Kolzig Re-signs Amidst Long Winless Streak
Despite almost singlehandedly sending the Washington Capitals to the
Stanley Cup Finals last June, goaltender Olie Kolzig was only making
$600,000 a year half of what backup Rick Tabaracci makes through the
first month of the season.
Recognizing that Kolzig was making the salary of a second-string
goaltender, general manager George McPhee rewarded Zilla with a
four-year, $12 million contract.
"I didn't want this to become a distraction for him," McPhee said, "and
I wanted to send the right message, rewarding a player who was
absolutely outstanding last year and who we regard as an elite
goaltender in this league.
"What we wanted to accomplish was taking a player who was being paid as
a No. 2 goaltender but has demonstrated that he's a No. 1 and a good No.
1 and pay him at that rate this year. For doing that, we get something
by getting one of his unrestricted free agent years back at a reasonable
The new deal comes in spite of Kolzig's recent outings and a certain
reporter (yours truly) who wrote in the last issue that McPhee is weak
at the bargaining table as well as the team's six-game winless streak,
which was snapped Nov. 7 with an 8-5 victory at Ottawa.
Before that win, nothing was going right for Washington. Injuries
mounted as 10 wounded players watched from the sidelines, and the
players in the lineup weren't playing up to their capabilities,
Kolzig has been in a major funk, allowing 23 goals in his last 13
periods in net. He didn't even finish the game he started in Ottawa.
After allowing five goals with his team down 5-3 midway through the
second period coach Ron Wilson decided enough was enough and sent
minor league goaltender Mike Rosati into the game to replace Kolzig.
Rosati was perfect, stopping all 13 shots he faced.
Kolzig, however, thinks his bad outings will cease, because he's had
time to practice with goaltending coach Dave Prior during a four-day
span in which the Capitals didn't play.
"I was confused there for the last week about what was going on how I
could go from letting in a little over one goal a game in the first six
games and then letting in 23 goals in the next 13 periods," Kolzig told
The Washington Post. "But Dave (Prior) came in and said, 'It's not as
bad as you think; you just need a little adjustment here and a little
"It's a thing of confidence and trust. If the guys trust you back there,
they're going to create more chances and if a goalie trusts the
forwards, he's going to feel more solid in the net."
Something New: Injury List Shrinks
There has been one constant through the first half of the season:
Players have fallen prey to injuries more than there are deer casualties
during hunting season. At one point during the recent trip to Western
Canada, Washington found itself 10 men short, with minor league players
like James Black, Stewart Malgunas and Nolan Baumgartner trying to pick
up the slack.
However, the Capitals have now been hit by something other than bruised
physiques a stroke of good luck. When the puck is dropped Nov. 12
against Buffalo at MCI Center, defensemen Joe Reekie and Brendan Witt,
center Jan Bulis and goaltender Rick Tabaracci will all be in uniform.
As a result, defenseman Steve Poapst, Baumgartner, Rosati and center
Matt Herr were sent to the Capitals AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine.
Life Looks Good from the Bottom
Last place in the Eastern Conference has never looked so promising. The
4-6-3 (11 points) Capitals currently reside in the basement, but could
realistically be in the penthouse by week's end.
Parity has a choke-hold on the NHL, which is proven by the Carolina
Hurricanes' record. They lead all Eastern Conference teams with 15
points. Dallas leads the West with just 16 points. Could the effects of
expansion be taking their toll?
"As bleak as it looked and with what we've had to go through early,
we're still a week within being in first place in the whole league,"