A Decade BackPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
I just located a never-before published interview I conducted with then-Caps goaltender (and now associate goaltending coach) Olie Kolzig on Oct. 2, 2002, nine days prior to the start of the 2002-03 season. The Caps were coming off a disappointing 2001-02 campaign in which they missed the playoffs, a result that led to the dismissal of coach Ron Wilson. Here’s how that interview went:
Any sense of déjà vu for you at all? When you came in you were drafted with Byron [Dafoe] and this team was fairly well stacked with goaltending at that time. This year, it’s a bit like that where you started camp with eight goaltenders and are probably as well stacked at the position now as you were when you came in.
Yeah, we’re a lot deeper in the position, that’s for sure. It’s been a while since we’ve had this much depth. I wouldn’t say déjà vu – you never know how a guy is going to pan out once they get out of juniors. But I think from just seeing the kids in camp, our future looks bright here in goal with Max [Ouellet] in the minors, Charpy [Sebastien Charpentier] pushing for a spot here and the kids we had here in camp. It looks promising.
What’s your own outlook for this year? Last year there was the disappointment of not making the playoffs but you yourself were very strong down the stretch. Do you just try to carry that over?
I think that was a combination of things. We had a better commitment to defense. Once we traded Oatesie [Adam Oates] it just seemed like guys got mad and wanted to show that we weren’t out of the playoff race. We got more committed than ever to playing good hockey in our own end and I played a lot more solid. But I’m not going to make any predictions this year. I’m not going to get caught up in that. We know what kind of team we have and we showed what we could do over the second half of last year. It’s not a given making the playoffs any more. There are no easy games and everybody is hungry. There’s so much money to be made in the playoffs that every organization is pushing their team to make the playoffs. So as a team we have to just take it one night at a time. It’s a cliché, but that’s a fact. You can’t look too far into the future. And we can’t look past teams like Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Florida. All those teams that used to be pushovers are no longer that. You’re in for a hockey game now. I feel confident with our team. I think we have a team that can not only make the playoffs but also be dangerous in the playoffs. But at the same time, I’m realistic and realize that there are 29 other teams that are feeling the same way. I’m not going to make any predictions, we’re just going to do our jobs and let our actions on the ice do the talking.
Yourself physically, how do you feel at this time of year compared to previous years? Do you feel the years adding up and do you have to do anything differently now in the offseason to get ready?
The only positive of not making the playoffs is that you do get a longer rest period and more time to heal. I worked out as hard as ever this summer, doing the proper things like position specific workouts. Not so much getting on the bench and seeing how much you can bench press or how much you can squat or how many bicep curls you can do. For a goaltender, you don’t need that. You need good core strength, good leg strength, good agility and that’s the stuff I worked on this summer. The older you get, the more you have to work. There’s no question about that. You’ve young guys 20 years old who can play three games in a row and still have the energy on that fourth day. The older guys, it takes longer to recover. I was committed to fitness this summer but I’m committed to fitness every summer. I always try to keep my body in shape. But this year it was more specific to my position and how it’s going to help my knees and all my joints survive another four years.
In a perfect world, how many games do you start?
I would say 70. Everybody thinks that I play too much but I’m in good shape, I’m a big man and 70 games would be fine with me. If it’s 65, it’s 65. It’s totally [head coach] Butch [Cassidy]’s call and whatever they feel is best for the team, that’s what we’re going to do.
Do you like the idea of playing the full 60 [minutes] in the preseason?
Yeah. I mean the first one – you’re just trying to get into the flow of the game so you usually split the first one. But after that, you want to get into it right away. You only have so many [preseason games] and there are so many goalies they want to have a look at. You only have so many games you can play, so play the 60 and get the rhythm again.
For the record, the Caps went 39-29-8-6 in 2002-03, good for second place in the Southeast Division and a first-round playoff date with fellow Southeast Division denizens, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately, after winning the first two games of that series on the road, the Caps dropped four straight and lost the series to a Lightning team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup one year later. After playing in 70 or more games in each of the previous three seasons, Kolzing’s workload dipped to 66 contests in 2002-03. He posted a 33-25-6 record with four shutouts, a 2.40 GAA and a .919 save pct., the second-best mark of his career.
Today’s “This Date In Caps History” featured a 6-6 tie with the New York Rangers back in the Capitals’ first season of existence, 1974-75. That inaugural Caps team won only eight of its 80 games, so rebounding from a three-goal deficit to earn a tie against an Original Six team had to qualify as a highlight in a season in which highlights were so few and far between. When I think of recent December 12ths, I remember mainly Dec. 12, 2007. Bruce Boudreau had been behind the Washington bench for a few weeks and we were starting the see the team shake off its early-season doldrums. There were a lot of noteworthy moments that I recall from that night five years ago.