Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra were the faces of the Washington Capitals franchise in the ’90s, so it only makes sense that the team will bring back their beloved netminder to shepherd their new breed. While it’s easiest to think of Kolzig’s days with Bondra, Chris Simon and Sergei Gonchar, his career did overlap with the Alex Ovechkin era a bit as well, so he should have some familiarity with the team.
The Capitals also noted that Dave Prior would return to the role of director of goaltending and NHL goaltender coach. Washington previously employed Arturs Irbe – another scrappy and popular goalie who made his biggest impact in the ’90s – but Irbe parted ways with the team about a week ago.
Washington must decide what direction it wants to go in at the goaltending position this summer. The team enjoyed the solid-to-strong work of three young goalies, with Michal Neuvirth tentatively taking on the top role as Semyon Varlamov struggled with injuries while Braden Holtby made an impression in limited starting opportunities. Varlamov is a restricted free agent, however, opening up the possibility that he might flee to the KHL (and, therefore, the thought that the Capitals might look to a veteran goalies this summer).
Whoever is available in net, Kolzig and Prior will help guide them. Here is what Capitals GM George McPhee said about hiring the goalie known as “Godzilla” (plus a summary of his NHL career).
“We are excited to add a familiar face to our staff in Olie Kolzig,” said McPhee. “Olie had a tremendous impact on this franchise as a goaltender as well as an individual, and we are looking forward to him having the same impact as a coach.”
Kolzig, 41, played in 711 games as a Capital from 1989-90 through 2007-08. He currently owns nearly every all-time Capitals goaltending record, including games played, wins (301), shutouts (35) and minutes (41,259) and ranks fourth (minimum 3,000 minutes played) in goals-against average (2.70) and third in save percentage (.906). In terms of single-season records, Kolzig leads in games (73), minutes (4,371), wins (41) and is second (minimum 1,200 minutes) in goals-against average (2.20), save percentage (.920) and shutouts (6).
The Johannesburg, South Africa, native was awarded the 2000 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goalie, and was named the 2005-06 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner (awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community). He was also named to two NHL All-Star teams (1998 and 2000) as a member of the Capitals.
A former Caps first-round draft pick (19th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Kolzig helped guide Washington to its only Stanley Cup Final in 1998. During his final season with the Caps in 2007-08, Kolzig was teammates with several current Capitals, including captain Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. The three-time German Olympian (1998, 2002 – sat out due to injury and 2006) appeared in 719 career NHL games with Washington and Tampa Bay before retiring in September 2009.