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Washington Capitals: Perfect Fit for Adam Oates, the Little Engine That Could

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIJune 27, 2012

Tuesday, Adam Oates was selected to be a member of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Class, and was named Head Coach of the Washington Capitals
Tuesday, Adam Oates was selected to be a member of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Class, and was named Head Coach of the Washington CapitalsBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Watty Piper (Arnold Munk) would be proud of the Washington Capitals. Piper authored the children's story, "The Little Engine That Could." The story is about hard work and opportunity.

In the story, it is requested that an engine take a long train over the mountain. All of the bigger engines refuse, leaving the smaller engine an opportunity to try.

The smaller engine uses the motto, "I think I can," and manages to pull the train all the way over the mountain.

The Capitals have had their train in place for years with talented players like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, John Carlson and Dennis Wideman, to name a few. They've had big engines try to pull this load over the mountain, but none have succeeded.

Now, the little engine gets his turn, not that 5'11" is small—it's three inches taller than I am.

On Tuesday, in lieu of the the Hockey Hall of Fame committee selections, the Caps named Adam Oates head coach for the upcoming season.

Oates is that little engine. He has never been a head coach, let alone an NHL head coach, but he is no stranger to pulling a large load over the mountain.  

Oates squeaked onto the hockey scene in 1982 when he started his career at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the ripe age of 20. The young man from Weston, Ontario, accepted his scholarship and, in his first season, began to turn heads.

The center quickly showed the NCAA how good of a playmaker he was. Oates had 33 assists in his first collegiate season in just 22 games. In his second year, Oates played in 38 games and tallied 57 assists.

Still, he wasn't done.

In his final season at R.P.I., Oates led the Engineers to the 1985 NCAA National title. Oates, the team's leading scorer, ended the year with 91 points (30 goals, 61 assists) and was named a NCAA East First-Team All-American.

Adam Oates (back row, right) has never won a Stanley Cup and has never been a head coach. He can bring both together in Washington.
Adam Oates (back row, right) has never won a Stanley Cup and has never been a head coach. He can bring both together in Washington.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Still, the Canadian went undrafted. The Detroit Red Wings, however, signed the little engine to the richest rookie contract in league history at that point—$1 million per year for four years.

Oates kept trucking in the NHL. According to Joe Sakic, behind Wayne Gretzky as the best player in the league, Adam Oates was the best playmaker in the league.

Sakic has a point.

In his 19-year NHL career, Oates tallied 1079 assists, with 114 of them coming in the postseason. Tuesday, both men were selected for the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Class.

Hours before being notified by the HOF, the Caps called and named Oates head coach. The little engine just keeps on rolling.

He has had success in every level of hockey. Whenever he is given the opportunity.

His first head coaching opportunity will include the task of pulling a very long train over a very tall mountain. 

A mountain that includes the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Oh, and the team he spent the last two years assisting—the New Jersey Devils.

Oates has the vote of confidence from his general manager George McPhee and respect from around the league. Come October, we will find out if he has what it takes to pull the Caps train over the mountain.

I think he can, I think he can. 

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