- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2008

When the Montreal Canadiens drafted Jose Theodore, the franchise was barely more than a year removed from claiming the Stanley Cup with the winningest goaltender in NHL history.

When Theodore was traded from Montreal to Colorado, it was a fresh start - but he went to a franchise that was trying to find a long-term replacement for the same player.

Theodore has made a career of following the local hero in net, so taking over for Olie Kolzig isn’t likely to be an issue.

“When I was drafted in Montreal, they had Patrick Roy,” Theodore said. “When I went to Denver, they had Patrick there too. I am used to it. I am not trying to replace Olie. He is a Hall of Fame goaltender, and he did so much here both on and off the ice.”

The Washington Capitals thought they already had Kolzig’s heir. When they traded for Cristobal Huet last season and he started the final 14 games (including the playoffs), retaining the pending free agent became a top priority.

But Huet signed a contract with Chicago too rich and too long for Washington’s liking. Quickly, the Caps turned to Theodore, the only other established No. 1 netminder available as an unrestricted free agent, and signed him to a two-year pact.

Theodore had a strong comeback season last year for the Avalanche, leading Colorado to the second round of the playoffs. But his play in years previous had been erratic; far below the form he showed when he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2003.

“Once you play at as high of a level as he’s played at in his career, I have a belief that your talent doesn’t evaporate. You sometimes lose your way,” Caps goaltending coach Dave Prior said. “I’ve been impressed with his work ethic and professionalism. I like the way he plays the position. He’s not a big goaltender, but I’ve worked with less-than-huge guys before. Olie was a big man, but I’ve coached Artus Irbe as well. What he lacks in size he makes up for it with quickness and mobility. We’re looking for big things from him.”

Theodore credited Jeff Hackett, his goaltending coach in Colorado, for helping him rediscover his game.

“[Hackett] played with me in Montreal, and he saw me when I was at my best,” Theodore said. “I think he wouldn’t let me settle for being anything less than that, so he pushed me to be my best and that gave me a lot of confidence.”

When Theodore decided to move to the area early this summer to help gain familiarity with his surroundings and his new teammates, fellow goaltender Brent Johnson was one of his first teammates to offer guidance. The pair also played golf together, including a spirited matched that pitted them against members of the coaching staff.

“I think as goaltenders, most of us tend to stick together. He’s a good guy, and we’ve gotten along well,” Johnson said. “Olie was a little tough to crack at first, but I think it was because he had been here so long. After a while, we became really close.”

As the only new member of the organization, Theodore will have to endure scrutiny this season. But toss in the position he plays and the great expectations for the franchise, and Theodore could be the linchpin for success or the scapegoat for failure.

Being a goaltender in places like Montreal and Colorado, Theodore knows all about that type of pressure. He also knows what the intense media scrutiny was like with the Canadiens - both on and off the ice - and is looking forward to settling in and being comfortable in the District.

“I think it is similar to Denver. The fans appreciate you and support you, but you can also live your life,” Theodore said. “My wife and daughter have moved here with me, and they are going to be with me all year. We are in a great neighborhood, and we are very happy with it so far.”

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