Oates Makes Most of Post with Bears

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Week one of Hershey’s training camp is almost in the books, and the Bears are heading into a busy weekend in which they’ll play three pre-season games in as many nights. Last weekend’s announcement that Caps head coach Adam Oates and his Washington assistants would head north to help out the Bears during the NHL lockout took some by surprise. There are a lot of coaches on the premises at Giant Center, and that can be unwieldy at times. But from a Washington perspective, having Oates on hand makes sense for a few good reasons. First, Oates has three seasons worth of experience as an NHL assistant coach, but he has never been a head coach at any level. Having him serve as co-coach of the Bears with Hershey bench boss Mark French gives Oates a chance to run the bench leading into his first NHL season. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity to improve as a coach,” says Oates, “and to help out here and to help them win some games, be a part of the coaching staff here and be involved in hockey. You’re mind has to be stay in hockey, especially as a coach because when it does settle I want to be able to talk to my guys and be ready for them.” There’s another advantage, just being involved in the game of hockey. Oates and his staff were making the most of their time before the Hershey appointment, watching games from last season and the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, but there’s nothing that compares to being on the ice for training camp and behind the bench for games. “The last couple of weeks what we’ve been doing is watching games,” says Oates of himself and his staff. “We watched a lot of the playoff games Washington played against Boston and the Rangers. Just talking it through, me explaining what I see and them explaining what they see, trying to get the tendencies of our players and just trying to be familiar with the team as much as possible so when this does end we’re ready to talk to the guys right away.” As a first-year coach, Oates will be installing a new system of play. That system is likely to be played at AHL Hershey and ECHL Reading as well. Continuity within an organization benefits the players as well as the coaches. “I really think it’s been very useful because there are going to be some system changes,” says Oates of his time in Hershey thus far. “I’ve got to explain how I see it, because at the end of the day they’ve got to feed off me and the trickle-down effect has to be consistent. It’s given us an opportunity to do that. “I think it helps. Sometimes other factors are involved, but I think it can only help. A player gets his chance, he gets called up, he’s familiar with the system and he doesn’t have to do too much thinking out there. He can just play hockey and I think that’s the best reason for it.” Finally, having the Washington braintrust on hand in Hershey gives players an opportunity to be seen by decision-makers at the NHL level. Oates, his assistant coaches and Caps general manager George McPhee are going to see a lot of the Bears until the NHL lockout comes to an end. That’s a unique opportunity for the players to be seen by the eyes of the organization’s hockey operations department. “The parent club is here,” declares Oates. “That definitely goes through a player’s mind, I’m sure. It did for me. The laws of the jungle never change when it comes to that, right? After a while, everybody feels stagnant, feels like something is up. Having an opportunity for us to be here every day can only help those guys.” All of the organization’s coaches – at the NHL and minor league levels – would have been on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex last month had camp started on time. Instead, they’re together at Giant Center in Hershey. “First of all, we’re all here for the organization,” Oates states. “That’s the main goal. But in saying that, Mark French and Troy Mann have been great about it. They’ve allowed [Caps assistant coach] Calle [Johansson] and I to come down here and intertwine with them, go on the ice and talk to the players. We’re trying to do it in a way that we don’t confuse the players and we’re still ironing out all those little details. The good thing is it’s all about the organization and everybody’s a part of it. “Obviously I want to get going, but I do understand what’s going on. We all do. When [the lockout] ends, I will be ready for it.”

next up:

Stafford Hopes Hershey is Land of Opportunity

January 14, 2013

Hershey Bears defenseman Garrett Stafford is set to start his 10th pro season. At 32, Stafford is one of the team’s veteran leaders. He has 610 games worth of AHL experience and Hershey will be the eighth different AHL club for which he has toiled. That gives him one more AHL city than NHL games

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