For the past two weeks Adam Oates has been getting up early and driving from his new home in Falls Church to the Capitals practice rink in Arlington.
He says he avoids heavy traffic by arriving at Kettler Capitals Iceplex around 5:30 every morning and has spent the early hours of his day reviewing game tapes of the Capitals 14-game playoff run last spring.
He has studied the tendencies of his new players and has put together individual instructional videos to address where he feels improvements can be made.
He has also talked at length with general manager George McPhee about the way hed like to see the Capitals play this season after playing two different styles last season under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter.
They played under two different coaches last year so there will be some subtle changes, Oates said. System-wise, its just going to be correct hockey. Were going to be a smart, aggressive team.
During the Capitals second-round loss to the Rangers last spring, McPhee wondered if Hunters defense-first, shot-blocking style of play had handcuffed some of his top players, who saw limited playing time once the Capitals took a lead.
Under Oates, McPhee said he expects a more aggressive, puck possession game.
Were going to be aggressive, McPhee said. Its going to be a hard forecheck and were going to do what we can to create more scoring chances and keep the puck in the other teams zone.
Last year we were a little more passive in accepting the rush and this year we prefer to play a more aggressive style and keep the puck in the other teams zone. Thats how New Jersey and Los Angeles played last year and both made it to the Finals. Both were really good defensively, but the whole key was keeping the puck at the other end.
McPhee believes Oates perspective as a former player, along with his ability to communicate, will result in a more cohesive and perhaps more predictable team.
He obviously has a players perspective and he will certainly factor that into every decision he makes, McPhee said. The one thing well never have to worry about with Adam is being prepared.
He was that way as a player, possibly one of the best Ive ever seen in terms of being focused and ready to play. He was like a Nicklas Lidstrom or a Raymond Bourque. They seldom made mental mistakes in a game. Adam was ready to play every night and hes going to be the same as a coach.
Barring an NHL work stoppage, Oates will get that chance beginning Sept. 16 when rookies are scheduled to report to Kettler prior to the Sept. 21 start of training camp.
Im excited to be a head coach and to coach the guys, but labor unrest is business and its the same with every walk of life. There are unions everywhere and you just do your job.