Skip to content

PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Oates strike the right balance in Washington?

Jan 14, 2013, 12:56 PM EDT

Adam Oates AP

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.”

Related

For all the PHT Pressing Questions, click here.

Latest Posts
  1. Bylsma rips Penguins, calls effort level ‘troubling’

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT

    Dan Bylsma AP

    “It’s our puck battles. It’s our willingness to play in those areas and make it a tough game. “

  2. Brown: 0-3 hole ‘the most dire situation we’ve been in’

    Apr 24, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT

    Dustin Brown Getty Images

    Kings captain will play on the top line for tonight’s elimination game.

  3. Cooke: I didn’t intend to collide knee-on-knee with Barrie

    Apr 24, 2014, 2:16 PM EDT

    Cooke

    “Since March 20, 2011, I’ve been a changed player. I’ve approached the game differently. I think differently about the game.”

  4. Get your game notes: Avalanche at Wild

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 21: Mikael Granlund #64 of the Minnesota Wild shoots the puck as teammate Zach Parise #11 looks on along with Semyon Varlamov #1 and Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche during overtime in Game Three of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 21, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime. Getty Images

    Mikael Granlund became only the fifth NHL player in the last 75 years to score his first career playoff goal in a 1-0 overtime game.

  5. On ‘score effects,’ and the challenges of playing with the lead

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Ryan Johansen, Artem Anisimov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik, Tanner Glass, Craig Adams AP

    Seems like a good thing to write about after last night’s game in Columbus.

  6. MacKinnon: Avs ‘shut ourselves down’ in Game 3, not Wild

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche in action against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 2014 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Avalanche 5-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

    “They played hard, but for us it was more what we weren’t doing than what they were doing.”

  7. Bertuzzi to make series debut for Wings in Game 4

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT

    Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs Getty Images

    Detroit hosts Boston at the Joe tonight.

  8. Bergeron, Kopitar and Toews named Selke finalists

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT

    ToewsBergy Getty Images

    Toews won it last year, Bergeron the year before that.

  9. Report: Zetterberg to return to Detroit lineup tonight (Update: Game-time decision)

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Henrik Zetterberg Getty Images

    Would be his series debut, and first game since the Sochi Olympics.

  10. Bickell elevating his game in the playoffs

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:01 AM EDT

    St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks Getty Images

    “I think he likes the big stage.”

  11. PHT Morning Skate: Sharks go for the sweep

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT

    San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three Getty Images

    Elsewhere, Detroit will play Boston and Colorado will face the Wild.

  12. Hitchcock knows how Quenneville felt as Blues take their own tough losses

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:59 AM EDT

    St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators Getty Images

    The Blackhawks gave the Blues a taste of their own medicine.

  13. Kane’s OT goal ties Blackhawks – Blues series at 2-2

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:52 AM EDT

    Ryan Miller, Andrew Shaw, Alex Pietrangelo AP

    Another memorable moment for the American star.

  14. Stars chase Andersen, tie series with Ducks 2-2

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    Anaheim Ducks v Dallas Stars - Game Four Getty Images

    Just a nightmarish evening for Anaheim.

Featured video

Chances Blue Jackets bounce back?
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. D. Backes (3241)
  2. T. Oshie (2603)
  3. M. Duchene (2525)
  4. B. Bishop (2369)
  5. S. Mason (2341)