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.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:04 PM EST
Happened 10 years ago Saturday.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:26 PM EST
Ottawa in a battle to make the playoffs.
Mar 7, 2014, 7:22 PM EST
He’s one of the top scorers for AHL Utica.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:35 PM EST
And the Stanley Cup, obviously.
Mar 7, 2014, 5:48 PM EST
He was New York’s leading scorer at the time of injury.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:51 PM EST
Click for the video of the NHL’s explanation.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Plus five NHL games to watch this weekend.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:49 PM EST
News and notes from around the blue paint…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:35 PM EST
Failed to “turn on the charm,” apparently.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:24 PM EST
More praise for them on Thursday after previously calling them the best team in the NHL.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:58 PM EST
“I thought he was real good.”
Mar 7, 2014, 12:50 PM EST
Hosting the Isles at the Saddledome.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:07 PM EST
Click to see which teams could be most impacted.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:47 AM EST
In related news, Philly leads the NHL in penalty minutes.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
But Jeff Vinik couldn’t sway him.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:30 AM EST
It’s not looking good in DC.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:17 AM EST
Matt Moulson set to make his Minnesota debut.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:45 AM EST
It’s been a rough few days for Mike Gillis.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:07 AM EST
The Capitals have waited a long time for him.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:15 AM EST
That and the rest of the links to start your day.
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack 0
- Canucks’ Kassian gets three games for boarding Dillon 19
- TGIF: Why Lightning fans can be upset with St. Louis 27
- Goalie nods: Luongo’s first game back with Panthers, Neuvirth makes Sabres debut 9
- Report: Kuznetsov terminated KHL deal, headed to Washington 20
- Canucks’ Bieksa: ‘If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is’ 34
- Luongo has Twitter fun at Canucks’ expense 35
- Sabres spoil Callahan’s Lightning debut, Stamkos’ return 7
- Dealing with the Devils: NHL reverses Kovalchuk punishment 47
- Playoff bubble watch — Rangers edition 14
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Report: Canucks want center, top prospect and first-rounder for Kesler (68)
- Sabres announce Pat LaFontaine resigns as president of hockey operations (66)