It’s one of the most speculated and controversial positions in all of Detroit sports. If you have success, the city will always remember you. If you don’t live up to expectations, Detroit brass will replace you.
Just ask Manny Legace.
During the 2005-2006 regular season, a record of 37-8 in the regular season wasn’t good enough. Filling in for the injured Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph, Legace was a major factor in another presidents trophy season for the Wings. He didn’t have the best save percentage or goals against average, but if he was replaced with any other backup in the league, chances are the Wings would have struggled to make the playoffs.
But when Detroit failed to live up to their top seed in the western conference playoffs, it was Legace who saw the axe. His lack of experience showed against the eighth seeded Edmonton Oilers. The Red Wings didn’t realize that their playoff hopes lived and died in the net.
Despite adding more talent all around the ice, It could be the same for this year’s squad.
Jimmy Howard will come into this year’s action trying to defeat the gaudy sophomore slump. Howard is now at the point of his career where he has to prove he is more than just a studded prospect. Was last year just a fluke? Can he lead our beloved Wings deeper into the playoffs? When the offense can’t be found, does he have what it takes to carry the team? This and more will all be in question in his second season in between the pipes full time.
In his first season he proved he belonged. He became the first homegrown goaltender talent to have success since Chris Osgood himself. For goodness sake, Howard finished second in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting last season. But the question isn’t about his proficiency during his first season. If you are the starting goalie for the Detroit Red Wings, every game is a ticking time bomb. Every save is an explosion waiting to happen. Every loss is a reason for Detroit fans to hate you. It a continuous cycle that quadruples in playoff action.
Just ask Tim Cheveldae.
Like Manny Legace, Cheveldae was a regular season workhorse. During the 91-92 season, he logged a whopping 72 games started. In his second season full-time he won 38 games. After a successful season, Cheveldae struggled in the post-season. In 11 games, he went 3-7 and gave up 25 goals. If it weren’t for two shutouts, his goals against and save percentage would have been horrid. Two seasons later, his career as a Red Wing goaltender was over.
For Chris Osgood, this season all comes down to proving he still belongs in the NHL. Fans like me were very upset when the Red Wings gave up on him last season. A look at the numbers though put things in perspective. He only started two games in the second half last season. His 3.02 GAA and .888 Save percentage were below par for even a backup goaltender. At 38, he is on the last year of his contract and has a lot to prove.
Just four wins away from 400 total, Osgood might be the most loved and hated Wing at the same time. He has given so much to this city and he has been in Jimmy Howard’s position before. The funny part is that in order for Howard to be successful next season, it might all depend on Osgood.
If all things fall into place, Head Coach Mike Babcock would love for Osgood to be a 30-35 game goalie. He is in a position to lengthen his career and who knows, maybe even a few more licks through the facemask from happy Hudler are still in store.
When it comes down to it, this season will all come down to the goaltender position.
For better or worse, the pressure cooker is in the net. The temperature is already starting to climb.