Dec 5, 2011, 1:22 PM EDT
Prior to getting fired, Bruce Boudreau made a number of contentious lineup decisions for the Washington Capitals.
Seems like Dale Hunter’s picked up where Boudreau left off.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post reports the Caps will start Michal Neuvirth in goal tonight against the Florida Panthers — a curious move, because it prevents Tomas Vokoun from facing his former team.
“I’m a paid employee and I don’t make those kinds of decisions.” Vokoun said. “I’m a hockey player and I’m here to play games.”
Pretty pointed statement from Vokoun, who sounds like he really wanted this start. Why? Well, the history between Florida and Vokoun isn’t quite tabloid material…but it was certainly acrimonious at the end.
Vokoun spent four seasons in Miami before heading to free agency, confident a big deal was on the horizon — and that’s when the problems started. Florida GM Dale Tallon held firm with his offer (believed to be $3 million annually), Vokoun opted to test the market, Tallon warned he was close to signing Jose Theodore, Vokoun continued to roll the dice and when no solid deal materialized, he signed a one-year, $1.5-million bargain with Washington.
How badly did Vokoun’s camp botch things?
“There were even rumors that Vokoun’s people came back to Florida after the Theodore signing,” George Richards of the Miami Herald wrote. “[But] the Panthers said they had already moved on.”
“The money side, it’s not great, but I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” Vokoun said upon signing with Washington. “Obviously it was disappointing day for me on July 1. For whatever reason I was in a bad spot, and Washington came in.”
As for tonight’s game, Hunter didn’t offer up much as to why he chose Neuvirth over Vokoun. “It’s just a choice, there’s not much to explain,” he told El-Bashir. “[We] thought it was a good way to go.”
Though it’s still early, Vokoun’s time in Washington hasn’t been great. He’s posted pedestrian numbers and appeared irate on a couple of occasions (he wasn’t happy about sitting in the season opener) and now he’s sitting for one of the bigger games of the season. The Caps are five points back of Florida in the Southeast, a division Washington has won four years on the trot.
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