Updated, 2:03 p.m.: Capitals Coach Adam Oates described finding the most complementary assistant coaches as “vital” to his first year as an NHL bench boss. He said whoever was brought in would help him convey his message to players clearly, and hinted that it would be a former teammate as well.
“To have a guy that played in the game that I’ve had some personal time with is very important to me,” Oates said last weekend.
On Wednesday, Washington named Calle Johansson as an assistant coach. Johansson, 45, holds the record for most games ever played as a Capital at 983 and spent six seasons as Oates’s teammate.
This will be Johansson’s first coaching job in North America and only his second season behind a bench. But for Johansson, who said he previously considered an NHL assistant job in 2005, finding the right situation with the right people to work with was crucial to any coaching ambitions he had.
“I’ve been asked through the years from different people and organizations in Sweden if I ever wanted to coach again or do coaching,” Johansson said. “I said, ‘Yes, I do want to, when the situation is right.’ When there is people around me that I really like and trust and [I] know think hockey kind of the same way, I do.
“Adam called me and asked me a few weeks back -- it just felt right,” Johansson said. “I’ve always loved the Washington Capitals, I was there for a long time. A lot of the same people are still there, Adam and I played together for a number of years, and I know Adam well. We got along great when we played and we still do. Also the team in Washington is a great hockey team and has great potential. To me it was just perfect situation.”
Johansson’s prior coaching experience came in 2006-07 as an assistant with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. Since his retirement in 2003, though, he has primarily served as a television broadcaster of both NHL and SEL games in Sweden.
Johansson, who holds franchise records for points (474) and assists (361) by a defenseman, will likely work with the Capitals’ blueliners and said he knows he has much to learn about being a coach. But he did gain some valuable lessons from that one-year stint with Frolunda.
“I learned that the thing you have to do is be yourself,” Johansson said. “To earn the players trust, don’t think you’re something that you’re not don’t think you can put on a role or a façade…..To get through to the guys they’ve got to know that what you’re telling them is the absolute truth. I think that’s the most important thing.”
The Capitals now have three members of the 1998 squad that reached the Stanley Cup Final on their coaching staff as Johansson joins Oates and associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig.
For Johansson, reuniting with Oates was a perfect match. Johansson said he always admired Oates’s intelligence as a player and praised the Hall of Fame center’s ability to help star players improve as a coach.
Johansson described Oates as having a contagious enthusiasm – that of a kid in a candy store -- for his new role with the Capitals and that their shared belief of balancing offense and defense is the correct approach to take moving forward.
“He does not want to sacrifice any defense to become an offensive team; that’s what I like,” Johansson said. “There is no reason, if you want to score five goals, you don’t have to let in four. I think that’s the biggest part that impressed me with Oatesy. I might want to tweak a little bit of the defensive play, but we’re going to become more of an offensive team. He does not want to sacrifice and become a run-and-gun team; there’s no such thing for him.”
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