Thirteen years ago, Olaf Kolzig was coming off leading the Washington Capitals to the franchise's first and only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
He was a hero in our nation's capital, widely recognized as the main reason a blue-collared Capitals team was able to knock off the Bruins, Senators and the Dominik Hasek-led Sabres en route to the 1998 Eastern Conference Championship.
And now he's returning home in an attempt to help the Caps' young net-minders do the same.
On Thursday, the Capitals announced the hiring of Kolzig as the team's associate goalie coach, as much of a surprise as former goalie coach Arturs Irbe's sudden departure earlier this month.
While Kolzig has always been and always will be loved by the city of Washington for his contributions on and off the ice, he wasn't quite as pleased with the organization during his final season with the team in 2007-08.
After General Manager George McPhee dealt for then-Canadiens All-Star, Cristobal Huet, Kolzig lost his starting job in the spring of 2008. Kolzig watched as Huet carried the Capitals on a stirring win streak to unseat Carolina for the Southeast Division Crown.
Kolzig didn't see any time during the playoffs, and after the season ended, he decided to quietly move on to Tampa Bay, before ending his career later that season.
It was sad to see probably the best goaltender in franchise history leave Washington on such sour terms, which is why it's so nice to see him come back now.
Another interesting aspect of Kolzig's return is the fact that he was a goaltender whose main strength other than his size was his positioning. Another Washington goaltender who uses superior positioning to stifle shooters is current Capitals starter Michal Neuvirth, so the hiring of Kolzig makes sense.
Whether or not Kolzig can help the Caps go a step further than they did in 1998, the organization should be glad to have made amends with one of the most popular and influential players in franchise history.
Welcome back Olie, it's good to have you home.
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