Decision time nearing for Babcock

January 8, 2006


Mike Babcock has said from day 1 that he is not a two-horse guy, that the idea of rotating goalies is about as pleasant, to him, as it would be to the rest of us.

Going into training camp in September, Babcock said the job was up for grabs and that it was up to Manny Legace and Chris Osgood to decide between the two of them, with their play, who the number 1 would be.

Well, Osgood’s groin played a factor and the next thing you know the Wings are 10-1-1 and Legace’s October’s NHL Player of the Month.

November 1st spelled the end of the honeymoon for Legace though, as Mathew Barnaby and Jiri Fischer crashed through the crease and Legace’s knee buckled. He was out for three weeks, and in came Osgood-who promptly lost two straight. Legace returned to stem the tide, but November 25th saw another setback.

Legace said he was only “15% healthy” when he returned from a knee injury suffered Nov. 1. He made nine saves before leaving the game Nov. 25 against Anaheim and stayed down until last week’s shutout over St. Louis.

“I just wanted to play,” Legace said. “Things were going well. The team was playing well. We were on a roll and I just wanted to get back in there.”

Legace didn’t endear himself to the coaches, when he admitted to the media that he “lied” to get back in earlier, most likely feeling the pressure of losing his job after such an impressive start.

“I lied to the coaching staff and everyone else to play. It was stupid. I should have just tried to wait.”

Legace, speaking after coach Mike Babcock had left following the morning skate, said he returned too soon and added: “It probably hurt the team a little bit, too.”

Well, they’re both healthy now. And, seemingly, both are playing well. Legace shut down Nashville Friday. Osgood backstopped a big win in Dallas December 27th.

That week, Legace’s mouth ran away from him again, telling the press he had decided he’d play New Year’s Eve against Columbus.

“Manny hasn’t broke that news to me. I’m glad he let you guys (media) know first,” Babcock said. “So when he lets me know, then I can talk about it.”

He didn’t play that game, but came back January 5th to shut out the hapless Blues.

And we’re right back to where we were in September.

Mike Babcock has given no indication as to who the starter will be. Today’s Dallas game threw a wrench in the decision-making process as he’ll go with logic, starting Osgood over a team he owns, rather than personal practice of riding a hot goalie–Legace has given up one goal on 47 shots the Wings’ last two games.

Statistically, the two are similar:
Legace is 15-4, while Osgood is 12-4-3. Ozzie detractors will point to the number “3” and quickly remind you those are overtime losses.

In GAA, Legace’s 2.04 is second in the NHL. Osgood’s 2.81 has dropped steadily his last ten games, over which he’s 7-2-1.

“I’m still having fun. It’s about us winning the (Stanley) Cup, not about how many games I play,” Osgood said December 9th. “I want to play, but, at the same time you can’t mope around and be in a bad mood and bring other guys down. I cheer for Manny and Jimmy when they play. I support the guys and work hard in practice, and I’ll be ready when it’s time to play.”

“We’re the first ones to call each other after a game to say, “Good game,’ ” Legace said. “We’re both in each other’s corner. It’s good to have a guy you enjoy being around.”

Nice comments and a good public face, but the fact remains that Babcock has to make a decision soon. This month is the Wings’ toughest as they play the top teams (minus Ottawa) from the East, 4 more with Nashville, and only two games against teams not currently in the league’s top sixteen.

Babcock remains non-commital.

“All the power to him,” Babcock said. “If you play good, you get to play. If you don’t play good, you don’t get to play. It’s that simple. We’d like him to play good and he’d like to play lots. Well, if you want to play lots, you have to play good.”

He was referring to Osgood December 9th after a convincing Wing performance in Tampa Bay, but it was directed at both. Want the job? Take it.

8 Responses to “Decision time nearing for Babcock”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I kinda’ like the “netminder du jour” thing the Red Wings have going right now – Manny as Player of the Month for October, Ozzy with a good holiday stretch to get the Red Wings back on track, then Manny back for the past two games, posting a shutout in one and giving up just one PP goal in the other. “Ride ’em if they’re hot!” and “Sit ’em if they’re not!” will work itself out, just in time for the playoffs.

    Hey – your stuff here is better than my crap…guess I’m going to stay on my writing hiatus a while longer and just tune in here.

    Have a good one – time to go get around for a trip to the JLA.

  2. Kevin Says:

    So, based on tonight’s game, do you think Mike Babcock knows who his #1 goaltender is going to be? I think so, too.

  3. iwocpo Says:

    I think Babcock has known for a while. Tonite just cemented it for him.

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