Saturday, May 10, 2008

Old News: Kolzig Leaving Capitals; Commentary: Irrational Reactions

It's old news to DC Hockey Fas by this morning, longtime Capitals Starting Goalie Olaf Kolzig, has announced he will not return to the Washington Capitals. Kolzig made this pronouncement in his first big interview with the press since the Caps season ending game 7 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in round one of the NHL Playoffs. Kolzig was speaking on Thursday with Washington Post Hockey Beat writer Tarik El-Bashir, who reported the conversation in an article published in yesterday's Post. The news was somewhat anti-climatic and expected, at this year's trade deadline the Caps picked up a second starting net-minder, Christbel Huet, from the Montreal Canadeans and Huet started in net for the Caps in their final 7 regular season games, as well as all 7 of their playoff games, even though Kolzig was healthy. Somewhat surprising to me though have been some, the small minority, of the reactions and comments being posted in response to the publishing of the news as it makes the rounds of the "blogsphere".
To be sure, those fans who inhabit the blogsphere, whether blog writers, or regular readers who submit comments, are the more passionate and opinionated fans so while the fact they possess strong opinions is not, in itself surprising, some of the opinions on this subject are puzzling. Here's some "factoids" about Kolzig's career, even though it has been and will be reported upon in far greater depth elsewhere.

- Kolzig was a first round draft pick by the Capitals in 1989 and since then has played 711 games and captured 301 wins.

- He has been the face of the team for over a decade and their undisputed number 1 goalie since the 1997-1998 season.

- He first made the NHL All Star Team in 1999 - 2000; that same year he also won the NHL's Veznia Trophy as the league's outstanding goaltender.

- He stayed with the Capitals Organization through thick and thin over the 17 seasons, even when he could have left and gone to a higher caliber team.

- Kolzig's 711 NHL games played put him # 20 on the NHL all time list for players in the "modern era" ; his 301 wins place him tied for 22nd on that same list. With 2 more 62 Game/25 Win seasons he would likely be 11th on the games played list (depending on how Hasek finishes out his career) and 17th on the all time wins list.

- Over the course of his career the Capitals have captured 58.8% of the available points in games he's played.

- Of the 18,o13 saves he's made throughout his career, many have thrilled and delighted DC's hockey fans. He's made those saves while allowing just 1,860 goals against for an overall Goals Against Average and Save Percentage of 2.70 GAA and SV of 0.907.

- It's very likely that given the choice the ultra-competitive "Olie the Goalie" would "like every one of those 1,860 goals against him back".

- He earned $10.9M in salary over the past two seasons as one of the Capitals' franchise players.

- This past season was far from Olaf Kolzig's best, however as he points out it probably wasn't as bad as some make it out to be. He garnered 25 wins in 54 starts and overall ranked as the 24th goalie in a league with 30 teams in an off year. He may still be capable of playing number 1 and even dominating, age isn't always that big a factor with goalies look at the all time list; look at Chris Osgood, etc. This past season Kolzig captured 52% of the available points in games played including the period between the start of the season and Thanksgiving when the Caps had a horrible stretch all around.

- Kolzig is part owner of the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans.

- Kolzig's generosity and humanitarian efforts in the community are well documented and real; he is and likely always will be a total class act; Washington area sports fans have been fortunate to have him as a role model for their kids for 17 years.

This writers thoughts and opinions on the subject of Olaf Kolzig apparently deciding he won't return to the Washington Capitals or they don't want him to do so.

- This is probably the right decision for Kolzig, the Caps absolutely did, through their actions after game 4 of the Flyers series, indicate their preference for Huet as the Goalie of choice at present. As a side note, since the Caps won game 5 it was the right tactical decision and if Huet is resigned by the Caps it will probably prove out to be the right strategic decision for the Caps as well.

- Seventeen years is a long career for a professional athlete in any sport. If Olie wants to continue to play so be it. If he wants to continue his playing career I hope he does and wish him the best but given the way the season ended for him here in DC a change of scenery is probably what he needs to rejuvenate himself.

- If Kolzig decides to retire as a player and it's possible I'd love to see him stay in the DC area, he is a class act and like Darrell Green he could use his fame and the affection the local fan base have for him to continue to help the worthy charitable causes he supports. As someone who has been the face of the Caps for over a decade, I'm sure the Caps management would be willing to give him the right kind of front office or hockey operations staff position that both would find rewarding. Leonsis and Lincoln Holdings are many things but not stupid.

- Everything to date indeed indicates Olie wants to try and play two or three more years as a starting NHL goalie and there are a couple teams that could use him. The style of play Coach Boudreau is pushing though would make that tougher.

- If Kolzig does retire after testing the free agency market and not liking what he sees the Caps Organization and Fan Base should react the way the Redskins did to Green's retirement and the Packers Organization has to Brett Farve's. While the Caps have never won a Cup (their sport's equivalent to the Super Bowl), looking at the overall body of work that is Olie Kolzig's playing career and off ice impact he's had in the DC area the last 17 years, I feel these are justifiable parallels.

- The last thing fans should do in reaction to Kolzig's announcement is react with scorn or glee. He's not "overpaid" nobody put a gun to anybody's head to get him his 5.45M last season and he earned it even considering the off season he had. His play after the coaching change was part of the team effort that recovered the Caps season. Reacting with glee and indicating he is anything other than one of the games better active players from an overall career perspective is just wrong and not borne out by the facts including the statistics. True he isn't in the top 5 all time but he IS IN the TOP 25 ALL TIME and that as they say "isn't shabby". Consider that for a lot of his career the Caps have been "building" or "re-building" and in context his overall body of work looks even better.

Good Luck Olie, we'll miss you. The jersey you and Johnnie signed for me last year will continue to be proudly displayed in my office for years to come.


1 comment:

rfkhogs said...

i enjoyed and appreciated everything you had to say about our beloved Godzilla. He is the reason i am a hockey fan. although it was obviously devastating to see him go, i cannot wait to see him return tomorrow. hopefully the phone booth will give him the respect he has earned...