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Peers remember Oates' Hall of Fame career

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Peers remember Oates' Hall of Fame career

Tonight in Toronto Capitals coach Adam Oates will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure. Oates finished his NHL career with 341 goals, 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in 1,337 games.

Here is a collection of what others are saying about the 50-year-old native of Weston, Ontario

Former Caps teammate Olie Kolzig: “What I remember most is that he was always in great shape, he was the hardest worker, and how intense he was. I think one thing people don’t realize is how intense he was. He was always ready, always prepared. He was a great communicator. He could talk with everybody and anybody.

“I remember him being in the stick room and getting a bunch of guys to change the lie or curve of their stick to get a shot off and nine times out of 10 he was right. He was good at finding little things that would make players that much better.

“I think not winning a Stanley Cup might have hindered him [getting into the Hall of Fame earlier], which I don’t think is right because that can be a case of being in the right place at the right time. Maybe they finally recognized how good of a two-way hockey player he was. It was long overdue and I’m so happy for him. I was his roommate for three years and he never talked about [the Hall of Fame], but you could tell he was very passionate about the game of hockey and it’s good to see he gets his due.”

Former junior teammate Steve Thomas [via Toronto Sun]: “I had 69 goals one year on that team [the Markham Waxers] and I bet 60 of them were empty-netters. Because Adam would rather have had the assists. It was just crazy how great a passer he was. …His hand-eye co-ordination, his ability to watch plays develop. As they said with [Wayne] Gretzky, it was like he had eyes in the back of his head.”

Capitals general manager George McPhee: “We all know Adam was an exceptional offensive player -- that was a gift he had and he really developed that and he was fun to watch. I don’t know how many people understand how good he was defensively. When he played here he was our best defensive player. He was our best faceoff guy and one of the best in the league. He was our best penalty killer and our best 5-on-3 penalty killer and that part of the game is learned and he learned it well.

“One year we were about six games into the season and I remember him telling [former coach] Ron Wilson and I -- we were in the lobby of a hotel on the road – and he said, ‘Have you ever thought about putting Peter Bondra on the point on the power play?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure. How’s he going to get the puck up the ice?’ He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. We need the shot back there and I can get him the puck.’ Peter Bondra had the most power play goals in the league that year – 21. Adam would say, “Put Chris Simon on my line. He’s a space eater. It’ll work for me and it’ll work for him. And Chris Simon had 29 goals that year.”

Former Blues teammate Brett Hull [via Sports Illustrated]: “He doesn’t get as much publicity as the goal scorers, but he loves to watch you put the puck in the net. I never asked him why he didn’t want to score more himself; I was afraid he’d change his mind.”

Former Caps teammate Peter Bondra: “What got me was his skill, but he also had this confidence. We always talked about how we’d prepare for a game and I think the one thing I remember most is that he told me to never stop moving my feet, always go. He was a great teammate and I benefited from his play-making abilities. He was a great guy. He got along with everybody. I know he liked the young guys and they definitely benefitted from him. I won’t be in Toronto but I’ll be watching on TV and I’m looking forward to hearing his speech.”

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis: “He was an historic player. He controlled the game. When the puck was on his stick we had the best power play in the league. He was one of the few players, as a new owner, who would talk to me about hockey and explain to me what was going on and as a new owner I was very, very appreciative of that. I was in my office one day at Kettler and the Caps were on a road trip and Tampa was here. Our receptionist said she saw Adam Oates [who was an assistant coach with the Lightning] come into the building. I hadn’t seen Adam since he left the team and I ran over to see him because I had such positive feelings about him. We started talking and I said, ‘Let’s go down and see George [McPhee].’ We started chatting and then Adam had to get to work. I remember saying to George, ‘He’s a really smart guy, isn’t he?’ And George said, ‘Yeah, he’s the smartest player I’ve been around.’

“His attention to detail as a player was remarkable. I remember our power play was one of the best in the league and then it dipped and then it improved, like a switch went on. In the hallway I asked Adam what happened. He said, ‘Well, I watched some film and I realized I was receiving the entry pass in the wrong spot. I used to start by touching my elbow against the glass and I noticed I wasn’t doing that. That half a foot changed the whole geometry of the passing lanes. Now I touch the glass and I receive the pass.’ Just that six inches changed the passing lanes. I used to say he was like having a coach on the ice.”

 

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

Capital One Arena saw its first action of the season on Tuesday, albeit in a preseason game, as the Capitals fell 5-2 to the Boston Bruins. T.J. Oshie looked like he wanted to hit everything that moved every time he was on the ice. Matt Niskanen also scored a power play tally, but both he and Oshie’s spots on the team are already secure. There were plenty of other players with a lot on the line looking to make an impression in the home preseason opener.

Here are four players who impressed.

Riley Barber

The Caps scored less than five minutes into the game thanks to a nifty deflection by Barber on a quick shot by Alex Alexeyev. Barber was Washington’s top offensive threat on the night and was all over the net with nine (!!!) shots on goal and another four attempts. His goal was a dirty one, but Barber also showed some soft hands and good stick work as well throughout the night.

“I thought he had a real strong showing tonight and a number of opportunities and chances and was able to make a real nice play on the first goal,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I liked his game in particular and I think he was someone that was able to show us a little bit more of an offensive flair than maybe he has done in the past.”

At 24, Barber is at a critical point in his career as he is battling to make the NHL and not become a career AHLer. Right now he still looks like a long shot to make the roster and will likely need a few more efforts like Tuesday’s game to really give himself a shot to stick around in Washington.

Nic Dowd

Dowd is in a battle for the fourth line center job to replace Jay Beagle. Tuesday was a good dress rehearsal for him in terms of winning the job. Dowd was the team’s best player in the face-off dot, took 17 draws and won 12 of them, by far Washington’s top face-off man on the night (not counting Jayson Megna who won the one draw he took).

"It’s a big part of everyone's game in the National Hockey League,” Dowd said. “You lose possession of the puck, you're chasing it for 30 seconds. So, I will continue to work on that and continue to make it a big part of my game."

“That’s an integral role to any team’s success,” Todd Reirden said. “Certainly we were able to benefit from having faceoff success especially in that dot with a right-hand centerman taking those draws. I put him in situations to take a lot of those draws tonight. He did a good job of that, he did a good job on the penalty kill. He continues to be as expected in what we’ve researched and seen from him and he was all of that tonight. I liked his game tonight.”

Dowd also drew two penalties on the night.

The biggest competition for Dowd at fourth line center looks to be Travis Boyd who also played Tuesday. With both players in action, Dowd had the greater impact on the game. The offensive upside looks much higher for Boyd, but Dowd looks like he provide more of those little things that Beagle provided such as face-off wins and penalty killing.

Connor Hobbs

Hobbs took exception to a hit delivered to him by Tanner Pond and the two dropped the gloves. Liam O’Brien dropped the gloves as well and took on Mark McNeil, but Hobbs gets the shout out here because it was a pretty darn good bout with Hobbs delivering several pretty nice rights to Pond.

Braden Holtby

Just in case you were wondering, yes, Holtby is going to make the team. While you could put him in the same category as Oshie, Holtby makes the list for having the top play on the night.

In the first period, former Cap Daniel Winnik looked like he had an empty net to shoot on, but Holtby stretched out the toe to make the fantastic save and somehow deny Winnik.

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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”

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