Washington Capitals: 6 Reasons Adam Oates Is the Right Coach for the Team
A few weeks ago, Adam Oates was officially named the new head coach of the Washington Capitals. Another former Caps player as coach? Fantastic. It now stands to reason that General Manager George McPhee is limiting his head coaching search these days to whomever is already on his speed dial.
But let's take a deep breath for a second and not overreact to the Oates signing.
Sure, Dale Hunter was a complete waste of time last year. Sure, it was another year of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole by turning a team with offensive talents into a defensive squad. Sure, the Caps have gone from a team with a great offense and a mediocre defense to a team with a mediocre offense and a mediocre defense.
But let's give Oates a chance.
Although we've got a limited coaching history to deal with, there are actually plenty of reasons to be positive about Adam Oates.
So why believe that the new Hall of Famer and former Caps great is ready to lead Alexander Ovechkin and company to greatness? I've got six reasons for you...
The Caps' strength is in its offense, so they need a guy who's not going to aggravate the fan base by trying to clip the wings of its high-flying gunners and turn games into defensive coin flips.
Oates' assistant coaching career began in Tampa Bay with the Lightning in 2009, where he focused on offensive strategies, providing tutelage to Steven Stamkos in his first 50-goal season and presiding over a power play that rose from 19th in the league in 2008-09 to No. 8 that year. And God knows the Caps need help in the area.
His tenure in New Jersey got off to a rocky start with the 2010-11 season when the Devils plummeted to last in the league in scoring, managing only two goals per game. But what a difference a year makes; the Devils finished 2011-12 15th in scoring and were Eastern Conference champions. How much credit does Oates get for that? I don't know. But I'll take it.
He's a Former Caps Player and Leader
And look at how well that worked out for the Caps under Dale Hunter! Okay, bad example.
Oates played for the Caps from 1996 to 2002 and was an integral part of the 1997-98 Stanley Cup run. Yes, being a good player and having experience in the Caps organization clearly does not correlate with head coaching success, but it sure doesn't hurt to command the respect of your charges.
He's a Former Center
Oh, how this position has plagued the Caps in the Ovechkin era. Aside from Nicklas Backstrom, it has been a barren wasteland at this position for years. In 2007-08 and 2008-09, it was a Sergei Fedorov in his late 30s who filled the role as the No. 2 guy.
In 2009-10, they had Brooks Laich and Eric Belanger to choose from. In 2010-11, they did the Fedorov thing all over again by shipping in a 37-year-old rental in Jason Arnott from the Devils for a brief postseason run.
And last year, with Nicklas Backstrom injured for half the season, the Caps were stuck with a patchwork center combination of Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Matthieu Perrault. Not fun.
Now, they've got a bona fide No. 2 center in Mike Ribeiro after acquiring him this offseason from the Dallas Stars. They also have another year of maturation in Johnansson and Perrault, with Laich as an ever-reliable veteran option. The Caps are, dare I say, potentially deep at the position now. And with a former center as the head coach, the Caps are finally focusing on what has been a major problem area.
Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Ray Bourque
Those are some of the names Oates has played with. The guy has not only been around greatness, he's been the best supporting actor for all three. As a member of the Detroit Red Wings, he was the No. 2 center behind Yzerman. With the St. Louis Blues, it was the "Hull 'n Oates" duo that led to a 90-assist season in 1990-91 for Oates as he fed Hull buckets of goals. And in 1997, after leaving the Boston Bruins for the Caps, Hull changed his number to No. 77 in honor of Bourque, his teammate and friend.
Does that mean he'll be able to impart the kind of hockey wisdom he has to Ovechkin in a way that could lead him to figure out how to elevate his game? Well, once again, it doesn't hurt that Oates has got the head-smarts.
He's Not a Former NHL Coach
Sure, people look at this as a downside.
Do you really want to get another sad-sack revolving-door bench boss who gets fired and shuffles from one NHL coaching job to another? A guy who gets hired based solely on the fact that he has experience sucking as a head coach?
Or do you want to take a chance on a promising assistant coach on the off chance you might strike gold? An NHL version of Joe Gibbs, perhaps?
I'll have the latter.
Look at that Cheshire grin. How can he not be a success? He looks like he's already plotting ways to slew-foot Matt Cooke.