When asked to explain why he chose Adam Oates to be the Capitals’ next coach, General Manager George McPhee rattled off numerous traits about the Ontario native as a player: his preparedness, work ethic, offensive skill and vision, strength as a defensive forward and penalty killer and so on.
The Hall of Fame centerman’s pedigree, from all of his qualities as a player to the prominent teammates and coaches he worked with, is a large reason why McPhee described Oates as “the guy with the most upside, the guy that could really be a difference maker.”
But that doesn’t change the reality that Oates, who was an NHL assistant for the past three years, has never been a head coach at any level.
His background and experience as a player will command a certain respect – as was the case when Dale Hunter took the helm – but Oates spoke frequently about knowing he will have to earn the players’ trust if he is to be truly effective.
“Assistant coaches become a little bit more buddies to the players than a head coach,” Oates said. “But I think there’s also still a line where you can call a player in and talk to him man-to-man and he leaves and you can go coach him -- as long as you earn their respect. I think that’s the most important thing. When you respect each other and they respect you, you can go out on the ice and you can tell them they’re doing something wrong and it’s OK.”
To build those relationships as a first-time head coach, Oates will likely draw from some of the coaches he worked with. Oates specifically mentioned Brian Sutter, who coached him in both St. Louis and Boston and had “that Sutter face, that Sutter magic where those guys were ready to work every day.”
“When the players walk in and see your work ethic, your intensity and your knowledge, they become believers,” Oates said. “When you go out on the ice and show them things that can add to their game that just helps the cause. When you live it every day, they start to believe in you as well, but there’s no question you have to earn their respect as well. That’s part of the process.”
Oates said he will also take cues from what he wanted from a coach during his playing career: communication.
“I can’t be a hypocrite as a coach because as a player that’s what I wanted,” Oates said. “I wanted feedback, I wanted communication from the boss. I showed up for work, you can yell at me if you want, but I want input. So that’s the kind of coach I want to be.”
— Update: In other news, the Capitals have re-signed AHL center Mike Carman to a one-year extension. Carman, 24, was a restricted free agent this summer and agreed to a two-way contract worth $65,000 at the AHL level and $525,000 in the NHL according to Capgeek.com.
Washington acquired Carman via trade from Colorado last February in exchange for AHL defenseman Danny Richmond. In 2011-12, Carman recorded 10 goals and 18 points in 60 AHL games with the Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters.
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