Saturday, January 06, 2007

That Cheeky Bastard Dinur

Dinur sent me this photo from the Sharks-Wings game a few nights ago. This is what happens when you become friends with your students. They get cheeky. They send you obnoxious sports photos. They stop asking you questions about social science and start asking you questions like:

Do the Red Wings dislike Osgood? Dominik Hasek plays roughly 2/3 of the team's games, and with the exception of tonight, has a phenomenal season (his GAA before tonight was 1.80, and he was 2nd in the league with 5 shutouts). On nights he doesn't play, the Wings list him as a scratch, and start a guy by the name of Joey MacDonald (sorry, I thought Jimmy Howard, he was the backup last year). They scratch Hasek so that there's no chance of him seeing ice time if he's not the starter. Osgood rarely (if ever) starts for the team any more. Do you think it's just the team grooming a goalie for the future in MacDonald, or do they not think highly of Ozzie in the organization any more?

You see, that cheeky little bastard Dinur knows that I’m a really big fan of Chris Osgood’s. In the realm of male sports banter, that’s called a liability. You see, it’s not that Chris Osgood is that bad. It’s just that he’s not that good. There’s the essential rub. You see, Chris Osgood can be a completely inspired player. He makes some exceptional saves. Back in 1999, I remember my friend Baron Bryan (he’s not Irish—in fact, Bryan is a corruption of Ibrahim—he’s Lebanese! He’s an airline pilot and a hockey goalie, really good-looking and a lot of fun to drink with—I taught him the Arabic alphabet) saying, “Yeah, you see, Osgood will make a great save like that one and then turn around and let in a soft goal later that evening.” Even back in ’99 I’d get flack like that.

When I first became a Wings fan in ’98, I wasn’t really impressed with Osgood until I saw him play live in DC. He’s the most gloriously alive goalie I’ve ever watched. He’s about my height, so he’s not very big for a goalie. He looks like a small tiger when he’s in net. Any goalie can look focused on camera. But off-camera, most goalies stand around looking bored while the puck’s on the other half of the ice. I mean, watching Olaf Kolzig, I swear he could be thinking, “I am so fucking bored [swig of water from sports bottle]. You know, I could be jacking off right now.” Never Chris Osgood. He’s focused every moment he’s in net. He never takes his eyes off the puck. He’s excited. He fucking loves hockey and that’s why I love him. He’s a great sport. No ego, no bullshit. Completely focused on the game. Loves Detroit and his teammates. Couldn’t wait to get back.

To answer your question, Dinur, after that last slump he had that led them to pick up Hasek, I think that the Wings management decided that they wanted a star goalie, which is why they’ve been infatuated with Hasek. Hasek sucked, so they gave Manny Legace a chance, but Legace fell apart in the playoffs. Playoff hockey is like regular season football: each game isn’t purely decisive, but every game counts seriously. The victory in the here and now is absolutely essential. It’s a totally different psychology. Yeah, there was lots of other stuff wrong last year, but Legace’s performance was the most damning part of the Wings’ playoffs fizzle. So they axed Legace. Chris wanted back in, badly enough to take the humiliation. So unless something goes hideously wrong with Red Wings goaltending, I’ve got to think he’s permanently out. He came back for cheap, so they won’t fire him. But he’s dead-ended. They decided after that last slump that he was a nice guy, but he doesn’t have the makings of a legendary goalie. They want a fucking legend.

I love Chris Osgood because he’s a value-rational player. He doesn’t play hockey for the money or for trophies. He plays because he loves the game and he loves his teammates. That’s the reason you play—for the game itself and for the love of your teammates. That’s life in a nutshell—the quest to grow and express the form and the love of those who share the quest. I’ll always cherish Chris Osgood for that. His example made me a better person.

Plus, he’s kinda cute. And I remember the old days.


Sean said...

Kolzing is a god...I mean he could be a Spartan. Its just a shame that the Caps have no defence other than him. Any little support would alter their equations. Currently they just depend on the bg guy to pull them through game after game time after time.

Now I will admit he is no Martin Gerber or David Aebischer, but the swiss goalies are phenoms only followed by the Finns.

Some of the Khazak goalies are really coming together too.

Hockey is all defense, shut the opp down and all you need is one or two goals. The Caps are getting way to offensive oriented.

Cuphound said...

Hey Sean--

I'm still working on the memory write-up for you. I'll post, hopefully, later this weekend. It's complicated and without Adderall, I've had relatively low energy.

Olaf Kolzig is an excellent goalie. He still, however, looks insanely bored when the puck is on the other side of the ice. Watch him next time you're at the MCI Center. He really looks like he's thinking "I'm so bored, I could jack off right now." No joke. It's one of the more hilarious features of Caps hockey.

I don't think that hockey is all defense. Yes, undoubtedly the goalie is the foundation of the team. But hyper-strong defenses with pathetic offenses don't win the Stanley Cup. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres. Of course, they're from Buffalo and may not be able to win championships for that very reason.

The balance is more defensive than football, but I really think the logic of the game still is "You need a good defense to keep from losing, but you need a good offense to win."