The Washington Capitals failed to reach the postseason this year. When a strong team like the Capitals fail to reach the playoffs, there is usually a reckoning that occurs in that team’s front office. This time around, the ownership chose to take it out on their head coach, former Boston Bruin (and Hall of Famer) Adam Oates.
Here’s a rather good insight into the team provided by CSNWashington.com’s Jill Sorenson. She talks about the “general downtrend” that occured when Oates’ on-ice rules seemed to damage the creativity of the Capitals. (In truth, it seemed the Capitals wanted to be a one-trick pony team. They wanted to be a firepower team (like the Pittsburgh Penguins), but prolific scoring doesn’t do your organization much good if you’re not addressing the defense. The team seem to lack a physical presence in the defensive zone. Look at Alex Ovechkin‘s numbers. He was the best goal scorer in the league (51). If you factored in the assists, he’s still in the top ten (79 pts, eighth overall). However, he had an atrocious -35 in the plus/minus. Nicklas Backstrom, who was tied with Ovechkin with points, was a -20. It showed that the Capitals have talented offensive players who didn’t want to play two way hockey.
Oates’ other damning offense was leadership. He didn’t cultivate an aura of command. Players felt that they weren’t getting to do what they wanted (in other words, they didn’t want to buy in to the Oates system). The outing of Jaroslav Halak‘s trepidation in facing his old team was seen as inexcusable by some people in hockey circles, and it probably further pushed him to the brink.
Finally, in two seasons under Oates command, the Capitals compiled a record of 65-48-17(.500). Oates wasn’t able to make the Capitals a Stanley Cup contender. The Capitals’ 38-30-13 record (89pts) was only good enough to put them three points behind the Detroit Red Wings. With all those factors against him, his days in Washington were numbered.
Adam Oates offered these comments in a press release following Oates’ dismissal. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick, George McPhee, our coaching staff, the players and everyone involved with the Washington Capitals organization. It was a tremendous honor to coach the Capitals these past two seasons. It is a great franchise with a wonderful fan base that will always be close to my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity they provided me and wish them nothing but the best in the future.”