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Adam Oates unplugged: Dealing with coaches


Adam Oates unplugged: Dealing with coaches

With the NHL lockout delaying the start of training camp and threatening the Oct. 11 start of the regular season, Capitals coach Adam Oates took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview with Insider Chuck Gormley.In Part Three, Oates discusses the transformation of Washington into a hockey market, his relationships with former coaches and how those will shape his relationship with his current players. Tomorrow: Connecting with Alex Ovechkin To read Part One, click here. To read Part Two click here.
CSN: When you arrived in Washington in 1997 and the Caps went to the Finals, did you see a growth in fans?

Adam Oates: No. I didnt see it. Not like it is now.

Why not, in your opinion?
I think whats really helped the franchise is building this facility Kettler Capitals Iceplex here. Obviously, coming in last actually 28th in 2003-04 and getting Ovi Alex Ovechkin with the dynamic personality he has and the players he brought around him with Nick Backstrom and Mike Green. And changing the logo back to the red and the power that comes along with Ted Leonsis and building the arena downtown and remodeling it. All that kind of stuff has really helped make the Capitals a well-liked team.

Treating everything first class
Yes. Its not that we werent treated first class, but Piney Orchard was not the environment. The environment is way more top-notch now. At least I feel it is. The culture has changed. Its always been Redskins here. Its always been Orioles here. The Ravens have fought that by coming here, right? By being out there in Piney Orchard the fans didnt get expose to us. And look at the timing. Look at Pittsburgh. They get Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and theyre back on the map. You get Ovechkin and Greenie and Nick and all of a sudden youre on the map. And Ovi wins the scoring title and his personality is huge. I personally think going back to the red was catchy. It was a lot of things.

Lets talk about some of the coaches youve had over the years. Are there any that made you see the game a different way? No question. I had a lot of coaches and you take something from every coach. There were probably some things from every coach I didnt like, too. I guess since this is my first head coaching job, I want to form my own style. I want to coach the way I wanted to be coached as a player.

Did you butt heads with coaches?
Sure, at times. Everybody does. I butted heads but I was also a guy who showed up for work. I wanted responsibility, I wanted to do more, I wanted to earn my salary. If a guy could prove himself to me Id listen.

Did you have any coaches that gave you a say in how things were done on the ice?
You didnt have those kinds of decisions in my generation. You showed up for work. If you got called in here to a coachs office it was usually bad news.

Has that changed?
Yeah. Some guys dont believe in that kind of open communication. Everybody skins a cat their own way. I had a coach who was obviously a smart man, but I could not produce for him. I showed up for work and I didnt want to be belittled.

Do you feel there has to be mutual respect between a coach and player?
I do. For me, yes.

Why is that important?
Because Im not going to be a hypocrite as a coach for what I wanted as a player. No way.

Whats the thing you wanted most from a coach?
Communication. Coach me. I wanted more. My first coaching job in Tampa, an assistant coach for Rick Tocchet, Marty St. Louis came in every day. I felt I could talk to him man-to-man and go out on the ice right afer that and coach him. I did. Look at Joe Girardi, manages the Yanks. He played with Derek Jeter and now he manages him. Somewhere along the line youve got to get that respect, because if you played with a guy that means you went out to dinner with that guy. Now you flip hats and are you a good enough communicator that Derek Jeter can handle that.

You and Jason Chimera were teammates, right?
Yeah, and you have to bridge that gap. When I played with Chimmer I was old and he was young. Now hes one of the older guys. Everybody has different stages in his career. I remember rooming with Jeff Halpern. I got benched one night at the end of my career and he was a first-year pro and I remember saying, Dont worry, youll be old like me one day. I never thought it would happen to me, either. So at the end o the day its about communication and I personally think Ill do OK because I wore every hat. I was a young guy, I was a healthy scratch, I did get benched, I did get sent to the minors, I did get traded, I did have success, I did lose, I did win.

Do you think that carries weight with players, having played the game?
I think it opens the door, but that door shuts fast if you dont know how to back it up. Im sure youve heard a lot of guys who could play the game but cant communicate it. I worked with Devils head coach Pete DeBoer last year. He didnt play in the NHL but he was a great communicator. You get respect a lot of different ways. Playing in the NHL opens the door but I have to coach them.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”




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The case for 'Making Hockey Fun Again,' and the Capitals’ place in it

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The case for 'Making Hockey Fun Again,' and the Capitals’ place in it

Like it or not, the NHL is becoming younger, louder, and more personable. And as its young stars begin to gain leadership positions, the demand from a younger subset of fans grows larger: Make hockey fun again. Let players have personality on the ice and off, be it through social media engagement, game-day fashion, or creative goal celebrations.

Some say that hockey was always fun. True, to an extent. 

Minute per game minute, you arguably can’t find a faster, more action-packed major sport. But among the North American leagues, and internationally, the NBA still dominates on Twitter activity and in its social media. 

One of the biggest factors that helped basketball succeed in the social age wasn’t the NHL’s commonly preached conformity.

The NBA found huge success in marketing its star players as larger-than-life, letting them have public personas that tied into larger, richer narratives spanning careers, teams, and decades.

Superstar Auston Matthews, the up-and-coming 21-year-old face of American hockey, has taken note, citing NBA star Russell Westbrook’s individuality as a source of inspiration in a recent GQ feature

He’s well met by former USA National Team Development Program teammates Jack Eichel, who was recently named captain of the Buffalo Sabres; Dylan Larkin, Detroit’s hometown darling who’s stepping up as an assistant captain for the Red Wings; and Matthew Tkachuk, who’s also wearing an A in Calgary.

It’s not only the born and bred American youngsters who are ready to stand out. The team responsible for the resurgence of the debate about how much fun is too much is none other than the Washington Capitals, whose summer celebrations led to the ban of the legendary Cup Stand.

Though the publicity of their championship celebrations was revolutionary, the Capitals hold more promise in amount of fun per sixty. After a title win, their petty grudges are only transforming into a bold sense of self-confidence.

Alex Ovechkin is already a superstar on a mission to grab the attention of all the boys and girls and babes in the hockey world. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s interviews and celebrations reveal a player growing into the spotlight, ready to embrace a downright devious kind of skill against his opponents. Braden Holtby is already a league-recognized style icon whose meticulously chosen plaid suits and well-groomed beard have woven into the hype of game-day coverage. And Nicklas Backstrom is finally smiling on-camera.

(This isn’t even mentioning highly polarizing figure Tom Wilson, whose aggressive approach on the ice has earned him the marking of a player everyone hates unless he’s on their team.)

If the NHL wants to appeal to new viewers, it can gain ground by marketing its stars outside of a bland, monotone mold for success. 

With high-scoring, chaotically delightful games that happen almost every night all across the continent, an audience needs something to anchor them.

Individuality isn’t a bad place to start.