Less than three weeks into his tenure as the Capitals’ new head coach, Barry Trotz has made his first staff change. Mitch Korn, the longtime goaltending coach from his previous stop in Nashville, is expected to be hired by Washington in the same capacity, an individual with knowledge of the situation confirmed Thursday.
In 15 seasons with the Predators, all under Trotz, Korn developed a reputation as a goalie whisperer of sorts, extracting productive seasons from less-heralded prospects like Tomas Vokoun and Dan Ellis. He later developed Pekka Rinne into a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, and a Tennessean article from this April wrote that, “the joke [in Nashville] was that Korn was like Yoda from the “Star Wars” movie franchise.”
Korn was not scheduled to be under contract this upcoming season, with his deal formally expiring on June 30. It didn’t take long for him to find a new job with his old boss.
In Washington, Korn will presumably replace Capitals great Olie Kolzig, who was previously promoted to the position last September but came under criticism for the team’s struggles between the pipes, particularly with Braden Holtby. Following instruction from since-dismissed head coach Adam Oates, Kolzig was teaching a style change for Holtby that moved him deeper into the crease, something with which he was unaccustomed. But Kolzig and Holtby later worked together to fold some of Holtby’s innate tendencies back into his game.
“Olie and I have been on the same page since day one. He’s been keeping me sane through everything,” Holtby said then. “We talked about everything and we realized that I had to get back to where my natural instincts led me and we did that as a goaltender-goalie coach tandem, and I think towards the end of the season I think that paid off.”
(EDIT: CSN’s Jill Sorenson is reporting that Kolzig will remain on staff in some unannounced capacity.)
The news of Korn’s expected hire was first reported by The Tennessean, in response to Nashville’s statement that Korn would not be returning to the club and that the Predators had named Ben Vanderklock their new goaltending coach.
A Capitals spokesman declined to confirm the hire. Kolzig did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. It is assumed that, once the paperwork is finalized, Korn would be in place for developmental camp and possibly free agency beginning on July 1, should the Capitals decide they want to add another goaltender to help Holtby, the only one on their current roster, for the upcoming season.