After spending the 2013-14 season as the team’s goaltending coach, Olaf Kolzig is looking forward to his new role in Washington as the club’s professional development coach.
Kolzig, 44, asked for a reassignment during the offseason in order to be closer to his his three kids.
The former Capitals first-round pick (19th overall in 1989) is hoping to use his new role as a stepping stone to bigger front office responsibilities.
“I’ve always thought about trying to get into the management side of things,” Kolzig told the Monumental Network. “This is a great way to start. You’re developing players, you’re watching them and nurturing them. And at some point, when my kids get older and I feel that I can spend more time up here, then maybe that’s something that I’d like to pursue. But for now, I was very appreciative that the organization accepted my new role and the proposal that I sent to them. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s great because it does allow me to get back and be with the kids, and at the same time have that chance to get my name on the [Stanley] Cup.”
Kolzig, who spent parts of 16 seasons in Washington, ranks 22nd among goaltender in games played (706) and 26th in wins (303). He’s trying to learn from former teammates Craig Billington and Chris Clark, who have also transitioned from their playing days to front office jobs with NHL clubs.
“When Biller first went to Colorado, he introduced this proposal to them, and I think it’s a vital thing in the game today, developing these kids,” said Kolzig, who will also be a fill-in goaltending coach. “And not just from how they are on the ice and their skills set but their transition from junior hockey or college or European hockey to all of a sudden pro hockey.”
Kolzig knows what that development process is like first hand. After being drafted in ’89, he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the 1996-97 season. His development took him through a number of stops in both the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.
“It takes some time to develop a routine and to develop something that works for you,” says Kolzig. “It’s a huge transition. I don’t think people understand how big it is. What you try to do is to keep them busy so they’re not constantly thinking about the game. You need a break. There is a lot of pressure in pro hockey. If you’re in a bit of a slump, your tendency is just to go home and dwell on it and at the end of the day, it will probably snowball and you’ll put yourself in more of a funk. It’s better to leave whatever it is at the rink and then go home and do whatever else it is. Maybe you have a dog, or a girlfriend, or you’re learning a language or an instrument. Just something to be productive.
“I know we all like to live and breathe hockey, but at the same time you also need something away from the rink. When I was younger, I played golf. It was a different time back when I came in; you had a lot of veterans and you did a lot of team bonding stuff away from the rink. And that’s not the case nearly as much now. If I can get the guys to be a lot more comfortable and keep the mountains low and the valleys high, and just keep them at a consistent level, then I think I’ve done my job.”
Kolzig begins his new role with the club this weekend.