At his introductory news conference Wednesday at Verizon Center, new Capitals coach Adam Oates recalled the day he was announced as the teams captain in 1999.
It was over by the White House and I think there was no one there, Oates recalled with a laugh. People were just walking by.
On Wednesday, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis pointed out that 70 people were in attendance at the news conference, an indication of the growth the team has enjoyed in recent years. He also noted the need for his team to take a crucial next step.
Were at that point where we have to do better in the playoffs, Leonsis said. We have to win the Stanley Cup. Thats what our mission is and Adams been to the Finals twice -- once as a player and once as a coach -- and we want to win a Cup together.
Nothing like a little pressure from your boss on your first full day on the job.
Oates, 49, led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final as a player in 1998 and led the Devils there again as an assistant coach this season with the Devils.
Oates has been an NHL assistant coach the past three years -- one in Tampa and the last two in New Jersey -- and was asked the biggest difference between the role he had and the one he is inheriting.
Assistant coaches become a little more buddies to the players than the head coach, he said. But I think you can call a player in and talk to him man-to-man and he leaves and you go coach him. As long as you earn his respect, thats the most important thing.
Unlike former Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who often let his roster decisions do the talking, Oates said he believes strongly in communicating with his players simply because he was one. He said he plans on modeling his coaching style after Brian Sutter, who coached him in both St. Louis and Boston.
I cant be a hypocrite as a coach because as a player thats what I wanted, Oates said. I wanted feedback. I wanted communication from the boss. You can yell at me if you want, but I wanted input. And thats the coach I want to be.
Im a true believer in communication. When the players walk in and see your work ethic, your intensity, your knowledge, they become believers. When you get on the ice and show them things they can add to their game I think that just helps the cause When you live it every day they believe in you as well.
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he wanted to swing for the fences in his search for a new head coach and in hiring Oates he believes he found what he calls a difference maker.
In terms of his hockey IQ I dont know if there is a player that Ive met thats better, McPhee said. His understanding of the game, his ability to articulate what goes on on the ice is really impressive.
As for the nuts and bolts of his coaching methods, Oates said he plans on playing in-your-face hockey with an emphasis on strong positioning ion all three zones.
When you look at the Finals this year, you saw two teams, the Kings and Devils, that were basically in-your-face teams all over the ice, in all three zones, he said. I really feel the game today is about establishing territory and protecting it.
I look at the Caps lineup and the talent level and I dont see any reason we cant push the pace and be can aggressive team, but at the same time not sacrificing defense and protecting our goalie and that requires commitment all over the ice.