Washington Capitals: 4 Reasons Braden Holtby Needs a Veteran Backup

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2012

Washington Capitals: 4 Reasons Braden Holtby Needs a Veteran Backup

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    Braden Holtby had his second stint as goalie with the Washington Capitals last season and had a solid but unspectacular 2.50 GAA with a .922 SV% and a 4-2-1 record.  His numbers were actually better during the previous season, in twice as many games. 

    But due to injuries to both Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, Holtby won the starting job for the 2012 playoffs almost by default.  And all he did was quickly become one of the best stories of the postseason.  He started all 14 playoff games for the Caps and finished with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 SV%. 

    He outdueled Boston Bruins goalie and 2010-11 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas and held his own against New York Rangers goalie and 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. 

    Holtby's sparkling spring earned him the starting job for the Capitals during the 2012-13 season.  And here are four reasons why the 22-year-old needs a veteran goalie backing him up.

4. Add a Voice of Experience

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    Braden Holtby may have impressed in the playoffs last season, but it doesn't change this reality: The Saskatchewan native has only played 35 games as a goalie in the NHL and 14 of those games were in the postseason. 

    Holtby needs a veteran goalie backing him up to help complete his NHL education.  A career backup like Ty Conklin (pictured) would be perfect for the job.  The 36-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska has played for six different teams in his nine-year career.  Plus, he would be a bargain, as his 2011-12 contract paid him $750,000. 

    Conklin could help Holtby deal with the grind of a full regular season, teach him the tendencies of shooters around the league and cope with a possible slump.  And he would be competent enough to fill in for Holtby on his off days. 

    For his career, Conklin has played in 215 games with a .906 SV% and a 2.69 GAA. 

3. Avoid Controversy

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    The Capitals don't want a perpetual goalie controversy. 

    The team wants to settle on one goalie once and for all, no matter how young he is, and ride him through the regular season and into the postseason. 

    The Capitals have chosen Braden Holtby over Michal Neuvirth (pictured), but now they need to eliminate unnecessary distractions.  Neuvirth has already stirred the pot this summer by saying Braden Holtby is the "weakest competition" he has ever faced for the Washington Capitals starting job. 

    The Capitals need to acquire a veteran goaltender who will toe the company line and not bring attention to himself or the goaltending situation. 

2. Eliminate Competition

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    The constant debate about "Who's our No. 1 goalie?" can be a huge distraction to a team. 

    The best way to remove it is to remove the goalie competition. 

    The job belongs to Braden Holtby.

    End of discussion. 

    This decision will help the Capitals coaches and players, but it will especially help Holtby. 

    Now Braden will be able to relax, focus and concentrate on winning.  He will no longer have to worry about his job security if he has a bad game.  As a result, Holtby can finally blossom into the elite goaltender he is capable of becoming. 

    But unfortunately, as long as Neuvirth is a member of the Washington Capitals, he will always be in the discussion for the No. 1 goalie position. 

1. To Trade Michal Neuvirth

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    With Holtby being backed up by a veteran goaltender, Neuvirth would be expendable. 

    But Neuvirth is a quality goaltender in his own right and can compete for a starting job.  In 108 games, he is 51-30-9 with a 2.65 GAA and a .909 SV%.  In nine postseason games, Neuvirth is 4-5 with a 2.34 GAA and a .912 SV%. 

    The Capitals can take advantage of Neuvirth's intrinsic value to acquire a player or two to fill a need, such as a stay-at-home defender, an enforcer or a face-off specialist. 

    With such a trade, Michal Neuvirth can be the goalie-of-the-future for another team. 

    And Holtby can be the goalie of the present for the Washington Capitals.