The Nashville Predators bid adieu to a boatload of quality players last summer, but it says here they’d still be afloat had they decided to keep just one of those departed men: goalie Tomas Vokoun.
The Preds have the depth to absorb the loss of Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. But without Vokoun, they simply cannot survive in an ultra-competitive West. Hence, the only team they were looking down at in their conference as play resumed after the holiday break was the L.A. Kings.
Obviously the team was hoping Chris Mason’s strong play last year was an indication he was ready to be the front man in Music City. But his .893 save percentage this season, along with his 3.02 goals-against average, suggest he’s more suited to a shadowy, bass player-type role.
Meanwhile, Florida fans who used to wake up in the middle of the night, thrashing around their sweaty beds yelping, “Roberto, Roberto, come back!” must feel like they’ve been tranquilized watching Vokoun in goal after a season of Alex Auld and Ed Belfour.
The 31-year-old Czech has Florida one point out of a playoff spot while sporting a .922 save percentage and three goose eggs. Most importantly, he has Cats’ players and coaches spouting the most complimentary cliché in the realm of goaltending: “He gives us a chance to win every night.”
Had Nashville hung on to Vokoun, they would be in the thick of the post-season race and the kind of hard-working club no team would be crazy about facing come playoff time.
As it stands, the Preds can probably start thinking about unloading more players at the trade deadline, while Vokoun is in position to do the one thing Luongo never could: get Florida in the playoffs.
NOTHING NEW FOR JERSEY
The consistency of the New Jersey Devils is starting to make death and taxes look down right volatile by comparison.
Less talent, new coach, same result.
Both the Rangers and Penguins seemed like safe bets to end the Devils’ Atlantic domination, but when the holiday hiatus hit, nobody was closer than five points behind the New Jersey Nobodies (ok, ok, that’s a little harsh) who just know how to win.
Heck, the team’s most talented forward, Patrik Elias, is having a rough season, yet the Devils keep collecting points.
Zach Parise, 23, is a point-a-game player, Jamie Langenbrunner could be playing the best hockey of his life at 32 and Martin Brodeur still wins a lot of votes in the old debate that goes: “If you had to play one game for everything you own, who would you want in goal?”
And setting the tone for all of this is a GM who truly puts the Lou in “I hate losing.”
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