Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Olie Kolzig

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Olie Kolzig.

Note: I debated whether or not to review Kolzig's season, but as he "laced 'em up" and is technically "still with the team," I guess I've got to play by my own rules. Besides, maybe this can help to bring a tiny bit of closure to the whole situation.

Contract Status: UFA, will not return; 2007-08 salary of $5.45M
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 38
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 13+ (this seems like a good enough place to note that I consider an NHL season one in which a guy played more than 25 games in the NHL or more games in the NHL than in a lower league; the "+" indicates that parts of additional seasons were spent in the NHL)
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 54 games played, 25-21-6 record, 1 shutout, 2.91 GAA, .892 SV%
Key Stats: Kolzig had the fourth-worst SV% and eighth-worst GAA in the League in 2007-08, but posted a winning record (you guys can discuss which of those stats are important and which aren't).
Surprising Stat: Kolzig was 1-1-1 with a 2.58 GAA and .917 SV% in the second of back-to-back games in which he played in both.
Mildly Interesting Stat: If Kolzig had replicated his 2006-07 SV% in 2007-08 and all else was equal, his GAA would have been 2.41 (conversely, if he had posted his 2007-08 SV% in 2006-07, all else equal, he would have had a 3.58 GAA, which would have been the second-worst in the League in front of only... Brent Johnson).

The Good: Kolzig became only the 23rd goalie in NHL history to record 300 career wins when he beat Calgary on March 12 and won 25 games for the seventh time in his career. Kolzig was healthy for the whole season, and had it not been for the acquisition of Cristobal Huet at the trade deadline, probably would have made his most starts in a season since 2002-03. Olie had his best post-lockout GAA in 2007-08 and increased his win total for the third consecutive season. Kolzig's season started off with a bang - his only shutout of the year came in his first game - and through his first eight starts he had a 2.27 GAA and .922 SV%. Kolzig went 15-5-3 from December 26 through March 14, and, in the critical stretch from February 2 through March 14, went 7-3-2 with a 2.09 GAA and .923 SV%, giving up more than two goals only three times and more than three just once (I guess you can see why he had thought that he had righted the ship and deserved to be the team's number one netminder).

[Also very, very good - Mark's sponsorship of Olie's page - much classier than our sponsorship of Jaromir Jagr's]

The Bad: For the sixth consecutive season, Kolzig started fewer games than he had the previous year, and while injuries limited him in the past few campaigns, it was his shaky play for much of the first two-thirds of the season that limited him in 2007-08 - from November 2 through the end of January he was 14-14-4 with a 3.33 GAA and .872 SV% and had three different four-game losing streaks during that span (including 3 OTLs). He had his fewest minutes played since 1996-97, his worst SV% of any year in which he played more than 18 games, and even through the 15-5-3 stretch had a GAA (2.77) that would have ranked him 33rd in the League for the season and a SV% (.893) that would have ranked him 41st.

The Bottom Line (special bonus feature, with commentary!): In 20 starts in October, February and March, Kolzig was 11-7-2 with a 2.30 GAA and a .920 SV%, but in 32 starts in November, December and January, he was 14-14-4 with a 3.29 GAA and a .874 SV%. To me, that says he's no longer able to handle number one goalie minutes, but probably can still do well as a number two with a bigger-than-normal role; during that 15-5-3 stretch, for example, he only started 23 of 36 games - he was at his best when somewhat well-rested. And here's the ironic kicker - starting 23 of 36 games pro rates to 52 starts over the course of a season... the most Cristobal Huet has ever started in a single campaign.

The Vote: Rate Kolzig on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Question: What kind of numbers do you think a 2008-09 Kolzig is capable of putting up? And the big question - does Kolzig play in 2008-09 and, if so, where?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.


Natty Bumpo said...

I chipped in with a 3. Not the worst season I could've imagined, and had some big moments (putting up a 12-for-12 against the Oilers in the January 17th shootout!). But by all accounts...even Olie's...this was not the performance fans and management expected.

JP makes a convincing case that Kolzig would've been a valuable back-up goaltender this season (or next). Had GMGM known to only expect back-up numbers from the longtime face of the franchise, an addition would have been made last offseason ("the rebuild is over.")

No matter the team's spin, it can't be ignored that a trade deadline deal was made specifically to solve the problem in goal, and that problem was Olie Kolzig. Without the addition of Huet (and without Boudreau's benching of Kolzig), the Capitals categorically would not have qualified for the playoffs.

I'm not trying to start a side debate, but I also don't consider 25-21-6 a winning record. Especially since the team managed an actual winning record (43-31-8, or 43-39), despite Olie receiving 63% of all starts.

Love you, big guy. Will miss you.


1) An uneven season for the big guy. He looked his age at times, but brilliant in others. Have to say that the 'wins' stat is the bottom line most important for a goalie. Still despite his win total he did seem to give up too many soft goals which is probably why GMGM went out and got Huet, and is why we gave Olie a 5.
2) Would have to believe based on his statements that he'll be back. Agree with JP that he's probably not a legit #1 any longer, but could Olie play the role as a backup? He hasn't done that in a dozen years.
3) Possible destinations: Ottawa, Toronto, LA, Colorado. Maybe the ideal would be the MapleLeafs where Toskala isn't quite the goalie to play 70 games, so they might be able to make a 50-32 split, giving Olie a game or 2/week. It will definitly be odd seeing him in another uniform

Natty Bumpo said...

A lot of fives early in the voting. Did this many people really "expect" a 2.91 GAA, a .892 SV% and a 25-21-6 record from Kolzig this season? That was Olie's potential for 2007-2008, with the team confidently aiming for a playoff birth?

I don't think everyone's following JP's voting scale instructions.

Hazardous said...

He had a bad few months during the time the whole team did terrible, and suddenly he's the "worst goalie in the league." Scapegoating went beyond the fans, this go around, and it's cost everyone.

Olie did not have as bad a season as everyone is making out. Yes, he played shaky during the first half-2/3 of the season, but so did most everyone else on the team. When things were looking their best, he was looking his best, and while i believe the trade for huet was good, and necessary, I don't think these votes of 3 and 4 are.

Honestly, all I can think of to say is "Shame on you."

Mike in SF said...

I don't think the problem was too many minutes. I think the problem was too few shots.

Kolzig's always been at his best when he's been very busy in a game. But this year the Caps' D morphed into a unit that gives up a relatively small number of shots -- but the ones they do give up are killers. Odd-man rushes, bad turnovers, etc. In short, this is a team designed to kill a goalie's SV%. And that's particularly true for a goalie that gets cold standing there for 5 minutes with nothing to do before facing a tough rush.

To me, Huet's personality just fit the team better. Huet seems better able to deal with standing still and doing nothing for long stretches of time then being instantly ready when, say, Milan Jurcina coughs it up to a speedy winger...

Tyler said...

Haz: I find your comment befuddling (even before the last sentence). Do you have any data to support your contention that Kolzig and the team were both shaky the first half-to-two-thirds of the season? Because I seem to remember the team playing pretty well after Nov. 22. Olie's play did not turn around at the same time. As sentiment it's lovely, but as recollection of fact it seems shaky.

Shaggy said...

Very disappointing season, I believe. The SV % is what kills me - Olie just wasn't making the stops.
Olie get a 3 from me and a lotta love.

exwhaler said...

The problem with Olie this season was that after the team started improving, his own performance began slipping more. Under Hanlon's system, I think Kolzig faced more shots, but under Gabby's, he faced more quality chances, and that's where he was exposed. He's simply not the same guy he was 5 years ago. The platoon system with Johnson obviously helped him, simply by giving him more rest. Plus, it helped that Johnson became hot during that period. But there were still times when Kolzig's reaction speed was frightingly slow--there was a game against Tampa Bay where he looked asleep, and even the announcers mentioned it. And that was during the platoon system.

As for the win stat...the real question is how many more wins would have the Caps had if Kolzig had performed as he did in the past? I think anybody with an open mind observing the Caps' performance from December through the trade deadline realizes that goaltending was an issue for the Capitals; given Kolzig's service to the franchise, it was a painful thing to admit. Olie simply can't win games consistantly for them anymore, not with the kind of game they're playing.

~Mark said...

Whatever you paid to sponsor that Jagr page is worth it! Excellent. If only he'd cared more...and wasn't a diva.

Olie... I am sad in a personal way that things ended the way they did, without him winning the Cup here.

OK, back to reality. Can Olie really be a starter in this league? I just don't see it unless he's in front of a really solid defense. And if that's the case, do you really need to pay a guy 4 Million for that situation?

I actually will be surprised if someone picks him up as a starter.

breed16 said...

Gave him a 4.

As for where he'll end up: I see Ottawa in his future. From their end, they must know they're unlikely to win a Cup with Gerber alone. A 1-year flyer on a rested vet with experience to be the "1b" works for the Sens in a thin goalie market.

From Olie's perspective, he goes immediately to a contender (in theory) with an unstable goalie situation in which he could emerge as the true #1. Plus, he remains in the East and can stick it to the Caps should that fire burn in him like I think it does. On that note, does anyone feel like he'll be the most brutal former-Cap Cap killer of them all?

Hooks Orpik said...

It's hard to see a contender hitching their wagon to Kolzig. Of the 24 goalies who appeared in at least 50 games, Godzilla had the worst GAA, the worst save percentage, the fewest number of shutouts and more wins than only three (Mason, Leclaire, Khabibulin).

It'd also be hard to see him not in a Caps jersey. I kinda hope he just floats on off into retirement. He didn't get a proper ending, but I don't think in the long-run that diminishes a great career.

Christopher said...

@Faux: I usually agree with much of what you say, but I would argue that wins are actually pretty useless in judging goaltender talent. Wins are almost completely beyond the control of the goalie and there are plenty of great goalies with poor won-loss records and vice-versa (see Luongo, Roberto and Vokoun, Tomas).

My expectations for Olie were: Sv % at or above .900 and a GAA at or below 2.75. Given that he massively underperformed even these relatively low benchmarks, he gets a generous 3.

Kolzig is a great human being and a great Capital. Sadly, that really doesn't matter when assessing his season. Honestly, if anyone but Kolzig had underperformed to this degree, they would have been benched LONG before Kolzig was.

I agree with the comments about the style of play under Boudreau hurting Kolzig. Boudreau's style resulted in fewer, but higher-quality shots against. Olie was totally outmatched trying to stop these.

Even when he was younger, Kolzig was never a "reaction" style goalie. He used good positioning and his size to overwhelm shooters and take away their options, particularly in-close. Unfortunately, as his reflexes deteriorated, he would be slow getting into position for the first shot, which often meant that he was "stabbing" his leg pads at the puck, rather than absorbing it. This left huge, juicy rebounds that he just couldn't get back into position for.

Some observers directed criticism against the d-men, particulary for that 6-3 drubbing in Carolina before the trade deadline. However, watching that game, it became obvious that Olie just couldn't handle rebounds anymore.

(Olie's slowed reaction time was really noticeable when looking at his shootout stats. Opinions about the shootout aside, he was godawful in them.)

b.orr4 said...

First, let me state for the record that Olie deserves a wealth of credit for not only sticking with this team when other players would have fled but for what he did within the community (see the video snippet in OFB). That said, Olie is no longer a true #1 in the NHL and the numbers support that belief. The ironic part is that a a guy who's always been a team player now has the opportunity to be the ultimate team guy and take the #2 spot behing Huet, but his pride won't let him do it. So instead he'll either end up retiring or accepting a backup role with another organization. In either case, he (not the Caps) will have robbed himself of the opportunity to hoist the Cup with the only organization he ever knew. And that is the real shame in all this.

Will said...

Can the hockey world please stop this nonsense of dismissing overtime losses as ties.

25-21-6 is not a winning record, that's 25 victories and 27 losses.

That being said, I love Olie and will miss him and think the Caps should've kept him in the loop more on what was going on. I hope he lands somewhere and finds his groove and gets to play in the playoffs agan.

Tyler said...

The No. 2 spot behind Huet?! When was that an option?

b.orr4 said...

"The No. 2 spot behind Huet?! When was that an option?"

It was an option when Ted and McPhee originally said they wanted Olie back after the trade was made. Maybe they never meant it, but they did say it. And if Olie ever came out and said he'd come back as the #2, the Caps would have had no choice but to take him.

bigonetimer said...

I gave him a 4; he did not play to expectations, mine or most others', including those of the man who makes the call about who starts in net.

I appreciate Kolzig's career in DC and he is a first class guy, but the time to turn the page has long passed. I only wish we had gotten something for him at the deadline.

Caps Dreamer said...

Great comments Mike in SF. I agree that BB's style and Olie's slower reaction times were not a good fit. Watching highlights of Olie's Cup run year that they showed during one of the playoff games made me realize how much he's slowed down. That said, I'll always wear Olie's jersey proudly and wish it had ended better.

Lisa said...

Olie was a great player for the Caps but when we needed him to stop the puck, too often he wasn't there. For me his season wasn't a total disappointment, more like a slow, inevitable slide toward mediocrity. It's debatable whether he's reached that point yet but all athletes have to face this at some point in their careers and I'm sure it's difficult to accept just being average, or worse. I don't see him as a number one goaltender unless he lands with a team that has injury problems or needs a boost from a veteran who still has the desire to compete.

As an aside, I wasn't one of the 57% and I didn't feel any sense of remorse or disquiet about it. I think it was Tyler (and Herm Edwards) who said you play to win the game. Not sure there's room for anything else in professional sports but apparently more than half of us thought Kolzig would give the Caps a better chance to win which is somewhat baffling to me.

Hopefully GMGM's confidence is not misplaced because needless to say, an aura of uncertainty around this position would not be the best way to start next season.

hotdog88gt said...

I don't care for the way he picked up his toys and went home. Not sure he burned the bridge behind him as he left. Not even sure #37 should hang in the rafters with #12 either.

b.orr4 said...

Be honest. How many times did you see Huet make a save and think to yourself "Olie wouldn't have stopped that". The comment about watching the Olie of '98 and comparing him to the Olie of '08 is spot on. We here in DC were too close to see the forest from the trees, but for the outside observer it was apparent that Olie had really slowed down the last couple of years. Very rarely do former great players leave gracefully and sadly Olie is no exception.

Scott said...

Wasn't the shutout in his second game - the one against Carolina? Did BJ start the season opener? I can't remember

Olie's a great guy, a great leader, and will always be one of my caps idols. It sucks that he didn't win the cup here just like it sucks that Hunter, Calle Jo, Bonzai, Langway, et al didn't win it here.

Still, I gave him a 4. He was good, not great. I expected more. period.

Ogre said...

I gave Olie a 6. Considering that he didn't throw a fit after getting benched for Huet is remarkable to me, and it's probably also to his legacy as much.
He won games. You can't ask much more from your goalie than to go out there and win games. 25-21-6 is a winning record in my opinion, because games should tie instead of that gimmick at the end of them. (I know that Olie won a few in OT too).

To earn a 10 next year, Olie needs to retire before he ever plays a game in another teams uniform. And then maybe if GMGM offers him an assistant coaching gig. As sad as it is for him to say he's played his last game in a Caps uniform, to me what would be more sad is seeing him suiting up for another team.

Kim said...

Wow this one was hard. Actually I am still distracted thinking about Milan Jurcina without his shirt. (Just kidding - kind of).

It is hard for me to separate Olie the person from Olie the goalie. Unfortunately, Olie did not play as well this season as I had hoped he would. I so wanted him to have a Brett Farvian second half of the season, but it was not in the cards.

I was at the Flyers game earlier in the season where Olie was yanked (shortly before the infamous Mike Wise article). The crowd in my section was calling for Johnny. It made me uncomfortable and sad, but I also understood what was happening. I also had some of those moments watching Huet where I wondered if the results would have been the same with either Olie or Johnny.

In the end, whether I thought he was a 5, 6, 3, or 10 does not matter. My gut feeling is that I do not want Olie playing for another team. Both because it would be sad, and also because I think that first game he plays against the Caps will be brutal. I wish things had ended on a better note here for everyone. This would be a good time to have the option of watching an alternate ending.

dmg said...

He had a bad few months during the time the whole team did terrible, and suddenly he's the "worst goalie in the league." Scapegoating went beyond the fans, this go around, and it's cost everyone.

Actually his save percentage went from .922 in October to .890 in November, .860 in Dec and .863 in January.

I also don't think anyone thought he was the worst goalie in the league talent-wise, but he was, for much of the season, the worst goalie statistically. Numbers like that don't tell the whole truth but they don't like either. Plus when you couple them with the number of soft goals Kolzig allowed this season, it was pretty obvious he's not really the player a contending team wants in net. After he starting getting more rest his game picked up, so maybe that was the issue, but if he can't play more than 60% of a team's games you probably don't want him as the number 1 anyways.

It's tough, but the reality is that Olie just isn't a starting goalie in the NHL anymore