Olie Kolzig offered his take on the Capitals’ young netminders and his coaching philosophies during his conference call with reporters Thursday.
While Kolzig may have limited coaching experience and his new role with the Capitals will allow him to see if it’s something he’d like to pursue further, those factors doesn’t mean he is without strong views on how goaltenders should learn to play.
“The junior kids are a little more raw than the guys at the NHL or the American League level,” Kolzig said, before expanding upon things he likes to focus on with young players. “We worked a lot on footwork, which I think is huge for goaltenders. I think too many goalies are spending too much time on their knees these days, getting away from the basics of footwork. Being as aggressive as you can without putting yourself out of position just the things that Dave [Prior] and I have worked on.”
Should the Capitals’ open training camp with Michal Neuvirth, 23, Braden Holtby, 21, and Semyon Varlamov, 23, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, all vying for time in the NHL, Kolzig’s ability to provide guidance for the mental demands of the position will be equally important.
“I think a lot of my coaching will be handling the mental part, too, especially with the guys in the minors,” he continued. “They’re going to want that itch to get called up. They’re going to play a few great games in a row and wonder why they haven’t gotten the call. It will be my job to kind of keep them in line to tell them it’s a process, to be patient.”
As for his coaching temperament, well, even Kolzig admitted he probably won’t be as mild-mannered as Prior.
“Dave was such a huge influence on me that I’ll kind of mimic his coaching style,” Kolzig said. “Maybe not the same demeanor – he’s such a soft spoken guy – I don’t know if I’ve ever been accused of that.”
Kolzig expressed his excitement to work with all three of Washington’s goaltenders, who each posses different styles and strengths. Of the three, though, Kolzig acknowledged he can probably relate the most to Holtby, who has drawn comparisons to the former Capital great thanks to his fiery personality.
“He’s a big guy, from what Dave’s told me he’s kind of got the same temperament, same competitive nature,” Kolzig said of Holtby. “I think he’s got a better set of hands than I do, the way he handles the puck.”
Neuvirth’s time in Washington briefly overlapped with Kolzig, who likes the way the young Czech native maintains proper position and never seems to panic. “I thought he handled himself very well during the playoffs,” Kolzig said.
As for Varlamov, Kolzig understands the frustration injuries can cause. Varlamov’s style is vastly different from the way Kolzig played but he understands how valuable the Russian netminder’s skill set can be if the Capitals can find a way to increase his durability.
“That’s something that I will talk with [Capitals’ strength and conditioning coach] Mark Nemish on how we can better that and get him to stay healthy as long as he can because he’s such a talent,” Kolzig said. “To see him move around the net the way he does, he does it night in and night out he’s such a big asset to the team.”
--In other goaltender news, the Capitals have signed Dany Sabourin to a one-year, two-way contract as first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. The deal is worth $525,000 in the NHL or $125,000 if Sabourin is in the minors according to Cap Geek. Sabourin is guaranteed $150,000 for the year, though.