Jan 14, 2013, 12:56 PM EDT
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.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Head coach Todd McLellan thinks he can play, at least.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
“But sometimes you have to lose what you have to realize what you had.”
Sep 21, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
Players nursing bumps and bruises as camps wrap.
Sep 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
“In a perfect world, it would be three.”
Sep 21, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
“He’s thinking usually two or three plays ahead.”
Sep 21, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT
“God, defense was just so much fun though.”
Sep 21, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT
The team’s still trying to determine if surgery is necessary.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT
He won’t play in either of Ottawa’s Monday exhibitions games.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT
Seasoning in the AHL should serve the 20-year-old well.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Agent confirms talking to several KHL teams.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
With Giroux out, Craig Berube juggles lines.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Not at Oilers camp for the first time in his career.
Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Columbus looking at options with Johansen not at camp.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT
The restricted free agent seems to be at an impasse with Columbus.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he’s “fine,” but he initially said the same of Clowe when the player had a concussion.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
The knee injury he sustained during the lockout shortened season might be partially to blame for his struggles.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT
That’s after years of being the center of a goaltending controversy in Vancouver.
Sep 20, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT
Can they be the first repeat winners since Detroit in 1997-98?
Sep 20, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT
He was asked how he would have handled the Ray Rice situation.
Sep 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
Do Thornton and Marleau disagree with coach Todd McLellan on this point?
- Injuries piling up as preseason schedule begins 11
- Report: Fedorov denies contract offer was made to Johansen 7
- Report: Johansen has gotten no shortage of KHL offers 36
- Update: Drouin out with upper body injury, not expected to miss preseason 1
- Report: NHL officials to participate in preseason without new CBA 1
- Evander Kane: I know I can score 50 goals 14
- ‘C’-less Thornton comes out swing against Wilson’s ‘tomorrow team’ talk 18
- Joe Sakic’s now general manager in name too 6
- Update: Giroux out two weeks with lower-body injury 26
- Update: Crosby on ice with Penguins teammates Friday, leaves early 5
- Heeeeeere’s Johnny! Davidson shreds Johansen’s agent for ‘baffling, nonsensical’ contract demands (65)
- Jackets reveal Johansen offers — including an eight year, $46M deal (55)
- Will the NHL publicize divers? (48)
- No icing on the PK? The USHL will see how that looks (43)
- Just how damaging are heated negotiations between Jackets, RFA Johansen? (38)