In the same week the Caps named a new head coach in Barry Trotz, their previous head coach talked at length about working for the team. Adam Oates, now working as an analyst for CBC, appeared on an Edmonton radio program and spoke pretty candidly about the challenges and regrets of his D.C. tenure.
“I think one thing I learned is you’ve got to try to make changes faster,” Oates told The Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260. “If you want to establish a culture, if you want to establish changes, you’ve got to do it as soon as possible. Don’t try and wait. I would say for myself, I kind of had thoughts in mind, and I thought it would kind of go gradual. And this year, because we didn’t make the playoffs, obviously the situation changed. So in my mind I think some of the decisions I have to make, or rules, have to be quicker, to try to establish that culture a little quicker.”
Later, Oates was asked about the best part and the biggest challenge involved in coaching Alex Ovechkin.
“The biggest challenge is you’re fighting a lot of years of habit,” Oates said. “But I can honestly say to you it was a lot of fun to coach the guy. We have a great relationship; he was very receptive to everything we talked about. We never fought about what I said. And it’s funny, one of the things was he wanted to be double-shifted and I said ‘Well, you’ve got to play harder, because Nick Backstrom’s tired, and if he’s tired, I can’t double-shift him, so you’ve got to play better.’ And he would always agree with that.
“Like, we never fought,” Oates said. “We never fought with stuff. He’s got some skills that I’ve never seen before, and I think he’s a great guy. He’s just got to learn some habits obviously, and you’re fighting some uphill battles. That’s about it.”
Oates was also asked about the balance between being a hard-line coach and a players’ coach.
“I’d like to think I’m in the middle,” he said. “I would say that if you look at [Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault] right now, I’d like to put myself in that category. AV, a guy who you can watch him, he’s very calm; he’s obviously in control. He teaches; he talks. You don’t have to raise your voice to get your point across. And I think the athletes nowadays are different from when I played, where coaches were harder. You’re talking about guys with long-term contracts now. The power struggle’s a hair different.
“Even parenting, parents can’t spank their kids anymore,” Oates said. “It’s different. I mean, the rules have changed. So you can look at a guy, and if they know what you’re thinking and you can communicate well, then they know when you’re upset. They do. You’ve got to be able to teach, you’ve got to be able to communicate what you want on the ice, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s about. The players, when they all talk amongst themselves, they will say he knows what he’s talking about or he doesn’t.”
Oates also made it clear that his dream job is not a return to an assistant or associate position.
“Quite honestly right now my mind is I want to be a head coach,” he said. “I had a couple years at it. And obviously when you get fired, you have mixed emotions, and you want another opportunity. You want to keep improving at every position at every level. I want to improve as a coach, and I’d like another opportunity at it because I think I can do the job.”