The consensus since Adam Oates was named Capitals’ coach on June 26 has been that he will create balance in the team’s style of play. He is expected to find a way to mix the best of Washington’s offensive talent with defensive responsibility, without sacrificing one for the other.
Oates himself described a team that would be aggressive and push the pace all while maintaining defense as a priority. Whether the systems and nature of a team under Oates’s direction will follow that template remains to be determined in the 2012-13 season — whenever it starts.
So far, players like what they’re hearing from the new bench boss, who has reached out to them individually. Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski and Jay Beagle are among those who have previously expressed their excitement to work with Oates, and here is what two other players had to say recently about their new coach and the promise of a new season.
Matt Hendricks, who resides in his native Minnesota during the offseason, said he’s eager to work with the Hall of Famer. Before the hiring was even official, Hendricks received a strong endorsement of Oates from fellow Minnesotan Zach Parise when the two played in a charity game together.
Parise “said he had an incredible time working with him and that he learned a lot,” Hendricks said in a phone interview this month. “That’s definitely a good and impressive thing to hear coming from Zach Parise.”
Hendricks added that everything Oates said about ratcheting up the offensive game and playing a style similar to what the Devils and Kings displayed in the Stanley Cup final is appealing.
“Jay Beagle and I were talking up at Karl Alzner’s wedding in Vancouver a couple weeks ago about how excited we are,” Hendricks said. “If you look at New Jersey they were very defensive but they always put pressure on and they try to score goals. Jay and I both take pride in the defensive game but we want to score some goals too. So we look forward to that offensive, speed-oriented side of the game.”
Troy Brouwer, who is spending the bulk of the offseason in Chicago, where he still has a house from his time as a Blackhawk, said he’s hopeful Oates can instill a more all-around game. While jump-starting the offense works toward that larger goal, Brouwer reiterated the importance of not losing the strides the Capitals made late last season under former coach Dale Hunter.
“Adam has a lot of good ideas on how to make sure a team is even keeled,” Brouwer said in a phone interview. “Dale was very defensive and we were taking that to the extreme, even if it’s not to that point it’s important that guys continue to pay attention to the details.
“I sure hope that our star players don’t throw everything we learned out the window and don’t focus solely on offense,” Brouwer continued. “We need those guys blocking shots, paying the price and getting back in the defensive zone too. Those are skills you can’t forget, those are things that make a difference for successful teams.”