Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Osgood Must Make Good On Yet Another Promise

Ty Conklin did everything the Red Wings wanted him to, and more, and now he's gone---bugging out of town after just one season in Detroit.

Conklin, the Red Wings' ace in the hole last season in net, is the typical vagabond goalie on tour---taking his act from city to city on a yearly basis, almost.

It began in Edmonton, and then moved to Pittsburgh. Last season, Conklin performed in Detroit, and to rave reviews. This year, he'll do his thing in St. Louis.

If it wasn't for Conklin, who knows where the Red Wings would have been last season---as far as the non-playoff version goes. He outplayed supposed No. 1 netminder Chris Osgood all season, and there was talk that Conklin, not Ozzie, would be the best choice to be between the pipes when the curtain opened on the post-season.

Osgood had, by his own admission, a horrible regular season. Then, in very Ozzie-like fashion, he promised us he would be ready when the playoffs arrived.

Was he ever!

After being shut down, basically, in February so he could mentally re-charge, Osgood was perhaps the Red Wings' playoff MVP. He likely would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy---awarded to the MVP of the NHL playoffs---if he and his teammates could have pulled off one more victory in the tournament.

The Red Wings won't have Ty Conklin and his safety net this season. Instead, unproven, slow-to-develop Jimmy Howard figures to be Osgood's backup.

It could be a dicey situation.

Osgood, for one, has made another promise. And far be it from us to not believe him, for Chris Osgood almost always makes good on his promises and almost always bounces back from sub-par work.

"I will never, EVER, have another regular season like I did (in 2008-09)," Ozzie told us media types before the Stanley Cup Finals, on Media Day. "I found out the hard way that I wasn't prepared---mentally or physically---for the season, coming off winning the Cup."

It won't happen again, Ozzie promised.

I believe him.

Still, if Howard doesn't wee-wee and is thus asked to remove himself from the pot, then the Red Wings will be in a pickle. It would be unfortunate to make Osgood---who'll turn 37 in November---play in any more than 50-55 games during the season, if the team can help it.

If Conklin isn't around last season, or if he doesn't play as stellar as he did, then the Red Wings, with sieve-like Chris Osgood as the No. 1 goalie, likely don't win the Central Division. It's that simple.

Because Conklin was around, providing veteran play and calming folks around the team, the Red Wings felt they could be more patient with Osgood---letting him get prepared for the playoffs at his own, leisurely pace. That's not easy to do when the No. 2 is young and/or shaky.

This year, the Red Wings might have young and shaky on the bench most nights, opening the swinging door for teammates during games.

As a result---barring a trade for a veteran goalie (don't count on blast from the past Dan Cloutier, who's in camp on a tryout)---the Red Wings need Chris Osgood to make good on one of his promises yet again.

The Red Wings don't have that "Cup hangover" this year. Coach Mike Babcock admitted recently it's there, for every defending champion. But he said he wasn't about to share that with his team last training camp---why should he have?

Osgood doesn't have the hangover, either. He promises to be ready, promises not to be a big piece of Swiss cheese in net for the Red Wings.

After all, he'll never, ever let that happen again.

His word's been as solid as the ice on which he plays, so may as well believe him.

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