On the RotoWire staff message board, we've been debating recently whether the Caps are for real in the East and can make a serious push toward the playoffs. I, as the Caps beat writer (and admittedly a diehard fan), think that their 4-0 record against Ottawa this year and 16-7-3 record since December indicate that they can. They have the best player in the league right now in Ovechkin, and are playing solid in all facets of the game... except potentially goaltending.
One writer, Jason Brown, contended their problems in net will hamper their efforts to become serious East contenders. I, probably overly optimistically, think they can be. Maybe I'm blind, but from what I've seen, I think that the 37-year-old Olaf Kolzig is not the problem. He had a .910 save percentage as recently as last season, and coach Bruce Boudreau's system is much more about activating defensemen to the sometimes detriment of his goalies. But then again, that argument is somewhat refuted by Brent Johnson's 5-2-0 record under Boudreau where he has allowed more than two goals in only two of six 60-minute appearances. The team might agree -- after offering Kolzig a two-year deal two seasons ago on the first day they were eligible to do so, they have delayed making him a contract extension offer this season. Kolzig is making $5.45 million this year, and there's probably a strong likelihood that if the team wants to bring him back, they want to do so at a decreased price. But could Kolzig stomach that?
He's been in the organization ever since being drafted in 1989 (he played with the team in the former USSR in a well-publicized scrimmage against the Red Army team prior to the fall of the iron curtain), stayed in Washington the last four years of rebuilding when he could have arguably left for a contender, and is a stalwart in the community. He's also the most vocal leader on the team and is beloved in the locker room. The team will be faced with a sticky decision as to whether they want to extend him another year or two while the team waits for recent draftees Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth to develop. But would the team be better off with Johnson at the helm the next couple years? It would seriously piss off the fan base to let go of Kolzig, and be a crappy way of rewarding him for sticking with the team through the bad years. Hopefully they won't lowball him either, but then again, what other team is going to want to sign a 38-year-old free agent former Vezina winner who is coming off his worst save percentage in a while? Maybe Detroit... The operative question is: can Kolzig lead a team to a Cup?
In my opinion, as a fan and a person who believes Olie has at least another couple of seasons left in the tank, I think they should re-up him on a one-year deal and then break the bank to sign some high-priced veteran talent to make a run within the next two seasons. They definitely have the talent base to do it.
Posted by Bret Cohen at 2/1/2008 12:20:00 PM