Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kolzig The Baby

As much as I hate to bash the Capitals netminder of over a century (not that much though considering the title), Kolzig's absence at the end of year team meeting was less then classy. Even though his peers might show publicly otherwise, showing up early to clear his locker, leaving before the bulk of the team arrives, and skipping the mandatory meeting all sounds like the actions of a bitter person. But Olaf Kolzig never did hide his emotions very well.

He was never comfortable when Glen Hanlon left. He was called out by the new coach that never coached a day in the NHL, suddenly his workload was much more and the back up, Brent Johnson, was getting better numbers. Kolzig was caught in a situation where he wasn't "the man" anymore.

Kolzig was entitled to that starting position, after all that he did for the organization. But, to be honest, all he did was lose for the last 5 years. Everyone assumed is numbers dropped because of the what was in front of him, a young inexperienced defensive core. But with Johnson performing better, it made it hard to justify what was going on with him.

Then the biggest insult. On the last year of his contract, a contract he signed knowing full well they may not get to the playoffs for another two years beyond it, they traded a pick for a goaltender with better numbers. Three's Company.

Kolzig improved when the trade happened, he's no dummy, he had to. He knew he would be sharing time with Huet and if he didn't produce he would sit. He was doing alright, he raised his goals against average up almost a full percentage point. He was big in net, just like the old days. There was always a part of me though that saw him try too hard, his competitive spirit was getting in the way of getting the job done. When an opponent scored against him, his negative attitude radiated amongst the team.

That's when Chicago happened. 5-0. It was the nail in the coffin. He couldn't compete with Huet's goal a game. He just let 5 goals past, and 3 of them seemed soft. Kolzig never got another start in net. Not that the fans or the coaches or management wanted it to end that way.

Removing the nameplate, walking out of the building silent and just going home. That was his response to an incredible Capitals' season. I am sure if he had talk to reporters, what he had to say couldn't be repeated in civilized conversation. He's upset, hurt, and bitter.

But what he fails to realize is the fans still love him. There were more Kolzig jerseys at game seven than Huet. There was more sympathy for him in this town, Kolzig was still King. He earned 300 wins here. He still wears the C even if the league won't let him sew it on. His actions after the season were a bit self centered and immature. But, truthfully, would we want Kolzig to be any other way?

Some other news and notes:
  • Nicklas Backstrom was the only non-Blackhawk nominated for the Calder. He should get it, doesn't mean he will.
  • Ratings for Game 7 were through the roof. Even talk of the Caps fans having more of pulse than Wizards fans. I thought I would never see the day. Still pisses me off though that Redskins Radio is still taking up an hour on CSN when they have zero to talk about. One can only listen to talk of Chad Johnson so much. He's not leaving Cincy!
  • Bruce Boudreau was given a contract extension to be the Capitals' coach for a very long time. He is looking at houses in Maryland.
  • Uncle Ted was probably the most inconsolable following the Game 7 loss. I heard fans cheered for him as he made his way to the locker room following the end of the game, he looked "very emotional." Aw.
  • There was a very upset boy in our row following the game and all attempts to cheer him up were going south until one fan knelt to him and told him to cheer up. "If you are going to be a Caps fan, you are going to have a lot of days like these." Priceless.


Natty Bumpo said...

In general, I like your post-- both thoughtful and provocative.

But it seems much of this is speculation on the part of fans. For all we know, the final meeting is 100% administrative and concerning prep for next year. Moreover, Kolzig may have cleared his absence ahead of time with either the coach or management. And if Kolzig plans on walking away, he truly wasn't needed. During the final regular season run and into the playoffs, we only heard from Kolzig (1) after the team won games, when you could see him running out on the ice with a big smile, congratulating Huet and his teammates, and (2) when talk surfaced that he made a motivational speech to the team after one of the playoff losses.

It seems to me that Kolzig handled the entire situation like a professional, and continued to fulfill his role on the team as a locker room leader, long after his last game between the pipes.

I don't know the full circumstances of course, but neither does any one else outside the team. I just think a no-show at one meeting does not necessarily indicate a lack of class...and his time here over the years should be testimony that he is anything but classless.

Natty Bumpo said...

Literally found this just a second after I posted, per Tarik's blog:

"First, Kolzig said he doesn't want to give any interviews for a few days as he collects his thoughts. He said he obviously has some decisions to make and will talk soon.

Second, he also said he didn't remove his nameplate from his locker stall at Verizon Center out of anger. He acknowledged that the Caps' Game 7 loss to Philly could 'possibly' have been his last game in Washington, so he wanted to take the nameplate as a memento. He plans to frame it with a jersey.

'It had nothing to do with not playing or pouting,' Kolzig said in the message. 'I was real proud of the way the guys played. I thought there was going to be destiny with the way the last two weeks went. So I was probably as disappointed as anybody.'"

Doesn't speak to all your points, but at least shows his mindset in removing the nameplate. Again, just speaking personally here, but I don't blame him for needing to step away for a few days before addressing the media about his future, especially since he was so focused on the playoff run that had literally ended minutes earlier.

Is it also possible that merely attending the final meeting would have left him in the locker room forced to face questions (or forced to give a "no comment" which might have upset fans, also)? Sneaking out and holding court with the press a few days later doesn't seem like the worst course of action to choose.

Garrett said...

Thanks Natty for the heads up on Tarik's blog, I just saw it too. As always it's hard to speculate and what looks like being bitter may be something different all together.

Kolzig has been a professional first and foremost, it's just his latest actions just sort of raised a few eyebrows.

I never claim to know what the real stories are, but just reacting to what's going on. Just like my wife likes to point out, I am not always right.

lorne young said...

My son cried after the end of game 7. He is six years old and he cried hard. When I reminded him that we had season tickets for next season too, then he was almost okay. He just asked me if the only thing left to do was go to Orioles games. I told him we'd find something to do until September. Go to the park and play and such. Then he stopped crying. He will be upset if Huet leaves too, but happy to see Johnson back. Johnny was alway kidn to my son at the practices.

Garrett said...

That is a funny story. Kids wear their emotions on their sleeves, that is for sure. I am sure all of that will wash away when Training Camp starts back up in August.