I wanted to write this yesterday but I came down with a bad case of strep throat coupled with a decent fever...ugh...oh well, it gives me a day or two off work at least!
TSN recently polled website visitors regarding who they thought should be named "Comeback Player of the Year". The choices were Alex Kovalev, Jose Theodore and someone else (forgive me for not remembering). Perhaps not surprisingly, Kovalev was chosen as the the favorite. Let's look a little deeper at this though.
Here are Kovy's numbers for the last two years:
06-07 - 73GP, 18G, 29A, 47P, -19 +/-
07-08 - 71GP, 30G, 43A, 73P, +12 +/-
That is, by all accounts, a remarkable turnaround, especially playing in a tough media-centric city like Montreal. Kudos to Alex for really stepping up this year and providing leadership to the Habs' young guns.
Now, I certainly do not wish to take anything away from Alex's stats this years, but let's be honest, it is probably easier for a former top-line forward (still playing on the top line most nights) to make a turnaround like this than it is for a former-#1 goalie struggling massively with confidence issues. Well, at least from where I sit it is.
As everyone remembers, Theodore had a fairly bad go last year. He only played in 33 games, going 13-15-1 with a 3.26GAA and a save % of .891. This year, he has proven to be a number one goalie again, albeit from January 1 onward. From the new-year until now, Theo has been one of the hottest goalies in the league. He has gone 16-10-1 with a 1.96 GAA and a .915 SV %. Over this span, his GAA is third only to Marty Brodeur and JS Giguere. Looking at the current teams in the playoffs this year, Theo ranks 8th among all 16 starting goalies (if you choose just one of Detroit's goalies) in goals against with an average of 2.36. Not bad for the former Propecia-ridden gossip-magnet!
We should be cautiously optimistic about Theo's successes this year though. He is in the final year of his exorbitant contract and may be playing purely on this basis, though I tend to think he's made of more substance than that. Whether the team chooses to resign him or not, Jose has my vote for this year's "comeback player" award.
In other news, it seems that both Ryan Smyth and Ruslan Salei could suit-up tonight as the Avs welcome Edmonton into town. According to TSN, both players skated in a "scaled-down practice" yesterday, though they will most likely be game-time decisions. If I were the Avs, I would not take this team lightly either as they are 7-3-0 in their last 10.
As always, Go Avs Go!