So what are the Capitals getting with new coach Adam Oates? Put that question to some of his former teammates and they had some interesting things to say about the new Washington coach and Hockey Hall-of-Famer.
“Maybe more so than any other teammate I had in Washington, I definitely saw [Oates] as a head coach,” said Caps associate goaltender coach Olie Kolzig, a former teammate of Oates and his road roommate for those three seasons. “He was such a smart hockey guy, very meticulous in the subtleties of the game…[and] just had a great mind for the game.”
Peter Bondra got to play as a winger on a line with Oates, one of the game’s great passers. Aside from pining for the days when the perfect feed would hit the tape of his stick, he, too, saw an intelligence in Oates that suggested a future coach.
“The game is about adjustments. If you watched the playoffs, teams change game-to-game,” Bondra said. “And on top of it you have to be disciplined. I think what Adam’s going to bring to the team is going to be special teams. The Caps need to do a much better job on the power play and the [penalty kill]. And if they can improve their numbers on those two I think they will be fine and I think they will be around the top of the league again.”
Bondra wants to make sure people understand how good of a two-way player Oates was during his career. He was never a great skater. But it didn’t matter. His sense of where to be on the ice allowed him to make up for that. To the public his personality sometimes seemed mysterious. He was the quietest of stars – but on the ice had an intensity that radiated outwards, according to Kolzig. A lot has been made of Dale Hunter’s simple style of communication. He made decisions and appeared to let them stand on their own. If you weren’t playing, well, you weren’t exactly going to get a treatise on why.
Oates appears to have a different philosophy when it comes to that. Kolzig noted that it wasn’t uncommon after games for Oates to spend time with his teammates going over what happened – why someone would have scored if they’d just been in a different position, why a guy needed a slight tweak to the curve of his blade, how a specific penalty could have been killed.
“He’s a hell of a communicator. I’ll tell you one thing – Adam Oates can talk,” Kolzig said. “He’s going to find a way to get his message across. Dale was a blue collar guy, he talked like a blue collar guy and there was no nonsense. You either played the way he wanted you to play or you didn’t play. And that’s not to say that [Oates] is not going to have that same philosophy. But what he will be able to do is to articulate things a little bit better in the dressing room. He’s a well-spoken individual. You see him on the bench, he’s well dressed, he owns more than one suit.”
Kolzig was kidding on the Hunter dig there. He was very complimentary of Hunter’s time with the Caps and said that his former teammate coached exactly the way he played and it was something the organization needed.
“We were one game away from being in the conference finals and so [Hunter] just felt that we needed to play a lot different than we did when Bruce was in charge,” Kolzig said. “Having Adam there he is going to bring that nice mix of offense and defense. I think guys are all excited and looking forward to coming to training camp and seeing what Adam is going to bring.”
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