What will Adam Oates bring to the table?
The Capitals not only parted ways with Alex Semin in the off-season but were left with a head coaching vacancy left by Dale Hunter. The Capitals looked to one of their former greats in Adam Oates to fill the void as he was instrumental piece in the New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup run as an offensive assistant.
It will be interesting to see what type of offensive style Oates brings to the table this season as the Capitals struggled offensively more than they have in years past. Capitals left wing and captain Alexander Ovechkin struggled mightily last season only producing 65 points in 78 games. For a star of his caliber, this is unacceptable.
Ovechkin was extremely predictable last season and relied too heavily on his bread and butter dekes and moves up the middle of the opposing defense. Far too often, Ovechkin refused to pass the puck and tried to do too much on his own stick. The curl-and-drag up the left-side board became such a broken record that defensemen just had to simply keep their sticks on the ice to poke the puck away.
Oates has two main challenges this season.
The first is getting his captain more involved in the offense and returning him to superstar form.
The second is encouraging this team to take more shots on net.
If Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro are healthy, the first shouldn’t be an issue as a lot of pressure will be taken off the shoulders of Ovechkin. Plain and simple, these guys will improve Ovechkin’s scoring totals as they will find creative ways to make opportunities count for Ovechkin in the goal column.
The second will be a much more daunting task. With no pre-season games and a limited training camp, it will take some time to install Oates offensive system. Dale Hunter’s system focus much more on improving the defensive end and taking the perfect shot, rather than peppering the goaltender with a constant barrage of shots.
The Capitals don’t have to take every shot they are given and not to sound like John Madden, but in order to win hockey games you have to score goals. Goals are scored by taking shots. There is no reason with a superstar like Ovechkin that the Capitals should ever be under 20 shots in a game.
This Washington Capitals season will be defined by Oates’ ability to bring back the offensive firepower and prowess of the Capitals teams that won four-straight division titles. If he can maintain the improvements on defense and have a strong campaign from both Holtby and Neuvirth in the net, this Capitals team has enough talent to at least garner a third seed in the Eastern Conference.