Photo credit: Chris Gordon
In his two seasons as goaltender coach with the Washington Capitals, Arturs Irbe was more than successful. The 44-year-old mentored the organization’s trio of young goalies last season — Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, and Braden Holtby — and under his watch the Capitals became the first team in league history with three goaltenders 22 or younger to have 10 or more wins in a season. His pupils were also recognized a number of times for stellar play by National Hockey League last year. Neuvirth was named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, Varlamov was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending January 3, 2011, and Holtby — a virtual wildcard heading into last season — was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending March 13, 2011.
Holtby, who may have evolved the most of the three during Irbe’s time in the organization, performed phenomenally as an injury replacement last year, going 10-2-2 with a .934 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average.
So when word came out in early June that Archie was leaving the organization, many wondered why. Family and personal reasons were cited by the Capitals, which Olaf Kolzig backed up in an interview with Elliot in the Morning.
Today, Irbe gave his side of his story in a video interview with Kristaps Drikis of the Latvian Web site Sportacentrs.com. Thanks to a Russian translation by Sports.ru, RMNB’s Fedor Fedin offers it to you in English.
Arturs Irbe: It’s very interesting and entertaining to be a goaltending coach, but it’s a thing of the past for me. Two years of that was enough for me, and I don’t see myself in that role anymore — though I have offers, including long-term ones. I want to grow proffessionally, I want to move on, I want to earn more — after all, Washington is a pretty expensive city. I weighed the pros and cons of working in the Capitals organization and decided that it will be easier for me in Latvia, especially knowing that I have a son. Of course, there were a lot of positive things working for the Capitals, but if I would have stayed there as a goaltening coach, it would have become a routine sooner rather than later for me. Also, I had no career opportunities there. That is why I decided to leave the Caps.
Kristaps Drikis: What kind of promotion did you expect? Did you want to become a head coach?
Arturs Irbe: Absolutely not. I asked George McPhee if I can get some kind of promotion in the future, maybe one day become an assistant coach to increase my responsibilities, and he replied that the goalie coach is the most stable job. Assistants and managers come and go, goalie coaches stay for years or even decades. They thought that I would work with the Caps’ goalies for many years to come and I would be satisfied with that. But I didn’t think so. I want to set some new goals for myself.
The Capitals offered me a new deal but I decided not to extend my contract after much thought. I have got to know a lot working with the Caps, I have learned a lot, learned everything about an NHL club’s back room, and now I want to use that knowledge.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.