Arturs Irbe left Capitals job as goalie coach because he wanted to do more


Having an NHL-experienced goalie on your staff as the team’s goalie coach is a great thing to have, especially when you’ve got a host of young guys in net to coach. For the Washington Capitals, they had former San Jose Sharks star and Latvian superman Arturs Irbe to handle those duties.

This summer, however, Irbe decided to leave his position with the Capitals unexpectedly in early June. With having guys like Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, and Braden Holtby to help mold into becoming stud goalies in the NHL, you’d think Irbe had the dream job to have. After all, it’s not as if the Caps were a losing team and Irbe’s tutelage was going to be useful with such a young stable of goalies.

As it turns out, Irbe had his eyes on something more like the American dream. Slava Malamud reports in The Washington Post that Irbe was looking to stretch his coaching abilities a bit further out than just with goalies.

“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.

Looking to grow and expand your opportunities is something we can all identify with. Think of how many times you’ve found yourself at a job you liked and wanted to do more with what you were doing. Sometimes when you’re at one of the first jobs in your career you feel like you can contribute things to cure any and all the ills going on or add something more to the process to make things better.

Sounds like Irbe didn’t want to be shackled down by his position and held in place by the whims of “the man” and set himself free so as to not wind up being stereotyped the rest of his post-playing career. It sounds like something out of deep literature in how it transpired for Irbe and perhaps one day he’ll wind up being an assistant or head coach, but making that jump right away is almost impossible for anyone to do. Everyone  has to get their start someplace and for Irbe, starting out as a goalie coach is a nice beginning.

That said, McPhee was right in telling him that being a goalie coach is the most secure job to have in that market but coaching a position is vastly different than coaching a team when you’re juggling strategies and lines. You can’t begrudge a guy wanting to do more with his life and Irbe will hopefully get to live his hopes out somehow.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”