Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Say It Ain't So Indeed

Photo courtesy of
A lot of the talk about the Caps this season has revolved around the goaltending. Kolzig has had an up and down season and Brent Johnson has played well but had battled injuries and the life of a backup to get into the game.

And it's goaltending that tempers our giddiness over a sweep of the first place Sens this morning, with a piece by Post columnist Mike Wise about Kolzig - and the possibility that he may hang up the pads for good.

There's a lot of frustration woven throughout the story, with Kolzig sounding...tired. Uncertain. Annoyed. Vocal about the coach's decision to yank him on Sunday and to bench him last night, although as a veteran Olie should know that the former was more likely to jolt the team and the latter was because he's 37 and had played eleven straight games. Nevertheless there's a hint of resentment in Olie's candor, a little concern that maybe he's not being treated as well as he should be by this organization that he has at times held together all by himself.

You know, as someone who has watched Olie go from gawky draft pick to minor league callup to backup to Vezina trophy winner and beyond, the thought of Olie not being in net even in a reduced role is painful. We were supposed to have two more years. He said he would play until he was forty; we were supposed to have two more years.

We all can admit that Olie has not been himself this year, although we still see flashes of it from time to time. His lateral movement isn't as fast as it used to be; his fivehole is left open a split second too long. He doesn't have the rebound control that he once had. Even the most notorious Olie-apologist can see that he's not where he once was.

Still, while his numbers haven't been that pretty this season it's hard to say that he's not someone we still trust night in and night out to make the big saves. Give him more nights off. Split the load between him and Johnson. Do what it takes to show we still have faith in him. Maybe it's pure nostalgia that doesn't want to let him go, but it's just not time for Zilla to not be there for us - not now, when the team is finally starting to gel in front of him.

In Wise's piece Olie laments about the loss of Hanlon, who as he says "finally had a team he deserved". The same can be said for Kolzig - what Caps fan wouldn't want to see this team get to the show, just one more time, for Olie? This is a guy who, in his prime, dismissed talk that he would leave the Caps for a "contender", vowing to stay in the nation's capital through the tough times. Nothing is a sure bet, he said, and if he was going to win a Cup he wanted it to be with the Caps; if not, c'est la vie.

That's a guy you want to keep. That's a player you need on your team, even in a reduced role. That's someone you don't let go. Someone who has been the face, the heart, the soul, the voice and the backbone of this organization. That's a guy you hang on to as long as possible.

Say it ain't so, Olie...say it ain't so.


DMG said...

Still, while his numbers haven't been that pretty this season it's hard to say that he's not someone we still trust night in and night out to make the big saves.

I'd have to disagree there. Kolzig's save percentage is 42 out of 44 NHL goalies and he's got so many holes he can't fix - his five hole, his lack of lateral movement, that the comes out way too far a lot of the time to challenge shooters, that he doesn't control rebounds well and while they're sitting out he seems to sit, frozen and prone, letting the other team get a clear view of the puck and a clear path to the net, he's poor on breakaways and odd man rushes (including the shootout)

I can't speak for all Capitals fans, but with all these problems on most nights my heart skips a beat every time the other team has a shot because even if Kolzig stops it there's a good chance there will be a rebound there for a tap in.

To me, Olie simply isn't good enough to be an NHL starter anymore. Were he willing to accept a backup role, I'd love to have him on the team because I think he is good enough to play that role and his presence in the locker room would be a positive influence. But I just don't think the Capitals are going to be able to contend with one of the league's worst statistical goalies, especially one who is only getting older.

CapsChick said...

You and I will have to agree to disagree on this, I think - as usual ;)

I just don't put a whole lot of stock in numbers, at least not when it comes to a goalie on a team like this. There are too many factors that go into whether a goalie has a good save percentage or not, a good GAA or not - look at the 8-6 Caps win a few weeks ago. Olie's save % was below .800 that game and yet I thought he was great.

As for coming out to challenge shooters, I've never had an issue with that - he's always done that. He's a big goalie and when he comes out to challenge he cuts down on the shooter's view of the net.

Does he have some holes? Absolutely. He's slowing down and he's the first to admit it. But I still have confidence that more often than not he can make the big save, whereas with Johnny (who I also love and will defend) I get a little more nervous. Of course just like you can't speak for all fans, neither can I - but I don't think Olie is as bad as people want to think he is.

DrCapsFan said...

Hey, I know that Olie has been a bit shaky as of late. However, I have to support the guy. He stuck with the Capitals despite the fact they have been the league's doormat for the last 4 years. He has shown nothing but loyalty to the organization that drafted him.

Glen Hanlon was a goaltender in his playing days and had a certain kinship with Godzilla. Once, Hanlon stopped practice to get on the team about high shots right after #37 took one off the mask. Of course, Olie was upset when Glen left.

I think Olie needs some more support. He needs to have his starts less frequent. Since Boudreau came aboard, he has started Kolzig 21 of 23 games. At that pace, #37 would start about 70 games if it was all year. That is WAY too much for him. Johnny needs to provide some support over the next few weeks and get OLie some rest.

There are some good prospects between the pipes the Caps have. Let's not rush them up too fast. Develop them right.

Most Capitals fans would welcome the number 37 being raised to the rafters next to 7,5, and 32. Let's not sour his last few years here. We need to respect him as he has respected the Capitals organization and the DC area.

Teebz said...

Good piece on Kolzig. The guy is a lifer as a Capital, and deserves to be treated as well as Rod Langway was.

Victor said...

Nicely thought out, CC. From reading the article, I get the feeling Olie is just stating a fact and weighing his options. I strongly suspect Olie is considering what's best for the team, as well as himself, in his calculations

But let's not talk about retiring his number just yet, folks. IMO, there's one more number in front of his that should be retired first.

nic said...

I was in hockey exile from '91 to '93, but when I got home I remember hearing through the grapevine that Rod wasn't thrilled with the way his career ended here. I hope that isn't true, but in case, I'd rather see the Caps treat Olie better.

The Wise column has me seriously depressed. I've thought for seasons that Olie is the facto captain of the team, and should have an integral role in training his successor.

If he ends up with another team, or unceremoniously put out to pasture by this, I don't even want to go there in my imagination.

Chris said...

As a relative newcomer to the Caps, I have to respect Olie as a goaltender and what he has given to this franchise and this city. That said, Johnson is the better goalie right now. If that is because Olie has been playing too much without a break, let him go out and prove that tomorrow night.

Veterans deserve the respect of the teams they have played for -- in this case the teams they have carried. But at a position as critical as goaltender, it is very hard to expect a Caps team that is (arguably) still in the playoff hunt, to let sentimentality determine their roster decisions.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

Caps Chick - I agree Olie is a Class Act and deserves to be treated as such. He also is still a fair goalie. Too much is being madfe of his lack of lateral movement and not enough of the many times it's visible because the D corps lets folks skate across the front of the low slot, where the shooter has the best advantage and the goalie the hardest save. Truth be known Olie and Johniie both hold their own and generally when thedeciding factor in the games this season, either way, hasn't been goaltending. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!

DMG said...

I really doubt Kolzig will ever wear another uniform because, frankly, I don't know who would want him (at least in the role he would want to play if he left D.C.)

I can't think of a single NHL team that doesn't have, right now, at least one goalie who's better than Kolzig or who they'd give a chance ahead of Kolzig; given that plus the fact Olie's having a bad season if you watch the games and a terrible one statistically, who'd want him as a starting goaltender?

DrCapsFan said...

But let's not talk about retiring his number just yet, folks. IMO, there's one more number in front of his that should be retired first.

I do not disagree that #12 belongs in the rafters.

However, I do think Kolzig has meant at least as much to the Capitals as Yvon Labre did.