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.