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Private exit interviews contributed to Capitals’ cleaning house

Apr 27, 2014, 10:48 AM EDT

For obvious reasons, if a player is going to speak about his head coach or general manager to the media, it is usually in a show of support. What do you suppose the Capitals players were saying about former coach Adam Oates and GM George McPhee off the record?

For the first time since he bought the Washington Capitals, Ted Leonsis, joined by Capitals president Dick Patrick, conducted private exit interviews, according to CSN Washington.

“When we spoke to all of the individuals, we said, ‘We know this is uncomfortable and you should be able to tell us whatever you want or tell us nothing, but whatever you tell us is just going to be between me and Dick because we’re seeking out information,’” Leonsis said.

Leonsis and Patrick considered the results of those conversations and then asked themselves if they thought the current leadership group was capable of competing for the Stanley Cup in 2014-15.

“Our answer was obviously no,” Leonsis said.

Oates had some critical things to say about several players in recent weeks. He accused Alex Ovechkin of quitting on a Dallas Stars goal. He claimed Jaroslav Halak didn’t want to play against his former squad, St. Louis, in a key game, which left Halak’s agent bewildered that “a coach would break that trust” by sharing the contents of a private conversation, especially “when those comments the coach publicly attributed to Jaro are not accurate.”

The former bench boss also labeled defenseman Mike Green as an enigma.

Meanwhile, a report suggested that McPhee had an “adversarial relationship with player agents.”


Leonsis: Capitals weren’t ‘trending toward being able to compete for a Cup’

Backstrom: ‘We’re the ones that should be ashamed’

  1. pitpenguinsrulez - Apr 27, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    I really don’t disagree with Oates ripping Ovie. Oates was a coach whose not afraid to speak his mind.

    • withseidelinn - Apr 27, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      And if you look at the play, it was more than justified.

  2. flyboystransport - Apr 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    So the players stink but it’s the coach and gm’s fault? Actually it kinda is….

  3. broadstreetbeatdown - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Ovechkin did quit on that play. Nothing wrong with calling him out on that. No wonder Dale Hunter didn’t want to coach this sorry club.

  4. stcrowe - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Kelly Hrudey criticized the concept of exit interviews with players last night. He said, “the lunatics are running the asylum.” He and Adam Oates played in an earlier time and don’t seem to understand that players like Ovechkin have far more power than coaches these days.

    The all-powerful coaches of the past, like Scotty Bowman, are no more. You can’t toss players under the bus and last very long. That is why Mike Keenan is coaching overseas. That is why John Tortorella and Ron Wilson don’t last long with any particular team. In contrast, coaches like Barry Trotz and Lindy Ruff keep their player criticisms private and can last over a dozen years with a single team, and have no trouble finding new jobs after they are fired.

    • joey4id - Apr 27, 2014 at 7:35 PM

      Wow! If any coach adapted with the times it was Bowman. He coached in every decade until he retired in 2002. What did he do his last year? Oh! Hum! Just another Stanley Cup. Toss players under the bus my A$$. Get your facts straight before you toss anybody under the bus….. buddy!

      • stcrowe - Apr 27, 2014 at 9:40 PM

        Well, “buddy,” if you had actually read what I wrote, I referred to him as an “all-powerful coach.” I did not say that Bowman tossed players under the bus.

        Having said that, Bowman was known as an unapproachable, at times hysterical, coach during his Montreal Canadiens days. In Dick Irvin’s oral history book about the Montreal Canadiens, several players commented on his angry yelling during games. Mario Tremblay recalled Bowman telling him that he didn’t give him more ice time because he didn’t like his face. In Ken Dryden’s book, he recalled that all of his teammates admitted to respecting Bowman, but none would admit to actually liking him. Enough straight facts, “buddy?”

        Of course Bowman adjusted with the times, as demonstrated by his success in Pittsburgh and Detroit. As I said in my earlier post, players in the current day would have too much power to tolerate the Scotty Bowman of the 1970s.

        Perhaps if you had read my post as carefully as the NHL rules that you are so fond of repeatedly pasting into other postings, you might have understood that, “buddy.”

        All the best.

    • joey4id - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:45 AM

      Thank you. Your little history lessen actually supports the fact that Bowman adapted with the times, and I didn’t have to read a book for to know that.

    • joey4id - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:46 AM

      Thank you. Your little history lesson actually supports the fact that Bowman adapted with the times, and I didn’t have to read a book to know that.

  5. 1hockeyfan - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    It’s a little sad that it took private exit interviews for them to realize that this roster wasn’t going to compete for the cup.

  6. t9tookey - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    You can’t fire the team. And truthfully, did Leonsis really need to talk to the players to know that Oates was not well liked and that this team wasn’t going anywhere?

  7. Eutaw's Finest - Apr 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Why are people ripping the players? Here’s my thing: great coaches don’t force the talent they have to change their ways. Great coaches take the talent they have and find ways to utilize it to the fullest. Oates was not that guy. Oates made a million questionable line changes. Oates couldn’t coach D. Oates pushed FA acquisitions that were supposed to help top lines down to the rarely used 4th line. Oates had an abysmal PK set up. Oates kept guys like Orlov in limbo til they were fed up enough to demand trades. It wasn’t just calling out players. He earned his pink slip.

    • hockeyflow33 - Apr 27, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      I think the thought process you’re using is correct but lots of times there are players that just don’t fit with a coach’s system or vice versa. Look the offseason’s trade with Seguin; his style of play was never going to work in Boston but put him with a coach who utilizes a star-player system and he’ll flourish. There isn’t one style of coaching that wins.

  8. gbart22 - Apr 27, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    They’ve already been fired why is it necessary to keep piling on?

    Lenosis “whatever you say will stay between dick and I” until it’s leaked to the media a week later to justify the firings and make it seem like ownership is really being proactive and that they really do care.

    I think it was on this very blog that a writer pointed out the capitals success mostly came from beating up the other very weak teams in it’s own division over the last few seasons by winning at over a .600 clip in it’s division and basically being well under .500 against the rest of the league especially the other two eastern conference divisions. I think it was on this very blog that it was predicted the capitals might struggle with the realignment without having those other southeast teams to prop them up. I don’t understand why this is so shocking to everyone that they struggled?

    They’d be foolish to blow the whole thing up and over react like they did in Vancouver or I should say what it sounds like Vancouver is about to do. The capitals have a lot of good young players in their prime they just need tweaks. Definitely find a goalie and stick with him perhaps trade green to realign the defense it might be best for both player and team in his case for fresh starts.

    Then again as a devils fan maybe I should be rooting for them to over react and blow it up in Washington like they might in Carolina. Make the division all the weaker and easier. Trade ’em all! Rabble rabble.

    • dueman - Apr 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      Um, nowhere in this story does it reveal anything that the players said in their private exit interviews. It also doesn’t say anything about blowing the team up. Ownership obviously believes more in the players than they did in GMGM, and Oates since they are the ones that are gone.

  9. hammertownhabsfan - Apr 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Caps might as well start looking for their new coach and management in Russia.

  10. 950003cups - Apr 27, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Caps are hampered by Ovechkin. When guys don’t wanna backcheck it’s a fundamental issue.

    • travishenryskid - Apr 27, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      They’ll never win it all with him as the key player.

    • t9tookey - Apr 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      It’s easy to hammer Ovie, he’s an easy target as the captain and face of the franchise. But the meme that he’s bad a defense it wrong. He’s not the greatest and he’ll certainly never be confused with Toews or Yzerman. He is what he is, a goal scorer. His career plus minus is a +60 (take the plus minus stats for what you will). Compare that to one of the best goal scorers to ever play the game, Brett Hull. Hull has a +23 with 9 seasons with a negative plus minus. Both of these guys can score goals though. There are 29 other teams that would take a goal scorer like Ovie on their team. The problem is you need guys around Ovie that can cover for him. They also need legit secondary scoring. Oh yeah, some better d-men might be good too.

      The real problem with this team was Oates. You can tell that by what Karl Alzner said about him, they never had an identity the whole season, never really knew what system they were supposed to be playing. Oates trying to tinker with the goalies. The team couldn’t score unless they were on the power play. The final piece is that the it seems that Leonsis based his decision on what the players said. All that falls on Oates as a coach.

  11. pastabelly - Apr 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Adam Oates deserved better than that collection of “talent” in Washington. No doubt that team frustrated him.

  12. cliffatola - Apr 27, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I am just waiting to see what they do next but I seriously believe their fortunes went into the toilet with the 2003 draft, when GMGM drafted Eric Fehr with the pick right before Anaheim drafted Ryan Getzlaf among other gaffes he made with his 1st round picks. For Oates to call Mike Green an enigma, last time I checked enigma didn’t mean a drunk.

  13. matt14gg - Apr 27, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    Time for a little “ProHockeyTalk Theater”…

    Leonsis: “Hey Ovi, what do you think of Oatsie?”

    Ovi: “He stinks”

    Leonsis picks up phone and dials.

    Split screen of Leonsis/Oates.

    Oatsie: “Hello”

    Leonsis: “Hey Oatsie…you’re fired”

    Oatsie: “Thanks, and hey Ted”

    Leonsis: “Yeah, Oatsie?”

    Oatsie: “Tell Ovi to go F— himself!”

    Leonsis: “Sure thing pal”

    Adam Oates learned the hard reality of big money sports, and if he thought he was going to win a war with a guy making more than the state of Rhode Island he was out of his mind. That said, Oates is no dummy and he got some things off his chest before they showed him the door. He made it very clear what he thought of Ovi, not to mention that mental midget Halak, who ‘wasn’t comfortable’ playing against his old team. Good for Adam Oates, who I still think is going to be an excellent coach somewhere. Ovi is a classic coach killer and I’m sure Oates is glad to be done with him and the “Crapitals” as Mike Milbury once so aptly described them.

    Vancouver could do a lot worse than to bring him in and find a balance of discipline w/o the A-Hole factor that is John Tortorella. Oates respects his players, but only if they show him respect in return. When you simply refuse to back check, have a plus/minus somewhere south of Brandon Bochenski, or if you just decide it doesn’t feel right to play that night against your former team, that is a lack of respect that deserves to be called out.

    The Capitals have always been an immature team (Mike Green has some things to answer for too) and never more so than this season. If ever a team suffered from a lack of leadership it is the Washington Capitals. And for all you people saying that’s on Adam Oates, a coach can only lead so much, but if he’s coaching a bunch of children who hold their breath when they don’t get what they want it becomes hopeless. Leadership inside the room is just as important as, if not more important than, the leadership behind the bench, and in the room the Washington Capitals are a bunch of sugared up children in a bouncy house.

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