DETROIT – Each time the Capitals lose in a particularly unbecoming fashion, it is always interesting to see how Coach Adam Oates handles the next day. In the midst of just his second season at the helm – first true season given last year’s lockout-shortened schedule – how he approaches the potholes in Washington’s game and goes about trying to repair them offers a look at how a new coach is evolving.
He’s remained steadfast in his conviction that yelling isn’t constructive and that the focus should always be finding ways to fix problems with the hope of steadily improving. But after looking at the errors that plagued Washington from the start in Columbus, he emphasized the players’ need to adapt when things, including themselves, aren’t perfect.
“There’s no changes other than decisions by the guys, focus by the guys. Whether they’re mentally tired, physically tired, it can’t happen,” Oates said. “The other team’s in the same exact boat. How you handle that feeling if you don’t have your ‘A’ game, what’s your backup plan? It’s obviously a long night and you’ve got to figure out a way to get the job done.”
One of the recurring themes for the Capitals this year has been the lack of offensive production, particularly at even strength, from everyone except Alex Ovechkin. As the various other players that often reside in the top six like Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich and so on struggle to score Oates admits he occasionally shuffles the lines mid-game.
But ultimately these players, penciled in to the top of the lineup and accounting for much of Washington’s salary cap space, are the ones the team needs to produce.
“You’ve got to hope that the guys get things going, you’ve got to be patient. We’re still in a pretty decent position if they do get it going,” Oates said. “We think of all the things in terms of options and obviously my boss stresses to me, the same question you just asked and we go back and forth how we’re going to handle that and we need the guys to perform.”
But considering that Friday’s tilt in Detroit marks the 55th game of the season, are the Capitals running out of time for patience? It certainly looks that way, but Oates doesn’t seem to be expecting significant changes to the group he has.
“It gets hard but at the same [time] every team’s in the same boat. It’s a salary cap generation so you need your guys to get out of it,” Oates said. “You need to keep trying to coach them to play better. There’s not a lot of moves to be made. These are your players. We need them, we need to figure out ways to get them to play a little bit better every night. That’s all we can do.”