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The Washington Capitals have chosen former player, Adam Oates, as their replacement for Dale Hunter as head coach.  Oates will join the Capitals fresh off of a Stanley Cup finals appearance as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils.  He spent the last two years with the Devils, after being an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Aside from those assistant gigs, Oates has never been a head coach at any level.

As a player, Oates played 19 years in the NHL, including parts of 6 seasons here in Washington.  Like Dale Hunter, he was a member of the 1998 Washington Capitals team that took the franchise to their only Stanley Cup finals.  He ended his career with 341 goals and 1079 assists in 1337 games and 5 All-Star Game selections. 

In his three years as an assistant, Oates was largely responsible for the offensive aspects of his team, including the power play.  In his only year with the Lightning, their power play went from 17.8% (19th in league) to 19.3% (8th in league).  That year also saw point increases from St. Louis and Lecavalier.  His first year with New Jersey was a rough one, which resulted in the Devils having to do a coaching swap in the middle of the season.  This past year, the Devils power play went from 14.4% (28th in the league) to 17.2% (14th in the league).  Let’s hope he carries some of that power play success over to a Capitals team that clicked at a paltry 16.7% (18th in the league) last season.

Caps fans should also look at the success of Ilya Kovalchuk while working with Oates.  Kovalchuk, like Ovechkin, had been in the midst of a decline in scoring.  Ever since his 52 goals in 2007-2008, Kovalchuk’s goal number declined each year, dropping to just 31 goals (60 points) in 81 games.  Last season, Kovalchuk led the Devils with 83 points (37 goals, 46 assists) in 77 games.  He was also their best performer in the playoffs where he racked up 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 23 games. 

The biggest problem I have with this hiring is the lack of defensive responsibility.  While Oates was a good 2-way center in his playing days, he had no experience coaching a defense at any level.  He might be able to get some of the forwards to back check a bit more, but I question his ability to fix the problems with defensive corps currently in place in Washington.  He certainly should be able to help Jay Beagle and Marcus Johansson round out their games, but is he really the best mentor for Dmitry Orlov?  Part of that will hopefully come when he chooses his two assistants.

I honestly didn’t expect McPhee do go with such a gamble on this one.  His last three coaches resumes have gone from an elite-AHL coach to an elite-OHL coach to, now, a guy who only 3 years experience as an assistant coach.  Seeing as how this could very well become McPhee’s last season with the Capitals, he is sure risking it all.

Filed in: | F Street Faithful | Permalink
  Tags: adam+oates, washington+capitals

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.