Capitals Goaltender Coach Passes the Baton to the Next Generation

At the conclusion of the Washington Capitals’ Development Camp, goalie coach Mitch Korn announced that he would be stepping down from his position and turning the reins over to Hershey Bears coach Scott Murray. Will this mean a change in the training philosophy and perhaps even the way in which Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer perform between the pipes?

Coaching a goaltender is no easy task. USA Hockey writes about the challenges that extend well beyond just firing pucks at the goalie during practice. It involves teaching the goalie to watch the ice, anticipate the puck, and know when to move high or low to block a shot. It is much more of a mind game combined with a skating skill game. We have all heard post-game reviews that talk about a goalie not having his head in the game.

One of the things that Coach Korn has been able to do is integrate Holtby and Grubauer with the team. They aren’t stand-alone players. He has taught the players how to challenge his goalies in the first minutes of each practice. Mitch always had a core team of guys who helped him work with the goalies. It was about the net minders, not the players. The training is so much more than just stopping slapshots – it involves understanding the players on the opponent teams and expecting the unexpected. He has a reputation for investing in the lives of his goalies, understanding that a coach’s job doesn’t end on the ice, taking into consideration the whole person as a player.

Mitch came to the Caps with Barry Trotz in 2014. He has coached five goalies to become Vezina Trophy winners, including Braden Holtby. He has fine-tuned the skills of Grubi into an elite player with the potential to become a starting goalie in the NHL. We have seen his unique approach to training, using screen boards and angle devices. He is a hands-on coach. One of the things we heard after development camp was how impressed the players were in the time he took with each of them.

Murray, at 35, has some big shoes to fill. He began coaching the Bears goalies, including Grubauer, in 2013. More recently he has coached the likely next generation of Caps goalies, Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek. He has had the privilege of working under the guidance of Olie Kolzig. Scott previous spent five seasons as goalie coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, He has already spent some time with Korn during camp so the transition to the Caps goalie coach should be relatively seamless.

Murray is one who believes in training his goaltenders to read the environment. He brings with him a history of working to develop players into top notch goalies. In addition to developing goaltenders in Hershey and in the OHL, he worked as a development coach for the RHP Training Centre in Ontario for two years. He is open to using all the tools available to coaches to improve his players. While his philosophy and process may differ slightly from that of Mitch Korn, we think he will be bring something new to improve the stopping power of the Caps goalies.

What’s next for Mitch, who turns 60 this fall? We understand that he will oversee goal-tending operations and serve as a mentor to Scott as he makes the transition. As Director of Goaltending, he will also travel to Caps affiliates in Hershey and South Carolina (ECHL) to work with their coaches and share his years of experience. He will continue with the Mitch Korn Goaltenders and Defensemen Camp to train up a new generation of potential NHL goaltenders. The teach of the ‘goalie whisper’ will continue, even as he pulls back from some of his duties with the Caps. And we imagine he will have much more time back home in NY for more great deli sandwiches!

watermarked2(2017-03-23-2150)Braden is one of the most agile goalies in the league. You know – those amazing splits and twirls when he makes one of those amazing saves that gets our heart pumping!! Underneath the showmanship is a well-trained player with discipline and concentration who is willing to do what it takes to make the save. We don’t expect any of that to go away. We look forward to observing Murray during training camp and Caps practice to see how he interacts with the goalies and what training tricks he has up his sleeve.

Author: Maggie Marcum

Managing Editor for Friends in Cold Places.

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