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.
Aug 30, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
He’s still just 21.
Aug 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Cory Schneider has some big shoes to fill.
Aug 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Frederik Andersen and John Gibson both have a shot at being No. 1.
Aug 30, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT
The two sides are not budging in contract negotiations.
Aug 30, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
Will try to guide the Devils back to the postseason after two straight seasons without playoff hockey in New Jersey.
Aug 30, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Will wear a different look in 2014-15.
Aug 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Joins the Prince George Cougars as an assistant coach.
Aug 30, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
After playing over 1,000 NHL games, he’s enjoying the time away.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT
RFA David Wohlberg joins Albany
Aug 30, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT
After spending portions of last season as a healthy scratch, he’s looking to revive his career in New Jersey.
Aug 30, 2014, 10:11 AM EDT
Father Time always wins … eventually.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
” … Until we go into the season and start playing real games, our relationship will be fine.”
Aug 30, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Can they shoot out of mediocrity?
Aug 29, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Can he fit in well enough to embrace this opportunity?
Aug 29, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
Should they make a move or play hardball with free agents?
Aug 29, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Jeff Skinner was also on the ice Friday.
Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Can’t top No. 4.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
“I’m sleeping with it tonight.”
Aug 29, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT
The Chicago Blackhawks let him walk.
Aug 29, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Team has needs at center.
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