Oates and Staff Head Back to D.C.
Posted on January 14, 2013
by Mike Vogel
Late in September the Capitals announced that coach Adam Oates and his Washington coaching staff would be assigned to Hershey of the AHL. No time frame was placed on that assignment; the idea was to have Oates and his staff work with Hershey bench boss Mark French, his assistant coach Troy Mann and with the Bears players while the NHL’s lockout was ongoing.
The lockout is still ongoing, but Oates and assistant coaches Calle Johansson and Tim Hunter and video coach Brett Leonhardt will head back to the District after tonight’s Bears game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Oates addressed the Hershey players after the game and let them know they’re back under the capable hands of French and Mann going forward.
“I got to meet some of the young guys in the organization, and I got to get some head coaching experience,” says Oates. “That was the goal, and I think we achieved the goal. Calle and I got to work together on the bench and we got to work together as a group. Those were our goals going down there, and I think we accomplished it.”
“The time is right for Adam and his coaching staff to return to Washington,” says Caps general manager George McPhee. “We feel like the coaching staff has developed some good chemistry. The goal all along was for our coaching staff to go to Hershey work closely with our prospects and implement our system. They spent ample time doing just that and we feel both organizations will benefit in the long run because of it."
Organizationally, it made sense for Oates to spend time with French and Mann to help them understand and install his system. In an ideal situation, the Hershey club plays the same system as the parent team. That makes for a more seamless transition when players are recalled to Washington in mid-season.
Once Dale Hunter took over behind the Washington bench late last November, there was a disconnect between the way the Bears played the game and the way the Caps played. Hershey was still using the Bruce Boudreau system. Players like Keith Aucoin and Tomas Kundratek who were summoned from AHL Hershey had to try to absorb Hunter’s system on the fly, which was not an easy task.
“I think if anything what it does for a couple of the young guys,” says Oates of his presence in Hershey, “if they get called up they are familiar with the system and hopefully they can step right in. It certainly can’t hurt that you take one of the stresses out of their life. The guy is worried about performing, he’s nervous and he wants to do well. If you can take one element [of worry] away from him in that he gets to play the same system, I think that’s a positive, I really do.”
Had the 2012-13 NHL season gotten underway as scheduled without any labor strife, Oates and all the Hershey coaches and Washington assistants would have been on the ice at the same time at training camp in Arlington. Having them on the ice in Hershey was likely a bit more unwieldy, but a necessity given the Capitals’ all new coaching staff.
“With Frenchy and Troy,” relates Oates, “we all got to work together and talk hockey every day. We would see the same stuff and interpret it differently, and then come to a conclusion as to what it is. I think that was healthy for all of us, I really do. It’s healthy to talk hockey every day. They were gracious in the sense that it is their team and they allowed us to come down due to a unique situation and work together.”
The fact that Oates and staff are returning to Washington should not be construed as a sign that an end to the lockout is imminent.
“It was the appropriate amount of time, it was the window that we talked about – that being Thanksgiving if the league didn’t start up,” says Oates. “We’d have some experience. I got a taste of coaching and what it would be like. I got to make some decisions and learn a couple things.”
As for what’s next for Oates and company, family time is first and foremost now that the holiday season is upon us.
“We just spent two months in Hershey away from our families,” he says. “I imagine we’ll spend some time catching up.”
January 14, 2013
If you read today’s edition of “This Date In Caps History,” you know it’s a noteworthy one. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the team’s final game at USAir Arena (née Capital Centre) and the retirement of the No. 5 jersey of defenseman Rod Langway, now a Hockey Hall of Famer known to Caps fans