore was signed last year, I didn’t know much about how he was performing aside from his achievement of getting Colorado past a solid Minnesota club in the first round only to get viciously pelleted by the Wings in the second. I diagnose Colorado’s exit as “Detroit is Just Sick” syndrome.
I believe that when the news of Theodore coming to DC broke, most red-rockers were celebrating as if a messiah had come to save us from the god-awfulness in net achieved by one Olaf Kolzig. Oh yeah, I strongly disliked Olaf Kolzig (because my father taught me not to hate) as the Caps’ goalie from about 2003 onwards – I applauded him as a community Capital that gave back to the nation’s capital.
That thought brings me back to good ol’ Brent Johnson. We loved him as many had adored Olie for so many years. In my estimation, he deserved more playing time that Kolzig simply because he was the better goalie.
He was a good goalie and when the team was performing well over the last few years, he did too. So when I say ‘when the team was performing well,’ I mean that was pretty rare from 2005-2007. His only winning campaign as a Capital was last season when he went 12-6.
He was the nice guy though – so will he be missed? Damn right!
As most tend to believe, Johnson was one of the finest characters to have in the locker room. But then again, we have the most celebrated character in the NHL who just happens to bang in about 50 to 60 goals per season and around that number in assists to boot.
I know what you’re thinking now. Ovie’s only seen four fantastic individual seasons in his career, two of which saw his team dig into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and not achieve anything but two Southeast Division banners. The veteran class act that’s been acquired to replace the venerable Johnson is Mike Knuble, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
Knuble is looking to win a championship as a key member of his team for the first time in his career. Detroit’s glory days were not necessarily his own – he was on the bench during crucial moments in games and was scratched many times. The desire the ex-Flyer expressed to win a trophy as a key cog of this team trumps Johnson’s desire to start more than half a season and try to win a trophy if it’s in the cards.
Expect Knuble to hear the boo-birds when he returns to Philly twice in 2009-10. But that’s Philadelphia, home to a bunch of obnoxious and annoying people.
I once walked down a downtown Philadelphia street when a pregnant lady sitting on a bench asked for some change and when I declined, she thought that I was making fun of her because she was pregnant, thus making a huge scene on this downtown road.
In the District, we are by no means Southerners – but we do have a Southern courteous decency. So, please benevolently welcome Brent Johnson back to his home of four years when he comes to visit. When announcer Wes says anything close to resembling Pittsburgh or Penguins or both of those words together, sound off with all disgust in your body, but when he says Brent Johnson’s name I expect to hear nothing but applause.