Las Vegas Hires Ex-Capitals Goalie Coach Dave Prior
The new NHL franchise in Las Vegas, which will begin play in 2017-18, announced on Wednesday they have hired Dave Prior as their director of goaltending and NHL goaltender coach.
News of Prior’s hiring is hardly a surprise given he worked under recently named Las Vegas general manager George McPhee with the Washington Capitals from 1997 to 2013. There was widespread speculation in the goalie coaching community McPhee would re-unite with Prior, who has a strong history of finding goaltending talent.
If there was a surprise, it was with the dual roles announced Wednesday. According to a story last week by Sports Illustrated reporter Alex Prewitt, McPhee’s first five hires were always going to include a director of goaltending, who would spend the upcoming season “scouting the pro and amateur levels” for the expansion and entry drafts before “transitioning into a broader role for the team’s 2017-18 debut season.”
Many assumed that would mean continuing on as director of goaltending, a role only the Dallas Stars have incorporated formally, but a structure more teams have move towards by making their development goalie coach responsible for scouting and training programs.
Prior’s resume reads well for that role. During his time in Washington, he was involved with the Capitals drafting an impressive list of talented goaltenders currently thriving in the NHL, including reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby, 2013-14 Vezina trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov, Michael Neuvirth, and current Capitals backup Philipp Grubauer.
Prior, who also worked as a goaltending coach with the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets and German national team before joining Washington, also worked closely with long-time Capitals standout Olaf Kolzig throughout a career that included winning the 2000 Vezina Trophy. Prior also spent seven years working with the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, and has appears to have a good eye for finding goaltending talent.
According to the release, Prior also becomes the goaltending coach in 2017-18, and if there are questions about this hiring in Las Vegas, they surround his past preference for more aggressive positional play, how it will fit with the trend towards more contained, controlled tactics, and whether he’s kept up with the ongoing technical advances over the past few seasons.
According to a 2014 story in the Washington Post, Prior was fired by the Capitals for “refusing to endorse and implement changes to the style of play” that Oates wanted from his goalies:
“Adam did not agree with how I coach, both in my methods and the content of what I coached,” Prior said. “My inflexibility was perceived as ignorance or stubbornness, but I perceive it as a much deeper knowledge of the position. … I have no regrets. I would do the same thing again because I stand up for what I believe in. I would gladly defend a goaltender and what I believe is the toughest way to play goal and lose my job over it than to pour gas on them or give them what I believe is bad advice.”
That doesn’t mean Prior remains inflexible now, or that he was necessarily wrong in the first place, but despite struggling under Oates’ initial insistence on a more conservative approach, Holtby has since talked about the importance of tightening up his game both technically and positionally under new goalie coach Mitch Korn. With so many headed in a similar “less-is-more” direction in the NHL, Prior’s puck-stopping philosophy at least bears scrutiny, both as the new team searches out talent in the expansion and entry drafts after this season, and especially once it comes time to coach and develop those new goaltenders the following year.