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Adam Oates unplugged: Tapping into Ovi

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Adam Oates unplugged: Tapping into Ovi

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 CSNWashington.com Insider Chuck Gormley.In the fourth and final part of the interview, Oates shares his thoughts on Alex Ovechkin, the pressures of winning and what he sees as the future of the Capitals. To read Part One, click here. To read Part Two click here. To read Part Three click here.
CSN: Is there one attribute, in your opinion, that makes a successful coach?
Adam Oates: Theres no perfect formula. I think the hardest thing would be coaching a player who thinks hes bigger than the game and we dont have anybody like that here. At the end of the day, I want to be a communicator. I want the guys to understand this is the way were going to play, this is how you can fit into it and this is how you can succeed. Youre going to be allowed feedback to a point. And everybodys different. A guy whos a 20-year pro is different than a one-year pro.

Lets talk about Ovi. You probably heard a lot about him before coming here ...
Of course. Watched him a lot.

You said when you were hired you didnt know him that well.
No.

When he was here a few weeks ago he said he spent about three hours with you. What was that like?
It was great. We talked hockey. We talked life. I told him what I expect from him, what Im going to be for him. I think hell like the way we play and we just talked.

Was your perception of him before you talked any different than it is after spending some time with him?
No. The perception I had of him as a fan and coaching against him is also the best thing Ive always liked about him. Yeah, he likes to score goals, but he looks really happy when someone else scores. I think hes been great for the game, I really do. I think hes a very good player, a great player in this league.

Last season Ovi faced a lot of criticism. His offensive numbers 38 goals, 65 points were down; people said he wasnt enjoying the game as much. But George McPhee says he was physically dominant in that Boston series. How would you judge his game?
I think theres lots of ways to judge his game. Thats one of the things that make him special, his physical ability. Youve got to factor in systems. Mike Green and Nick Backstrom were hurt for a lot of the year, so theres some production loss right there. I also think he scored a lot of goals in a league where its tough to score right now. Can he score more? Sure. Does everybody play to their best caliber every year? No. Hes what, an eight-year pro now? I mean, nobody lights it up every single year. Can he improve? Sure.

What are ways you think he can improve?
I think everybody can improve all the time. I really dont want to talk about specific players. Our conversation was private and Im going to keep it that way.

Fair enough. Lets go back to when you retired as a player in 2004. You moved back to California Palm Springs and you still have a home there, right?The last couple years of my career I decided I was going to retire there and I built a house there. I wasnt sure what I was going to do with hockey, if anything at all at that time. Then I got the call from former Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet in 2009 to come check out Tampa and I was ready and I said sure.

What did you do during those five years after retiring?
Played golf, enjoyed life.

Did you feel anything was missing?
No. I was enjoying life, seeing family, seeing friends. I watched a lot of hockey, I was still a fan, of the playoffs especially.

Were you happy to get the call to get into coaching?I was happy, sure. Tock is a good friend of mine and I went to camp without a contract. I got the job offer, I took it and I really enjoyed it. More than I thought I would.

In what ways?
I really enjoyed trying to pass the knowledge along. I thought I could teach more in the NHL and I still think that now. I think a lot of people think you cant teach in the NHL. I disagree. Im hoping to teach Nick, Ovi, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson. I think I can teach Mike Green something. Why not?

Is that why youve broken down so much tape of every player? I think as a coach you have to be careful about it. But Ive been watching a lot of tape of systems, individual players and mannerisms and thats how I view myself as a coach.

A lot of times thats the role of an assistant coach. Whats the biggest adjustment from going from an assistant to a head coach?
You dont have the same time, but you also have more authority.

Is there anything about this job youre not looking forward to? Dealing with the media, maybe?
No. Im not worried about that. Im not perfect, nobodys perfect. Ill make mistakes. We all do.

Does it feel different being back here or is it a lot the same?
Oh no, its very different. A hundred percent different.

How?
Were on a different side of town in Arlington. I never even came to this side of town. Even coming as a visiting coach its different. It feels different. It feels more pro, more real. More like you can win the Cup. I think the fans help that. I think the city helps that. The culture, the pressure, the

Expectations?
Yes, yes.

Do you think that is important for a team?
I think so. Theres a pressure there. I think thats healthy. Can it get crazy? Sure. I think its a good pressure. I played on two original six teams Detroit and Boston and I played in Philly and the pressure of playing in those cities is different. I think you can measure yourself based on that. Its a healthy pressure. Its like when your dad comes and watches you play, its a good pressure. You want to play in front of your dad. In original six cities its every night. Go play in the Boston Garden, its there every night. Yankees-Red Sox. Theres a reason its a rivalry. Montreal Canadiens, its almost crazy there. Toronto, crazy. I think here were still growing and its great to see, because going from Boston to here as a player in 1997 it was missing. Its been created here and it starts with Ted Leonsis.

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Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bolstered their forward depth and its penalty kill by re-signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin before he hit unrestricted free agency next month. 

Washington has officially re-signed forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract extension, a move that goes a long way toward re-establishing a third line that had some openings entering the offseason. 

Hagelin, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 just four days before the NHL trade deadline. Hagelin played primarily on the third line – although injuries in the Stanley Cup playoffs pushed him onto the second line. 

https://twitter.com/Capitals/status/1140355394856017926

Hagelin had three goals and 11 assists in 20 regular-season games with the Capitals and became an instant staple on the penalty kill. His 47 minutes, six seconds on the PK in those 20 games were enough to rank sixth among all forwards on the team.

Traded twice last season, Hagelin had a total of five goals and 14 assists with the Capitals, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins in 58 games. He had a sprained knee (medial collateral ligament) with Los Angeles that kept him out for 20 games.  

"[Hagelin] was a good fit,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on April 26. “I thought he fit seamlessly from day one. Really liked him on the third line, the way we used him, we bumped him up obviously with the [T.J.] Oshie injury. Our PK got a lot better. Fits in well with his teammates. It's a really good fit for us, yes." 

The Penguins traded Hagelin to the Kings on Nov. 14. He was a key part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, which came at the expense of Washington in the playoffs each time. 

This was the last year of a four-year, $16 million deal that Hagelin signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015. He was always viewed as a likely trade chip for Los Angeles, which finished in last place in the Pacific Division and eventually flipped him to the Capitals. 

Even after the disappointing first-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Hagelin said he was open to re-signing with the Capitals before he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. His signing follows the trade of defenseman Matt Niskanen on Friday. The NHL Draft is this coming weekend in Vancouver with more moves expected.   

“I liked the fact that I got a good look from the coaches,” Hagelin said on April 26 of his time with the Capitals. “I got to play with good players, I got to play in key situations. I felt comfortable here.”

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Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

The Carolina Hurricanes ended the Capitals’ season in the first round of the playoffs and quite possibly Brooks Orpik’s career with it. The 38-year-old defenseman said at the team’s breakdown day that the decision for what comes next, whether retirement or playing another season in the NHL, would have to wait.

“I'm in no rush in terms of deciding on my future in terms of hockey,” Orpik said. “That'll be a more health-related decision down the road."

Whether Orpik wants to come back for one more year in the NHL will be up to him, but the decision on whether to re-sign with the Caps may have just been decided for him.

On Friday, the Caps traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas. Most people hear the name Gudas and think of him as a dirty player who can’t play the position, but he is actually a decent defenseman. The media in Philadelphia selected Gudas as the most outstanding defenseman for the Flyers in 2018-19. Plus, his penalty minutes have decreased in each of the past four seasons from 116 all the way down to 63 last season. For reference, Tom Wilson had 128 and Michal Kempny had 60. It’s still high, but it signals a player making a conscious effort to stay out of the penalty box.

Gudas has been suspended four times in his career and he certainly will be watched very closely by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One big hit could mean a lengthy suspension. That is a definite concern, but in terms of just his play, there is value there as a third-pair defenseman.

With Gudas in, that will almost certainly push Orpik out.

The move gives Washington six defenseman under contract for next season. Teams will usually keep seven for the regular season, enough for three pairs and one extra. Christian Djoos is a restricted free agent and will presumably be back as well, giving Washington seven blue liners.

Djoos had a down year last season, but he did play a third-pair role on the team’s Cup run and he is only 24. It does not make sense to give up on Djoos after one bad year just for one more year with Orpik who will be 39 at the start of next season.

Given Washington’s salary cap situation, the Caps do not have room for an eighth defenseman. If Orpik were to return, it would mean pushing someone else out. The only of those seven defensemen that would make sense to even consider moving for Orpik would be Gudas.

Gudas would not be the first player in the world to be traded and then flipped or bought out soon after. Ironically, the same thing happened to Orpik last season when he was traded to and then quickly bought out by the Colorado Avalanche.

A buyout here, however, would make no sense. According to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, a buyout would only give Washington $1,166,667 of cap relief and most of that would go to a new Orpik deal making it pointless. Yes, you still have the $3.405 million of cap space the team would have opened up in the trade, but if the plan all along was to re-sign Orpik and ship out Niskanen, then why not just trade Niskanen for draft picks? Then you get his full cap off the books instead of having to go through the trouble of buying out Gudas and having him count against the cap for the next two seasons. That would make no sense.

As for flipping him and trading him to another team, what would the team get for him that would make it worthwhile? You cannot bring on salary or it defeats the purpose so the Caps’ options for a return would likely be limited to players of the same caliber and cap hit. What would be the point of that?

Prior to this deal, Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler were the most likely candidates to play on the third pair next season. Both are left shots. Gudas is a right-shot defenseman which now gives Washington three with John Carlson and Nick Jensen. Gudas also plays with a physical edge. Sometimes he goes too far with it, but so long as he can control himself, he would add the physical presence to the blue line that the team stands to lose with Orpik gone.

There is no reason to trade for Gudas unless the team intended for Gudas to play a role next season. General manager Brian MacLellan chose to trade for a player who is a right-shot, physical, third-pair defenseman which is pretty much exactly the hole they needed to fill on their blue line and essentially the spot Orpik will be vacating. That did not just happen by accident.

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