The revolving door of Capitals head coaches began November 28 when then head coach Bruce Boudreau was fired when the team suffered a losing streak; the straw that broke the camel’s back was a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Capitals general manager George McPhee said that the players were no longer responding to Boudreau and it was time for a coaching change. Boudreau was also said to have had a strained relationship with star player Alex Ovechkin.
Boudreau was replaced with former Capitals player Dale Hunter. Hunter was known as a player’s coach and his coaching style was completely different from Boudreau. He was calm while Boudreau had a fiery demeanor.
Hunter had no NHL coaching experience, yet he still led the team to the playoffs where they lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the New York Rangers in game 7. Hunter quit in May to spend more time with his family and the junior club he owns in Canada.
And that’s how we got to head coach number three…Adam Oates, who was hired this week. The Capitals can only hope that the third time is the charm. Oates played for the Capitals from 1996-2002 and spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils.
Though he’s never been a head coach, Oates played in the Stanley Cup finals and coached a team in the finals. Some question whether or not his inexperience will hinder his ability to lead the team to the playoffs, but Capitals owner Ted Leonsis sees it differently and believes that Oates is the man they need to lead them to the Cup.
“Not only will Adam be a very productive coach for us, he also shares having a chip on his shoulder. We’re at that point where we have to do better in the playoffs. We have to win a Stanley Cup.” said Leonsis.
I don’t necessarily believe that prior head coaching experience correlates with reaching the playoffs. While the head coach is the glue that holds the team together, the individual players also have big roles to fill.
Oates brings a new coaching style to the Capitals; according to Capitals Insider Chuck Gormely:
Unlike former Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who often let his roster decisions do the talking, Oates said he believes strongly in communicating with his players simply because he was one. He said he plans on modeling his coaching style after Brian Sutter, who coached him in both St. Louis and Boston.
I’m not familiar with Oates as a player, but after seeing his former team, the Devils, reach the Stanley Cup finals, I am excited to see him on the Capitals sidelines this season. The team is in the process of updating their roster so it will be interesting to see who they bring on and who they acquire in free agency next month.
Time will tell how this pans out, but I’m hopeful that Oates can get the job done.
What do you think? Will Oates be the difference maker this season?