First, two quick apologies. 1) Sorry I've been silent for some time. It's been a helluva busy start to the semester. 2) Sorry for the length of this post. I think lots needed to be said, and I certainly was not sparing in saying it. So grab a Red Bull or six and settle in.
Lots of talk lately about the goal-tending controversy in Detroit. Though, here, the word controversy isn't applied in the way it is for most franchises. Usually, a controversy means that there is some debate open to whether or not the backup will unseat the starter. In Detroit, it's clear James Howard is your man. The Chicago game last Sunday (God the Hawks are easier to hate when they don't suck) was Jimmy's twelfth straight start. I cannot remember the last time a Red Wing goalie went 12 in a row. At least in recent history, there's almost always been a 2 or 3:1 starting ratio. Sometimes you'd get six or seven deep, but that's about it. Clearly, Jimmy Howard is the starter.
Here, controversy means something much different. Most of the controversy surrounds the comments that Mr. Osgood has made in the press. He sure as hell doesn't appear to be holding back. I'm confident that most of you have seen these comments by now, but just for the hell of it, lets recap:
Before the Caps Game on Tues:
- "The Capitals are the highest-scoring team in the NHL. 'That’s quite a coincidence. Or maybe not,' Osgood said after the morning skate. 'We’ll see how it works out.'" Khan - Mlive
- "'At the start of the year, Howie (Jimmy Howard) didn’t play for about a month and then I didn’t play for a month,' Osgood said before Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. 'To me, that’s not a good way of doing things, to let one guy get stagnant'" Khan - Mlive
- "Asked if the loss is tougher to take because the team is desperate for points, Osgood said, 'I got him (Babcock) a lot of points. I got him to the (Stanley Cup) finals twice.'" Khan - Mlive
A few points before I continue:
- I don't like the fact that Ozzie has said these things in the media. I don't think that the best policy for a struggling goaltender is to berate the coach in the press.
- I don't know shit about hockey. I've clearly demonstrated that here on this blog. I certainly will never be as in-tune with the game as Babcock. Ever.
Chris Osgood is an absolutely integral part of the Wing's success in Gary "piss-ant" Bettman's post-cap NHL.
Yeah, that's what his mother called him. Also, you know what? I'll do you one better. Ozzie is one of THE MOST integral parts of the Wings' success since the imposition of the cap. I know - he's not Martin Brodeur. He's not even the best player on the team. Hell, not by a long shot. However:
Chris Osgood is - without question - the absolute best playoff goaltender of the past 15 years.
Go ahead and refute that... I'll wait...
That's what I thought. Ozzie's got three cups and he was the starting goaltender for two of those. He's been to two Stanley Cup Finals since the lockout, and he played amazingly throughout the playoffs for both of those runs, sometimes putting the team on his back. He's one of the most experienced and successful goaltenders in the league. And what is he compensated for that kind of resume?
- A cool $1.45 million.
- Scott "Backup-for-the-panthers" Clemmensen: $1.2m
- Mathieu "Who?" Garon: $1.1m
- Peter "not good" Budaj: $1.25m
Yeah. Also on that list? Backstrom ($6m), DiPietro ($4.5m), and fuck - Vesa Fucking Toskala makes $4m. Pascal Leclaire? $3.8m. Ridiculous.
In a cap world, you need efficient salaries to compete. I'm willing to bet Ozzie's contract is likely the most efficient non-rookie paycheck in the league. The dude has done wonders, and his hardware does not lie. The Wings' dish out less money to Ozzie than they use to pay Todd Bertuzzi to take stupid penalties in the offensive zone. Beyond his outstanding play, that salary was integral in our regular and post-season success the last couple of years.
Think of it this way: If you get rid of Ozzie within the last couple of years and pick up a goaltender that will truly be amazing during the regular season, you HAVE to also ditch at least one of our cornerstone players. We simply could not afford them. Period.
- You think the 08 cup or the 09 finals would have been reality without Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Rafalski, or Filppula?
Granted, none of this really excuses Ozzie's lackadaisical play over the last regular season and a half. Nor does it entitle the man to a starting job if he cannot perform to the levels that he needs to to keep it. But repeated slaps in the face? Starting a rookie for 12 games in a row? Starting him through back-to-backs and after poor performances? That's beyond a goaltending policy - it's a statement. It is a statement to Chris Osgood that he's not respected, nor his he trusted. At all. Not even a little bit. It is a public declaration by Mike Babcock:
"Chris, you are bad. You are not a good goaltender and you don't deserve an NHL job. You're lucky you have a contract, otherwise you'd be chain-smoking Parliament Lights in some Plymouth dive bar while literally anyone else more than capably filled your spot on the bench. Furthermore, your sister is a whore and your family is not respected in the community."Something like that.
Ozzie's been publicly bitch-slapped. And by the organization he has contributed so much to, no less. As I alluded to earlier, if I were in that position I'd be a bit less than thrilled. Those quotes I included from Ozzie? Mine would resemble something like this:
- "Yep. Going up against the Caps. Quite the potent offense there... good thing I'm limber and ready to go, what with all that strenuous game-time activity of keeping track of faceoff wins for the last 12 games. Boy, I sure do hope Brett Fucking Lebda is on the ice. He's really pulled my ass from the fire time and time again. Good to see his -8 is still getting ample ice time and not being benched in favor of a rookie. That'd be terrible..."
- "Babcock? Yeah, great coach. Also a Class A fuck-bucket. Dude's gonna slap me in the dick and then throw me to the wolves? I hope he gets hit by a plane. Seriously. I hope he's walking down the sidewalk and a fucking plane just falls right out of the sky and murders him. Yeah, that sounds about right."
- "Yeah, losses are hard. Hey, funny story. You guys remember in 2007 -08 when I played out of my motherfuck mind. Every time I took the ice I uncle-fucked the entire other team. Then come playoffs, Dom 'Meet You At The Faceoff Circles' Hasek got the start. After he decided he was no longer interested in preventing pucks from entering the goal, Professor Happypants reluctantly threw me in. I forget - could you remind me what I did next? What's that Helene? Oh yeah. I picked the team up and put them on my back. Me and the Mule decided we wanted to hang out in the finals together. Yeah, the finals where I got two consecutive shutouts. Those finals. So, uh, do I think that if we miss the playoffs this year it's my fault because I didn't save the defense's ass after filling out charts for 12 games? I'll answer that question with a question: would you like me to slap you in the face with my reproductive organs? Oh yeah... and you can write that."
- Todd Bertuzzi will always be streaky.
- Brett Lebda will always be terrible.
- James Howard will - most likely - always be inconsistent.
A disrespected, underpaid goaltender that has more rust than the average 1985 El Camino on cinder blocks in a Taylor front-lawn? When the playoffs come, and - Bear Jesus willing - we find our way in, and - Bear Jesus forbid - James just straight can't handle it... what's the option? Golf?
Are any of you Ozzie detractors seriously OK with that?
Finally, I have one last point. This is directed directly at the fans. As much as Ozzie has been disrespected by Babcock, he has been perennially unappreciated by the fans. When he's on, he's loved. Every time he touches the puck the Joe resounds with the chants of "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie." And don't you even consider telling me that you've been to a game where Ozzie was playing hot and making the big saves, and you weren't on your feet, pumping your fist, and hailing the Great and Powerful Wizzard of Oz. Don't tell me that in 2008 you were not thanking the sweet dear baby Bear Jesus after #30 got the nod against he Preds. Because if you try, I will call you a liar. Either a liar, or the world's shittiest fan.
But what happens when Osgood doesn't play like a $6million/year goaltender? When perhaps he plays to his paycheck?
Everything is all his fault.
One of my biggest issues with Ozzie detractors this season is that when the Wings lose with Howard in net - no matter what happens - it's in spite of him, rather than because of him. When Ozzie takes a loss? Always completely his fault. He never gets the excuses that Howard does. He's not afforded the benefit of the doubt when the offense doesn't show up, or when the defense breaks down. Take the Capitals game for example.
- Lebda fails to pick up his man, and watches the pass rather then backchecking. (SURPRISE!)
- Ericsson fails to pick up his man, and haplessly hacks at him well after it is too late
- Ozzie takes the blame.
- Todd Bertuzzi takes a stupid penalty.
- Brad Stuart decides to play golf, rather than defense.
- The tying goal becomes Ozzie's fault.
- Jon Ericsson lets an attacker right by him with no challenge.
- Brett Lebda stands around wondering if anyone would actually be stupid enough to pick him up off waivers.
- Ozzie shoulders the entire blame
Inexcusible? Giving Howard a pass in a similar situation. Call yourself a Wings fan? Get off the Ozzie hate-train. Respect the man for what he's done, and hope that Babs gets him back in the rotation. Without that, we run a serious risk of being up shit's creek without a goalie. Not a real attractive option from where I'm sitting.