The Immediate Impact Of Caps Head Coach Adam Oates

Adam Oates

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

It’s been over a year since the Washington Capitals got their guy when they hired new Head Coach Adam Oates on June 26, 2012. The same day Oates’ earned his new gig he received more amazing news in the form of a phone call announcing his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Oates sits 17th on the NHL’s all time leading scorer list, and 6th all time in assists. He is one of the best players in NHL history. Now, he looks to excel behind the bench, and so far, the Caps head coach Adam Oates has done a good job.

Oates’ Was A Successful NHL Assistant Coach

The Caps’ head coaching job is Oates’ first in the National Hockey League, however, he comes with a track record of success. The un-drafted NHL great got his feet wet as an assistant behind Rick Tocchet in Tampa Bay during the 2009-10 season. Oates, for obvious reasons was tasked with developing the Bolts power play, one which featured Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. As a 19 year old, Stamkos scored 51 goals that season, burying 24 of those markers with the extra man. All the Brett Hull comparisons drawn to Steven Stamkos’ one-timer from the high circle make a lot of sense when you consider Hull’s top setup man was the mastermind behind the Lightning power play.

The following season, Adam Oates joined the New Jersey Devils as an assistant coach under the watchful eye of Devils’ GM Lou Lamariello. Legend, and Hall of Famer, Jacques Lemaire took over as coach for a struggling John MacLean in December of 2010, providing Oates the opportunity to spend the rest of the season working under the tutelage of former Habs legend and 9th most winningest coach in NHL history.

Oates served another season as Devils’ assistant coach, this time behind current bench boss Peter DeBoer. With Oates on the coaching staff, the 2011-12 edition of the New Jersey Devils went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing in 6 to the Los Angeles Kings.

Communication Is Key For Caps Head Coach Adam Oates

One of the key assets in Oates’ coaching bag of tricks is his ability to communicate with players. His track record as an NHL superstar earns him instant credibility, which ensures his message is not only accepted respectfully, but also well perceived by his players. Plus, he’s an excellent speaker. Lou Lamariello was very quick to compliment Oates when his hiring in Washington was announced. In an interview with ESPN the Devils GM explained, “There’s no question. He’s very communicative, very intelligent, he explains things very well. He (Oates) has the resume behind him as a player and having the success he has – – all the credentials are there for having the kind of respect players have for him.” You can read the full article by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun here

Oates’ excellent ability to communicate with NHL players was on full display in the club’s recent courting of unrestricted free agent, Mikhail Grabovski. In Oates’ first attempt as lead salesman on a pitch to a potential free agent he said all the right things to sway the former Toronto Maple Leafs centre. In a CBC article by The Canadian Press, Oates describes his approach as a “soft sell.” Rather than boast Capitals cheer, the wise new coach used a clever ploy. Oates explained to Grabovski the difficulty he may have fitting into other NHL lineups with significant top six depth at centre. He used the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example when he told Grabovski, “Pittsburgh’s a team that obviously likes to score. Well, you like to score, so that would be a team that maybe you would consider if they had room.” 

The Adam Oates approach won out with Mikhail Grabovski, convincing the speedy scorer to sign a one-year deal with the Capitals worth $3 million. Grabovski was later asked what Oates said to convince him, to which Mikhail replied, “everything.” To read the full article by The Canadian Press as seen on CBC.com click here.

Caps Head Coach Adam Oates Is One Of Hockey’s Greatest Thinkers

Solely being an excellent communicator doesn’t translate to great head coach. Oates’ other, and more unique strength, is the way he thinks the game of hockey. His puck IQ was an asset throughout his playing days and continues to be in his young coaching career.

His immediate impact with the Caps was felt when he boldly moved NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin to the right wing. Oates justifies the wing switch in his comments to NBC Sports. The Caps coach explains, “He’s obviously a fantastic player and all it did (moving from left wing to right wing) was allow him to touch the puck more.” Read more from the NBC Sports article entitled – Caps coach thinks Ovechkin has ‘a lot of room to grow’ 

The Washington Capitals are set to embark on another journey toward winning the Stanley Cup with so many recent playoff disappointments fresh in their memory. With Oates behind the bench there is a new way of thinking and a willingness to experiment that could help the Caps finally win the franchises’ first Stanley Cup.

The best way to sum up Adam Oates’ intelligence is by saying this – A smart man takes over a successful regular season team with arguably the best player in the world on its roster, and he doesn’t change too much. He tweaks little things, and adds his own twist here and there, but he doesn’t reinvent the wheel. A genius, takes over that same team and he rethinks everything, going as far as altering the engrained tendencies of his best player. The immediate result, after a slow start and adjustment period on a new wing, Alex Ovechkin went on to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2012-13.