The Other Jeff

By Elliot Olshansky - January 23, 2008

I'll admit it...I'm very interested in what you folks think of what I do. I don't let it affect what I write or questions I ask, or even things I say in my radio appearances - like the one I made this evening with Bernie Corbett and Paul McNamara on 1510 the Zone's Hockey on Campus - but I do try to make myself aware of what you folks are saying. I've been known to lurk on a school specific message board or two - I've been checking out Bowling Green's Ay-Ziggy-Zoomba a lot since last Friday's brawl with Western Michigan - and I read a lot of team blogs (and had a nice exchange with the "UNH Hockey Blogger Guy" last Friday).

Then, there's the fanbase I've never quite gotten on the good side of...Minnesota.

Now, this isn't anything against the Minnesota fans, and I've been privileged to receive some very nice e-mails from Gopher fans in recent months, particularly after my article on Mike Carman last week. However, I've never really felt like I register with Gopher fans for some reason, and that may just be because I treat Gopher Puck Live as the pulse of the Gopher fans.

When I have gotten the attention of large numbers of Minnesota fans, it's been a little awkward for me, to say the least. Mention my 2005 interview with Phil Kessel, and I'm likely to groan and shake my head. Then, there was also my insistence that Minnesota wasn't as good as advertised during that big win streak last season. The longest-running issue, though, has been my comments about Jeff Frazee, who's really been the "other Jeff" among goaltenders this season with the success of Jeff Zatkoff and Jeff Lerg.

I've never been impressed by Frazee, and haven't been shy about saying so. That hasn't always been a popular viewpoint. However, lately, Frazee has truly struggled, and didn't even dress for Friday's game against Minnesota Duluth. His numbers on the year: a 6-7-0 record with a .890 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average. Alex Kangas looks to be the man in net for the time being.

This is the thing about being critical of athletes who underperform, especially college athletes: there's absolutely no joy whatsoever in being right. This is a young man with aspirations, who's expended a great deal of energy for as long as he can remember in order to be a hockey player. And he has talent, too. For whatever reason, though, he hasn't been able to put it together, and that's an unfortunate thing.

It's strange to say that, because I'm supposed to be impartial, but I believe I am. A player being unable to play to his full capacity is unfortunate. In an ideal world, every player would compete to the best of his abilities, and the best team would win. However, what we have is a world with injuries, mental blocks, mistakes on and off the ice, coming out flat, and a litany of other imperfections. One of my jobs as a writer is to point out those imperfections where I see them.

Writing about this makes me think back to football season, and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's tirade on a writer from The Oklahoman. Watching that may amuse a lot of people, but it reminds me that there's a right way and a wrong way to do this job, especially when we're dealing with young athletes. I don't know if I've always done this the right way - I doubt I have - but I do know that there's no room for schaudenfreude on this blog. I'll leave that to the WCHA fans celebrating the Gophers' struggles.

If there's one thing we've learned this season as concerns struggling goaltenders, it's that redemption is hardly unattainable, and that may yet be in the cards for Jeff Frazee, either as a Gopher or as a member of the New Jersey Devils organization. Maybe Jeff Frazee will be next year's Billy Sauer.

If he is, I'll be among the first to congratulate him.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 10:40 PM on January 23, 2008

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