By Jim Diamond
With Monday’s official announcement out of the nation’s capital that former Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz has accepted the same position with the Capitals, the focus will now turn toward the staff that will assist him as he begins his tenure in Washington, and if the members of that staff would have an impact on Nashville’s coaches.
Washington’s website still lists Calle Johansson and Blaine Forsythe as its assistant coaches and Olie Kolzig as head goaltender coach. While who stands next to Trotz on the bench during games is important, the most immediate impact for the Predators may hinge upon whether or not Kolzig remains with the Capitals in the same capacity.
In his press conference the day it was revealed that Trotz would not be back with the Predators next season, he mentioned several members of the organization who he had worked with over the course of his 15 seasons in Nashville. It was an emotional day for Trotz, but the first time he got really choked up was when he mentioned the name of Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who he referred to as “one of my best friends.”
The day Peter Laviolette was named the second head coach in team history, Predators general manager David Poile was asked about Korn’s status going forward, and he said that the team had hoped to retain him, but to that point, Korn had not committed to returning.
It was widely believed that Korn would follow Trotz to his new destination but now that the destination is known to be Washington, it is certainly not a given that Korn will do so.
Kolzig just completed his first season as head goaltender coach in Washington. All but eight of his 719 games of NHL playing experience came in a Capitals uniform, and he owns virtually every one of Washington’s goaltending records. In short, he is a very popular member of that organization.
Known as Olie the goalie, Kolzig grew up in the Capitals organization, a process that started when Trotz, then a scout for Washington, discovered him during his days with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. The Capitals selected Kolzig 19th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
Trotz and Kolzig were reunited when Trotz became a coach in the Capitals’ system in 1990, and the pair spent many years together in the minor leagues. In 1994, their Portland Pirates team won the Calder Cup as American Hockey League champions. Kolzig was named the most valuable player in the AHL playoffs that season.
Needless to say, Trotz and Kolzig are tight, so it would be difficult to see him pushing for a change when it comes to his goaltending coach, even if it means not bringing longtime friend Korn along with him to Washington.
Even if Korn does not go to Washington, it is no guarantee that he will return to the Predators though. With an expiring contract, he may be a very attractive free agent to other teams in need of his goaltending Yoda-like services.
As far as his other assistants are concerned, Trotz could look to some former colleagues who are on the market to join him in Washington. Trotz was not supportive of Poile’s decision to fire longtime assistant Peter Horachek last summer. After serving as interim coach of the Florida Panthers for part of last season, Horachek was cut loose by the team. Former Milwaukee Admirals coach Claude Noel has also been rumored to be in play to join Trotz or Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey, PA.