The Washington Capitals have enjoyed great work from their three young goalies during the 2010-11 season, but those inexperienced netminders will hear a different voice going forward. The Washington Post reports that goalie coach Arturs Irbe won’t return to the team in 2011-12, citing “family and personal reasons.”
The Post explains that the team will look for a new goaltending coach for next season.
It would be strange if that was a smoke screen to cover up the Capitals’ distaste for the job he did, because Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby played very well in the season. Katie Carrera points out the fact that Washington became the first team in NHL history to have three goalies 22 years or older earn at least 10 wins in the same season in ’10-11.
One cannot help but wonder if Irbe’s departure will affect Varlamov’s restricted free agent situation or if it’s even a sign that the young Russian goalie might not be back at all. Here’s a little more from Carrera.
The Latvia native was hired in 2009, in part because of his ability to speak Russian and communicate with Varlamov, who is a restricted free agent this summer. Whether Irbe’s departure plays a part in determining Varlamov’s future with the Capitals or impacts the continued progress of either Neuvirth or Holtby remains to be seen.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.