So, before I run off to practice, I want to just make a few things clear. I'm an unapologetic Ozzie apologist. Obviously. Anyone who's had a discussion with me on the topic can tell you as much. But that doesn't mean that I think the guy is the unholy offspring of Marty Brodeur and Terry Sawchuck. He's a Hockeytown staple, and a team guy. He's taken pay cuts to play here, and given us a pretty damn good career. He's got a damn fine trophy case, and I don't give a shit what anyone says, he's HOF material.
I recognize that Oz has struggled of late. Even I can't say that I've been wholly satisfied with his performance. But the Ozzie bashing seems to have a pretty huge blindspot. Before we all get all riled up, proclaiming that Ozzie's just not an NHL goaltender anymore, and that he needs to just take his 35+ contract and retire, leaving us with both his cap hit and Joey "so, you're saying I should stop the shiny round black thing?" MacDonald, lets think about what we're basing this on.
Sure, last year was damn pathetic. Ozzie didn't perform well. At all. But before we go throwing him under the bus, saying that this is a clear sign that he'll never be good again, at least consider the circumstances. Dude was getting starts so few and far between, that I doubt even Mr. Sawchuck himself could have managed to put up great numbers. While Ozzie's play didn't earn him much more than that, it's still hard to discount him as a player all together based on that season.
But hey! We're not just basing our hatred of the guy on one season. His 08-09 performance was abysmal as well.
Tell ya what. If I were to offer you a deal right now. Where I'd promise you a goaltender that keeps us competitive, wins us 26 games and looses only 9, and takes us all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals boasting a league best playoff performance, and I tell you all it's going to cost you is $1.4 million... would you take it?
The point is, it's not that long ago that Ozzie was able to put together some real strong performances. It's not that long ago that he was backstopping our team all the way to the end. It's not that long ago that the guy proved that he's still got it as an NHL goaltender. And he doesn't cost that much.
Ozzie's not the starter. The way Howard is showing up, I doubt he ever will be again. Sure, his best days are likely behind him - but he's not the throwaway that some claim him to be. I still believe that he's got some NHL in him, and that he can be one hell of a backup for us. Lets just give him the chance.
I'm not sold that he'll always be our best option in net. Nor and I particularly confident that he'll return to 07-08 form. But I've got faith in the Wizzard, that he's still got that talent and ability. That this is truly a mental issue, and like the blue collar trueblood Hockeytown sonofabitch that he is, he'll work through it. Till then, I'll still be here in his corner. Waiting and hoping. That's what a true fan does. You don't have to think he's going to win the Vezina... but you damn well not turn your back on him. When he gets the call, you damn well better root for him to stop the pucks, and not just sit with your thumb up your ass, hoping for the other team to light the lamp because you want to feel smarter than everyone else. Getting behind your team means getting behind your 3 ring goaltender when he gets the call.
You don't need to have confidence. You just need to have hope.
You know, or this:
Ozzie gets the call tonight. Personally, I'll be rooting for the Wings. I'll be rooting for the Wizzard.