Caps Hire Olie Kolzig As Associate Goalie Coach (Updated w/Quotes from #37)

June 16, 2011 | Ed Frankovic

Capitals Press Release:  The Washington Capitals have hired former Capital Olie Kolzig as associate goaltender coach, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Dave Prior will return to his role as director of goaltending and NHL goaltender coach.

“We are excited to add a familiar face to our staff in Olie Kolzig,” said McPhee. “Olie had a tremendous impact on this franchise as a goaltender as well as an individual, and we are looking forward to him having the same impact as a coach.”

Kolzig, 41, played in 711 games as a Capital from 1989-90 through 2007-08. He currently owns nearly every all-time Capitals goaltending record, including games played, wins (301), shutouts (35) and minutes (41,259) and ranks fourth (minimum 3,000 minutes played) in goals-against average (2.70) and third in save percentage (.906). In terms of single-season records, Kolzig leads in games (73), minutes (4,371), wins (41) and is second (minimum 1,200 minutes) in goals-against average (2.20), save percentage (.920) and shutouts (6).

The Johannesburg, South Africa, native was awarded the 2000 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goalie, and was named the 2005-06 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner (awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community). He was also named to two NHL All-Star teams (1998 and 2000) as a member of the Capitals.  

A former Caps first-round draft pick (19th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Kolzig helped guide Washington to its only Stanley Cup Final in 1998. During his final season with the Caps in 2007-08, Kolzig was teammates with several current Capitals, including captain Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. The three-time German Olympian (1998, 2002 – sat out due to injury and 2006) appeared in 719 career NHL games with Washington and Tampa Bay before retiring in September 2009.

Prior spent 12 seasons as the Capitals goaltending coach from 1996-97 through the 2008-09 season, including 11 seasons coaching Kolzig, and worked in the Capitals organization as a goalie coach this past season. Under his watch, Washington goalies posted three of the five lowest team goals-against averages in franchise history, including Kolzig’s Vezina-winning season (1999-2000) and the Caps 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. The Capitals won four divisional championships and made six playoff appearances during Prior’s tenure.

Before joining the Capitals’ coaching staff, Prior worked as a goaltending coach for the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. In addition, the native of Guelph, Ontario, gained international experience mentoring goalies on the German National Team and spent seven years working with the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

Both coaches will attend the Capitals’ Rookie Development Camp, running from July 11-16 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.

COMMENT: With previous goalie coach Arturs Irbe not returning after two years, McPhee needed to bring in a new goalie coach so he will go with the Prior-Kolzig duo for the 2011-12 season. More to come following the Kolzig and McPhee conference call at 230pm.

UPDATE: Kolzig was made available to the media via conference call on Thursday afternoon and in vintage Olie fashion he provided some outstanding insight on his situation and the Capitals three young goalies. Below are the highlights:

– On coming back to the Caps organization:

“I’m estactic to finally be coming back to the place I call home. After over two years away it will be nice to come back and be around family.”

– On how the associate goalie coaching position with Washington materialized and why he took the opportunity:

“Prior pitched the idea a couple of weeks back to me. I thought there is not a better person to work with than him and he was the biggest reason for my success. I was sort of floundering in the minors [when playing early on] and my issues were not so much technical as mental. He helped me have a lengthy and enjoyable NHL career.”

– On Semyon Varlamov and how he might be able to help him improve and stay healthy:

“His is a physical issue. He is an explosive guy and he has to find a way for his muscles to keep up with his agility. I will likely talk to [Caps strength and conditioning coach] Mark Nemish about it. He is such a talent and such a big asset to the team.”

– On the Caps goaltending depth and which goalie he thinks is most like him:

“There isn’t another organization in the league that has such depth at the position at such a young age. The guy I can relate to is [Braden] Holtby because he is a big guy. He has better hands but his temperament is similiar.”

– On Michal Neuvirth:

“I barely met Neuvirth at the end of my career with the Caps but he was a quiet guy who seemed to go about his business.”

– On how he plans on focusing his coaching efforts and some of the logistics involved:

“A lot of my coaching will be on the mental part of the game, especially with the guys in the minors. I have a bad hip, so I won’t be on the ice in gear. I won’t be working a full time schedule. I just want to work with the kids and see if this is something I want to do going forward. Kind of see if I want to be the head guy, as a goalie coach.”

– On the Caps and their struggles to get deeper into the playoffs:

“I think [in 2010] they didn’t have the killer instinct in game five and gave up those two early goals. They need to find a good balance of offense and defense. They may need to look at bringing in a few new players, they have too much talent to not go further than they have.”

– On being around Alexander Ovechkin again, his thoughts on how the Great #8 has progressed on the ice, and what he should do going forward:

“I will have to back off on what I might say to him being a coach and not a player any more. His improved play on defense will him help go along way. As he gets older he needs to keep himself healthy. He’s like a raging bull out there and as he gets older he will need to reign that in a bit.”

FINAL COMMENT: McPhee, in his part of the presser, noted that Irbe had to return to Latvia for family reasons and that Prior expressed interest in directing the department again. The GM said Prior had done a good job before, Dave’s first choice was Kolzig, and they actually had talked about him a couple of years ago before Irbe was brought in, but #37 wasn’t quite ready. Overall this looks like a very good decision by the Capitals. Prior can handle the primary load for at least the upcoming season and if Kolzig enjoys it and does well, he is the frontrunner for the long term solution as Washington goaltending coach.