Thursday, February 28, 2008

Working the Three Goalie System

As the dust settles from the Huet deal, it's starting to look more and more like this goaltender situation could be a problem. How big a problem and what repercussions it will have, on and off the ice, remains to be seen.

Looking at this move from both a GM standpoint and a hockey fan standpoint, bringing Huet in for a song was absolutely the right thing to do. You get a proven number one goalie with experience but also with lots of good years left, someone who can bridge the gap between the old guard and the new - and all for a second round pick in two years. You also shore up a position that, while solid recently, has had peaks and valleys this season and could be a weak spot heading into the postseason.

And, if they can work it right, this move gives the Caps a lot of options. If one guys falters there's someone else to pick up the slack, and if that guy falters there's still someone else in the wings to come in and clean up. It's a luxury a lot of teams don't have - actually it's one that no teams have, and you have to think that it will push all three goalies to play at their best. We've already seen how Olie responded on Tuesday, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a stellar performance that coupled with Laich's offensive explosion gave the Caps a huge two points. If that's how he responds the rest of the way, things could be very promising for this team down the stretch.

But while both Olie and Johnny remain just as classy as ever, there are rumblings. Johnson is frustrated (and understandably so), coming in just at the end of practice today for a bit of ice time and conceivably manning the stands for at least the near future. Kolzig's agent is reportedly unhappy that the Caps brought in another number one goalie. The coach doesn't seem to be completely on board with the idea of a three-man rotation, although like the others he's being professional in airing his concern.

It is confusing why McPhee would choose not to move one of the other two guys, particularly Johnson. If he's not going to play here there had to be another team in need of a solid backup who is having his best season in quite a few years - and keeping him here isn't going to do Johnson any favors. He's not going to get to play much if at all, no matter how much McPhee and others may assure fans and the media that three goalies is a workable situation.

There's no question that Kolzig and Johnson will both handle this with professionalism. Neither is going to snub Huet; after all, it's not his fault he's here and that's not their way even if it was. Neither is going to pout and complain. Olie has said he would do everything he could to make Huet comfortable and Johnson made a point of saying that he would continue to be a positive presence in the locker room.

But what about the psychological impact, the confidence level? Whether the Caps were looking for a new number one goalie or not (and I don't believe they were), you have to think that both Johnson and Kolzig are feeling like the team has no confidence in them to take this team to the next level. It's something the team, the coaches and the management will have to work with down the stretch to avoid this becoming a poisonous situation.


Chris & Sarah said...

It's a dilemma no doubt. Johnny seems to think he's odd man out, but oddly enough, he's the only one with a contract come July. He's in a solid position in that respect, because you are not going to let him go without getting at least one of the other two signed first.

Thinking about it, I wonder if the situation came about because the deal for Huet was just too good to pass up, and thinking we could trade off one of the other two, GMGM went ahead, only to find no takers.

We'll all have to wait and see how this plays out. As you can tell by the various interviews, no one has a clue about what is going to happen, and not everyone seems to be completely sold on the concept.

Anonymous said...

Johnson won't get moved because no one knows what could be worked out for next season. Look at it this way:
Not only does Huet have to be resigned at a reasonable salary, Olie would have to resign at a reasonable salary as well. Olie is not going to signing for less than 1/2 his current salary. That means Huet would have to sign at his current salary (3 mil). Does Huet deserve a raise next year as a number one?

Is it realistic to think that Olie and Huet will do this? I just don't see GMGM investing more than 6.5 for a goalie tandem. Also, I don't think that both of them signing is doable. Both will dmand more than 3.5 mil per. Therefor, Johnson stays. GMGM would be a fool to let him go with one more year left. Johnson will be bored, but he is the long term backup answer.

D.C One Timer said...

At this point the ball is in Olie's court. I think GMGM will try to lock up Huet first ( if his play is good) then turn to Olie. If Olie stays 2 million and below, he stays as a backup. If Olie leaves town or retires, Johnny stays as a backup. If Olie stays, we obviously trade Johnny. But you are right that Johnny is just going to have to suffer the rest of the year. It's too bad but that's the way it is.

Biff said...

When you combine the fact that Olie has been the face of the franchise for all these years with the fact that he isn't as good as he was when he was said face, a situation like this was inevitable. There's no easy solution to the Kolzig situation. Trading him away or letting him sign elsewhere would be more of a PR disaster than it was with Bondra, but at the same time, they need a goalie like Huet to bridge the gap to Neuvirth/Varlamov/Machesney. There was never going to be an easy solution, and the way it is now is probably the best anybody could've hoped for to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I see no way that Olie signs for less than 3-3.5, quite frankly as the "face of the franchise" it would be a kick in the teeth to offer him less.

Olie will be asked to stay. The future of Huet in DC rests solely on the number Olie demands. If asks to too much, next year will be Huet and Johnson. If he takes a 3 mil pay cut, say goodbye to Huet. That money will be moved to bolster the defense.

I hope like hell I am wrong, but I see no way to keep Olie and Huet.

Also, enjoy Federov while we can, I just resalized how much he was paid over the last 3 years. Not a chance he stays, not with Nylanders 4 year deal. Thank god he didn't cost anything (relatively speaking).

dmg said...

If Huet re-signs, Olie's not getting more than 1.5 million. More than that would be way too much to pay a back up.

The comments from Olie's agent were interesting - I know he's a spin doctor but to say the Capitals didn't need to bring in another goalie just defies all logic when the starter is last in the league in save percentage.

It is unfortunate the way this season has played out for Olie, but I think his problem isn't his overall skill per se, but his age. When Boudreau was riding Olie in December and January his save percentage was ~.860; in February, since going to the 60/40 split, Kolzig has played well. He's fine as long as he doesn't have to play the bulk of the games.

Christopher said...

With the trade, the Caps went from having the statistically worst goaltender in the division/conference/league (in terms of Save %) to having the best in the division, the fifth best in the conference and 11th overall in the league.

Before every game this year (except when we played Tampa Bay), if one were to have compared goaltending head to head, the Caps would have been inferior every time. Now, there are only a handful of teams that have a superior goalie, and none of them are in our division.

Imagine for a moment all the upcoming games against Florida, Atlanta and Carolina. Imagine walking into the VC, or turning on the game and knowing beforehand that there is a better than even chance that our goalie will outplay his opposite. Imagine not cringing and holding your breath on routine shots.

The play of our goaltenders has essentially put the Caps in a hole prior to every game. The Caps almost HAVE to score 2 goals to even earn a point. After this trade, at least statistically, the Caps will begin every divisional game with an advantage in net.

This trade is a huge paradigm shift for the Caps and massively increases their chances of making the playoffs. It doesn't matter if Boudreau has to do backflips to manage three goalies. If Johnson has to sit, so be it. If Kolzig wants to be upset, or if his agent wants to voice his displeasure, that's fine. Both of those things are superior to the Caps playing golf rather than hockey in April.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

My views on this are already on mu blog but my prediction for 2008-2009 Caps goaltending:
#1 Goalie Huet at a Salary of 4-4.5M/year;
# 2 Goalie: Johnson at 1.5M
Kolzig retires from play and has a position in the office as well as a lot of adoring accolades.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like the mostly likely scenario, if Huet decides that DC is a place he'd like to play.