In recent days, Olie Kolzig has been a popular quote in his role as a former teammate of Dale Hunter.
But Kolzig is also an associate goaltending coach with these Caps, and his thoughts on the team’s play over the past few weeks were a bit less ha-ha than his Hunter memories.
“It’s a little bit frustrating,” Kolzig told Toronto’s 590 The Fan on Tuesday. “When the team started out 7-0, it looked like everybody was on-board. All the summer of meetings and talking, and everybody came in in great shape, and everybody was optimistic. And we hit a couple bumps in the road, and it just seemed we didn’t have that mental toughness to kind of forge through and right the ship.
“And I think in Bruce’s defense, he did everything he could do to get the guys going, and for whatever reason, the guys weren’t responding. And you know the old adage, you can’t fire 20 players, so Bruce is the one that had to take the brunt of it. And now the onus is on the players. If that’s what they wanted was a change, then that’s what they got, but now they have to respond in a positive way or there could be more changes.”
Later, Kolzig was asked about the play of Tomas Vokoun, and he readily admitted that Vokoun needs to improve. But again, his words about the rest of the team sounded a bit troubling.
“When things are going bad, it goes bad for everybody,” he said. “Were the guys playing as hard as they could in front of him? I don’t think so. We were giving up some bad plays in front of our own net....
“The last week or so, it just seemed like the players were waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Kolzig continued. “Being in a dressing room over a number of years — and I’ve gone through a few coaching changes — it’s not a pleasant feeling. As soon as you’re down one goal, it just seems like the guys didn’t have that resiliency to come back and maybe weren’t quite as committed in their own end. And as a result, the goaltender’s the one that gets exposed.”
And, of course, the subject of Ovechkin and Semin was raised with Kolzig, their former teammate.
“He’s gonna be able to get, I think, the two Alexes back to playing the way they should be playing,” Kolzig said. “The other thing, too; Bruce has been here for four or five years, and sometimes just a new voice in the dressing room is all it takes. I remember back in ’97 when Ron Wilson first came in. We’d had Jim Schoenfeld for a number of years, and we really didn’t change any personnel, but just kind of that new voice in the dressing room, it was amazing how we responded....And so that might be all it takes, is just someone else, some fresh ideas in the room. That might just be enough to rekindle the team’s fire and desire.”