Former Capitals goalie coach Arturs Irbe had a few surprising things to say about his parting ways with the team. In an interview with a Latvian website sportacentrs.com, Irbe said that he wanted an opportunity for career growth which his former position didn’t provide.
“Coaching goalies is very interesting but I have passed this level already,” said Irbe. “Two years of this kind of work was enough and I don’t see myself in this role anymore, even though I have offers right now, including long-term ones. I want to grow professionally, move forward, earn more. Washington, after all, is quite an expensive city. So I had measured all the pros and cons of working for the Capitals and decided it would be better for me in Latvia.”
“There were many positives in working for Washington,” Irbe added. “But If I continued to coach goalies there, sooner or later it would have turned into a routine. Plus, there were no opportunities for career growth at all.”
When asked what kind of opportunities he was looking for, Irbe shared this: “I had asked George McPhee whether I could hope for any kind of career growth over an indefinite period of time, to become an assistant coach, to increase my responsibility. But he answered that a goalie coach is the most secure job. They counted on my working with Capitals goalies for many years and that I would be satisfied with that. ... Washington offered me a new deal but after a lot of thinking I had decided not to sign it.”
Sounds like Arturs may have had some unrealistic expectations about the NHL coaching market.
Generally, for a goalie specialist like himself, especially a foreign one, the position of an NHL goalie coach is considered the pinnacle of achievement. Arturs is a legend in his native Latvia and he has had a very good NHL career with San Jose and Carolina, but this was his first coaching job in the NHL. He may have felt it was too early to rest on his laurels.
It should also be noted that Irbe left among rumors that both of his charges, Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov, were less than happy with his coaching approach. Varlamov, who in particular was expected to flourish under the tutelage of the fellow Russian-speaker, failed both to win the starting job and to avoid injuries.
After Irbe’s departure, the Capitals announced that Dave Prior would resume his role as goaltending coach, and that former longtime Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig would work with the organization’s prospects.
Slava Malamud is a reporter for Russia’s Sport-Express.