Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Letter To Jussi

Dear Jussi,

Back on April 10th, about a month after you were pulled from the net for what we thought would be the last time, Mudcrutch summed up what it means to be an Oilers fan: “Cheering for the Edmonton Oilers, much like cheering for the Boston Red Sox, is not for the weak stomached or the faint of heart. It requires faith and constancy and the ability not to get bogged down in the horrific present.”

These are also good qualities for an Oiler player.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a careful video review, the oilogosphere has regained its bearings. Our spines are stiffened. Now it’s time to have a little talk.

I want you to understand two things: first, you’re not a very good goaltender – at least you weren’t this year. That’s just a fact, and there’s no point pretending otherwise.

But there’s a second, more important fact: you can be just as good as Cam Ward, and that’s all that matters.

You see, for all the publicity he’s gotten for a few sprawling “game-saving” stops, Cam Ward wasn’t a very good goaltender this year either, and he’s already been pulled from the net twice in the playoffs.

By regular season record, Mudcrutch calls him the worst goalie to appear in the Cup Finals in twenty years. Not only can you be just as good as this kid, you can be better.

Now I am a bit worried, Jussi, because you didn’t manage better than a .900 save percentage this side of New Years, and your best performances came against Columbus. But let’s not dwell on your past. Let’s talk about Cam’s.

Ward has some equally shameful skeletons in the closet, like that December 3rd trip to Phoenix where he was bombed for 6 goals on 18 shots in just 30 minutes, including three by Ladislav Nagy. Yes, the same Ladislav Nagy whose season ended with just 15 goals in 51 games.

In fact, Ward was better than the league average in just 14 of his 28 regular season games. And guess what, Jussi? You managed 14 games above the league average as well. You even managed a marginally superior save percentage over those starts: .937 to Ward’s .935.

Over your best 20 games – and who among us doesn’t want to be judged by their best work rather than their off-days – you out-saved Ward by a mark of .921 to .917.

The skeptics will say, “So what, that’s only a difference of 8 goals over a season?” But that’s not the point. The team in front of you outshot Carolina 38 to 26 on Monday night. As long as the shooters keeps up that differential, all you have to do is keep pace with the kid at the other end of the ice. And for a maximum of six games.

Are you going to let some punk rookie from Sherwood Park show up the Pride of Imatra?

I didn’t think so.


At 5:31 PM, Blogger Alex said...

For the record, I'm a Conklin supporter. He's a better goalie, and has more big game experience.


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