Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adam Oates Named Capitals Coach

“You try to get the smartest guy in the room. In terms of his hockey IQ, I don’t know there’s a player that I’ve met that’s better,” George McPhee said.
Washington Post:
What a day for Adam Oates. In addition to being named the Washington Capitals’ new coach on Tuesday, Oates was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"Absolutely fantastic day. I don’t know if that’s happened before," Oates, 49, said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "I’ve got to go out and play lotto, I think. Just two huge honors. Obviously, I’m very excited about the coaching job and to be called to the Hall of Fame. It’s just a special, special day for us."

In addition to Oates, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2012 includes Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.

Oates joins Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Scott Stevens and Dino Cicarrelli as Capitals enshrined in the hall.

Oates, played in the NHL from 1985-2004, recording 1,420 points in 1,337 games while scoring 341 goals with 1,079 assists for Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. Only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux have averaged more assists-per-game than Oates in the NHL history, and only Gretzky (662) had more assists than Oates (636) during the 1990s.

Oates played for seven teams over a 19-year NHL career, including parts of six seasons with the Caps from 1997 to 2002. Oates led the Capitals in playoff scoring in 1998 as Washington advanced to its only Stanley Cup Final in team history.

Oates, played 19 seasons as a center in the NHL, including parts of six seasons with the Capitals from 1996-2002. His 290 assists rank 10th in team history, and he and Hunter were part of the 1997-98 team that made the only Stanley Cup finals appearance to date in franchise history.

When Hunter was traded in March 1999, Oates was selected as captain for the following season.

After retiring as a player in 2004, Oates was an assistant coach for Tampa Bay in 2009-10 before spending the past two seasons as an assistant in New Jersey, helping lead the Devils to this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

Oates' most formidable task will be to develop a playing style that best suits a Capitals roster brimming with talent and that can also succeed in the playoffs. Led by Alex Ovechkin, Washington won four consecutive Southeast Division titles under offensive-minded coach Bruce Boudreau but couldn't advance beyond the second round of the postseason.

Boudreau was fired in November after an early-season slump and was replaced by the defense-first Hunter. Hunter eventually rallied the players enough to get them back in the playoffs but couldn't push them to the conference finals.

Oates is the fifth consecutive first-time NHL head coach hired by general manager George McPhee during McPhee's 15 years with the Capitals, following Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon, Boudreau and Hunter.

Oates, who spent six seasons in Washington as a player and captained the team in 1999-2000, will become the 16th coach in franchise history and the fifth hired by General Manager George McPhee during his 15-year tenure. All of McPhee’s hires have been first-time NHL head coaches and now his last two, including Dale Hunter, have been former Capitals.

Other candidates that were thought to be among the finalists include former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, and Norfolk Admirals head coach Jon Cooper.

Oates, was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils each of the past two seasons. During his time with the Devils, Oates was responsible for the power play and also played an important role in helping Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk develop a two-way game.

That experience, in addition to Oates’s first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a top-level player in the NHL, will likely help him work with the Capitals’ stable of talented forwards, most notably Alex Ovechkin.

  • Capitals General Manager George McPhee selected a pair of forwards Friday night in the first-round of the 2012 NHL entry draft: highly touted Swedish center Filip Forsberg with the 11th overall pick and gritty winger Thomas Wilson at No. 16.
  • Washington acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars on Friday night in exchange for prospect Cody Eakin and the 54th overall pick. The Montreal native recorded 18 goals and 45 assists for the Stars in 2011-12 — his eighth 50-point season — and is expected to be the Capitals’ second-line center.
  • The Capitals broke their string of U.S. national team prospects with the 195th pick, where they selected Swedish defenseman Christian Djoos. Djoos, 17, is listed at a rather lanky 5-11, 158, unlike the defenseman Washington took just two selections later. At No. 197 Washington added defenseman Jaynen Rissling (6-4, 223) from the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.
  • The Capitals on Wednesday traded the rights to defenseman Dennis Wideman to Calgary in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft and AHL defenseman Jordan Henry.
  • Washington traded Tomas Vokoun in early June to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal, for a seventh-round pick in the upcoming 2012 draft. Vokoun, 35, posted a 25-17-2 record in his one season with the Capitals, recording a .917 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average before a groin tear in late February ultimately derailed his season.

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