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.
May 26, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT
“There has been some discussion and there will continue to be.”
May 26, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
One more chance to get the Blues over the playoff hump.
May 26, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT
Journeyman tough guy appeared in 18 games last year.
May 26, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
No sense denying the magnitude of being one win from the Stanley Cup Final.
May 26, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Anaheim didn’t take long to rebound in overtime last night.
May 26, 2015, 1:13 AM EDT
Monday’s tough loss hasn’t weakened his resolve.
May 26, 2015, 12:21 AM EDT
Matt Beleskey scored the game winner after initially losing his second line spot.
May 26, 2015, 12:03 AM EDT
Chicago was trailing for most of the game.
May 25, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
It was a reversal from the first frame.
May 25, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT
Maple Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier had a big game too.
May 25, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT
The first period was all Anaheim.
May 25, 2015, 9:42 PM EDT
The Ducks got off to an ideal start.
May 25, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT
Emerson Etem is a healthy scratch.
May 25, 2015, 8:29 PM EDT
He needed to keep his wrist frozen to play.
May 25, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
He was linked to Nashville’s playoff curfew incident.
May 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
The series is tied at 2-2.
May 25, 2015, 5:43 PM EDT
There’s going to be a fight for the No. 1 gig in Detroit.
May 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EDT
Reports out of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
May 25, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT
- Hitchcock re-signs for one more year in St. Louis 4
- Ducks win crazy Game 5, push ‘Hawks to edge of elimination 24
- WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Ducks, Game 5 of Western Conference Final 3
- In the playoffs, sometimes it comes down to the ‘bounces’ 4
- Now feels like a good time to debate Stamkos’ next contract 34
- Here’s the latest on coaching searches in Buffalo, San Jose and New Jersey 3
- Bishop bounced back in Game 5, but did the Rangers test him enough? 9
- Surging Stamkos: Lightning put Rangers on the brink 19
- Report: Blues will stick with Hitchcock ‘barring anything dramatic’ 18
- WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Rangers, Game 5 of Eastern Conference Final 0
- Reports: Sabres thought they had a deal with Babcock, aren’t happy (174)
- Leafs land Babcock with reported 8-year deal, estimated at $50 million (130)
- Report: Sabres negotiating with Babcock (82)
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (75)
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? (70)