Jan 14, 2013, 12:56 PM EST
Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
The Washington Capitals have experienced something of an identity issue.
It’s not fair to call it a crisis — they’ve made the playoffs five straight years, after all — but maybe “conflict” is the right term.
Under Bruce Boudreau, offense reigned supreme until a series of postseason failures. After those, he vowed to make the team more defensively responsible while maintaining its offensive prowess.
Under Dale Hunter, it was all defense all the time. Guys often blocked more shots than they took.
Now it’s up to new head coach Adam Oates to (re?) establish what the Capitals are. Will they get back to Boudreau’s firewagon style, or stick to Hunter’s system?
The answer is “a little of both,” with a lot of teaching and tutorials in between, according to Braden Holtby.
“With Adam, I think everyone learns really quickly that he’s a very good instructor. Some coaches are motivational guys and what-not,” Holtby said. “Adam is very about the details and very technical, and that’s something you really appreciate as a professional because your job is to prepare yourself for games.
“What Adam wants to do is make sure we’re given the instruction to get better.”
Oates is pushing an entirely new strategy — a hybrid system implementing some of Hunter’s defensive techniques and some of Boudreau’s aggressive offensive approach.
In listening to Washington’s players, it seems two things are evident: 1) dump-and-chase hockey is out, and 2) skating, pressure and forcing turnovers is in.
“The system is great,” captain Alex Ovechkin told CBS Washington. “I’m excited. Everybody involved so you can create. It’s not like [dump] and chase like we played [under Hunter]. I’m excited.”
“We’ve scouted and played a lot of teams that play a somewhat similar system – New Jersey, Boston, L.A., Nashville,” added winger Matt Hendricks. “We’re going be a skating team within a very defensive structure. It’s an exciting brand of hockey. We’re going to force teams to turn the puck over.”
‘Skating’ is the buzzword out of Washington these days.
Oates’ emphasis is on pushing tempo and the need for speed, something he explained after icing a new-look top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin — with No. 8 playing on right wing instead of his usual left.
“Ovi’s a very fast guy, put some speed on the other side,” Oates told the Washington Times. “Everybody’s pretty much played with each other and I think right now our top six can go with each other but I like the look of the line so far.”
The big question now? If enthusiasm and buy-in for Oates’ approach will happen fast enough. The Caps are at a disadvantage with the shortened training camp/season, as it gives them less time to figure out what their new head coach wants.
It’s something Oates recognizes.
“It’s a growing period,” he explained. “Hopefully we’re a strong enough team to get through that. I think we are.
“It’s tough in a short season to get through it, but that’s why you have to work to be good everywhere.”
For all the PHT Pressing Questions, click here.
Dec 7, 2013, 6:31 PM EST
Dallas unsuccessful on that power play.
Dec 7, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
He finished the game with four points.
Dec 7, 2013, 5:28 PM EST
Good news for Nashville.
Dec 7, 2013, 4:48 PM EST
After 20 seasons, this could be it.
Dec 7, 2013, 3:34 PM EST
He had three head or neck injuries last season.
Dec 7, 2013, 3:02 PM EST
He’s battled injuries the past two seasons.
Dec 7, 2013, 2:02 PM EST
He was their fourth-round pick in 2009.
Dec 7, 2013, 1:08 PM EST
He was the Panthers’ all-time leader in assists.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:13 PM EST
Losing blue liners is not optimal.
Dec 7, 2013, 10:54 AM EST
It’s getting grumpy in Winnipeg.
Dec 7, 2013, 10:02 AM EST
That’s a big sigh of relief for Boston.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:15 AM EST
It’s all about the chances.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:15 AM EST
Jean-Sebastien Giguere remains undefeated.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:59 PM EST
Watch the video to decide for yourself.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:10 PM EST
Blackhawks have now lost three in a row.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:36 PM EST
Tough two days for San Jose.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:15 PM EST
Next summer, they’ll be talking about shrinking goalie sweaters.
Dec 6, 2013, 9:58 PM EST
Phoenix goes to Vancouver shorthanded.
Dec 6, 2013, 9:41 PM EST
Columbus dominated Minnesota 4-0 on Friday.
Dec 6, 2013, 9:02 PM EST
Recalled forward Zach Boychuk played Friday.
- Report: Salary cap ‘may be around’ $70 million next season 17
- TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend 5
- Report: Laviolette a candidate to replace Capuano 21
- Sharks say Fleury was ‘shaky’ and ‘fighting it’ in 44-save victory 53
- Boychuk boarded by Pacioretty, taken off on stretcher (Update: has movement in extremities) 57
- Seguin (concussion) cleared to play tonight 0
- Bylsma: Sharks are NHL’s best, ‘with all due respect to Chicago’ 89
- Will the Rangers use a compliance buyout on Richards? 10
- Malkin (lower body) to miss tonight’s game versus Sharks 20
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ 60
- Bylsma: Sharks are NHL’s best, ‘with all due respect to Chicago’ (89)
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ (60)
- Boychuk boarded by Pacioretty, taken off on stretcher (Update: has movement in extremities) (57)
- Lehtonen shines, Roussel agitates as Stars beat ‘Hawks (53)
- Sharks say Fleury was ‘shaky’ and ‘fighting it’ in 44-save victory (53)