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In praise of Adam Oates

May 2, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT

Adam Oates AP

Joel Quenneville led the Blackhawks to an amazing 36-7-5 record.

Paul MacLean helped the Senators into the playoffs despite a rash of injuries to star players.

Michel Therrien has been a great fit in Montreal.

But based on what the Washington Capitals have to say, Adam Oates deserves major consideration for NHL coach of the year.

“I’ve never had a coach that’s so in tune with his players,” forward Troy Brouwer told NHL.com. “He talks to you as if he’s still a player, but just a really smart player.”

And, of course, what can you say about the job Oates has done helping Alex Ovechkin get his scoring swagger back?

At the beginning of the season, Oates moved Ovechkin from the left wing, where the organization believed he had grown stale and predictable, to the right, where it was hoped the captain would give defenders something new to think about.

It didn’t work right away — perhaps it would’ve been a smoother transition had there been some preseason games to get comfortable — but sticking to the plan ultimately resulted in Ovechkin leading the NHL with 32 goals.

Communication, the Caps says, is one aspect where Oates excels, particularly compared to the last guy, Dale Hunter.

“It’s not a guessing game,” said d-man John Erskine, per the Washington Post. “Last year there wasn’t a lot of communication and this year’s totally different. It’s a 180.”

All compliments aside, Oates’ job wasn’t merely to get the Capitals to the playoffs. This franchise needs to have postseason success. An early exit at the hands of the Rangers and all the good work Oates has done won’t seem so commendable. They’ll just be the same old Caps that can’t get it done when it counts.

Related: Capitals-Rangers preview

  1. hockeywithdrawal - May 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    I love the job that a number of coaches have done this year – and while I wouldn’t hand the Hart to Ovi without a debate, I’d definitely give Oates the Jack Adams, hands down.

    • erbaker67 - May 2, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      I would have to disagree. I think Oates has done a great job but I think Sens Coach Paul Maclean deserves it more. I think what they accomplished through all the injuries is incredible.

    • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 2, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      How about showing a little love for the job Therrien did in Montreal? That team went from last in their division and conference, and 28th overall to 1st in their division, 2nd in their conference and 4th overall.

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 2, 2013 at 3:57 PM

        Couple of observations about the Oates/Ov relationship we need to factor in. Sure the 8 has found the offensive swagger, and it’s something he has naturally. So how much credit should we give to Oates? Secondly, will Oates be able to get Ovi to play smart D in the playoffs or will he bench him like Hunter did last year? Oates hasn’t won the SC with crazy 8 yet, and until he does he’s just another coach who’s trying to get this bloated ego to play like a true captain and superstar.

      • babykaby - May 3, 2013 at 5:09 AM

        I really think that you are one of the biggest jokes that comments on this site. I’m not talking about your comments regarding Therrien, I’m referring to your comments regarding Ovechkin. You are constantly referring to the bloated ego Ovi has and how he isn’t a good captain. I’ve been a Caps fan for many many years and I have yet to see/hear Ovi take credit for anything without praising his teammates. He also always acknowledges the players on the other teams (even Crosby). If Ovi never presented what a good captain he is before, he certainly has this year simply by the way he put his team on his back and carried them up the standings and into the playoffs. Even with that it was always about the team and never just about him. I get you don’t like the guy, but any true hockey fan with any intelligence at all would recognize he is playing like the superstar that he is. You should watch a game you might like it.

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 3, 2013 at 6:39 AM

        Firstly, Ov is constantly a scoring threat and finishes his checks very well. I do admire his skills and enjoy watching the Caps. Secondly, you wrote Ov may not have presented himself as a good captain before, but he had this year. So, we agree on something, and yes, he has carried the team with his goal scoring ability. However, scoring ability does not equate to being a good captain. Besides, wearing the C doesn’t necessarily mean you have to carry the team. It’s quit the opposite. On the ice he is not the best example. He at times is a floater, show boater, and is not a great set up man, and often makes terrible defensive decisions. A good C is a well rounded player who can play within the system, and puts a lot of effort ensuring other players play within the system. If he ended up on the bench in the playoffs last year it’s because he doesn’t play well without the puck, and therefore is not a good example for the team. We can agree to disagree. Yes?

    • jpelle82 - May 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      Boudreau, Mclean, Capuano, Richards in that order over Oates at this point. Boudreau quietly got his team 30 wins and #2 in the west after not qualifying last year

      • therealjr - May 2, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        And will not so quietly fail in the playoffs, as usual.

  2. imleftcoast - May 2, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I wish the Canucks had a coach like this.

  3. rabidbillsfan - May 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    I think Oates deserves it more then any other coach, although by a slim margain. Maclean dealt with injuries, but so does every team. Malkin and Crosby were hurt alot this year, but Bylsma doesn’t deserve it in my opinion. the overall scrutiny of Ovi by the media is what should garner him the most consideration. New coach trying to change a stubborn superstar by changing his position and asking him to do diffrent things. The Caps team at the end of the season could have easily matched up with any of the top powers in either confrence. Throw in a few injuries to some of their key guys, a “rookie” netminder and you still grab a top 3 seed, albeit in a weak division, that is quite the accomplishment. He took risks, and could have possibly “revived” the Great 8’s career as a dangerous sniper and game changer.

    • erbaker67 - May 2, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      I see what you mean but, like Bylsma, when Crosby and Malkin were out and the Penguins made the playoffs, he won. Oates took a team that was a playoff team, with no SIGNIFICANT injuries and still a playoff team. If you took say Backstrom and Green off the Caps, do you still think that the Caps are a playoff team? I just think with Spezza and Karlson out, and Anderson out for a while. I think he did a better job, just my opinion.

      • jpelle82 - May 2, 2013 at 4:18 PM

        i’d tend to agree. he didnt take the caps anywhere they hadnt been or werent expected to be. caps had the #1 pp and you can attribute that to him but when boudreau was there the caps had the #1 pp too with the same roster basically…some might argue this one is better because they have a true 2nd line center now with ribeiro. he has done a good job, dont get me wrong, but he was handed the reins to a thoroughbred horse in ovechkin and an established, experienced healthy team and almost drove them off a cliff to start the season. i’d look at Todd Richards, even though they didnt make it in, or lol (caps fans will thumbs down me for this)…Bruce Boudreau – got his team to 30 wins in the west and into the playoffs w/ #2 seed after they failed to qualify last year.

      • babykaby - May 3, 2013 at 5:15 AM

        jpelle82, same roster? Obviously, you just started watching them. Half the team is different.

  4. metaligoat - May 2, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    I agree with giving Oates a nomination, but I think the clear winner should be MacLean. The point of “all teams deal with injuries” isn’t entirely valid here, because the Sens didn’t just have some injuries, they were absolutely decimated by them, including their two best players simultaneously (Spezza and Karlsson). The general consensus when Karlsson went down was that the Sens were headed for a high lottery pick, that’s how bad they were expected to be. As good as Crosby is, the Pens are still very talented without him. And Oates inherited a team that was expected to be reasonably good with some question marks, and they wound up being exactly that in the end. MacLean all the way.

    • babykaby - May 3, 2013 at 5:27 AM

      “Oates inherited a team that was expected to be reasonably good with some question marks, and they wound up being exactly that in the end”

      Yeah, but they were supposed to have a preseason to learn and practice a new system, time for Ovechkin to get used to a new position, Laich, Orlov, Green able to play (fortuneately Green wasn’t out too long) Oates stuck with it through all the questions and bad press. No one will beat the Pens this year, they bought themselves the cup. All the other teams in the eastern conference are attempting to win without all the depth the Pens have. No other team will be able to beat a team loaded with star veterans that refused to play anywhere other than Pitt. The Pens will win, but it will be like the Yankees, a bought championship that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

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