If Adam Oates has a plan to re-invent Alex Ovechkin he wasnt about to share it on his first full day as coach of the Washington Capitals.
But if his work with Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey is any indication, Oates is hoping a few tweaks will help elevate Ovechkin to the kind of impact player he was two years ago.
For starters, he plans on using Ovechkins powerful shot from the point on the power play. And there is a pretty good chance he wont bench him after the Capitals take their first lead of the season.
But Oates believes that after seeing Ovechkin held to a career-low 32 goals last season and a career-low 65 points this season, his career can be rejuvenated.
The league gets better and better every year and theres not a lot of goal scoring anymore, Oates said.
I think the physical element of his game is unprecedented. I saw him play Boston and hes the only guy in the league who can take on guys like Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg and have that physical impact.
I think hes a special player. In terms of adding a little bit to his game, I think I can. He's got to earn my trust as a coach first, along with the other guys. But even superstars have something to learn.
Oates is Ovechkins third coach in eight months and there was a groundswell following the departures of the previous two coaches that Ovechkin might have played at least a small role.
Ovechkin clearly was unhappy with his self-described role as a plumber under Dale Hunter and was moved to call Oates and congratulate him on getting the job as Capitals coach.
That was not lost on Oates.
It meant a lot, Oates said. He was very excited on the phone and I was very excited. I told him I was looking forward to coaching him and coaching this team. He seemed very enthusiastic.
Oates said he does not know Ovechkin as a person, but recognizes the impact he can have on a team when he channels his abundance of energy.
I dont know him other than to watch him, Oates said. My favorite quality about the man is that hes obviously every enthusiastic when he scores but when you watch his teammates score hes just as enthusiastic and when you watch that from the outside looking in thats a great quality.
It was at that point that Capitals general manager George McPhee interjected his own thoughts on the subject.
To finish Adams answer, McPhee quipped, Ovechkin still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while.