Adam Oates

PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Oates strike the right balance in Washington?


Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.

The Washington Capitals have experienced something of an identity issue.

It’s not fair to call it a crisis — they’ve made the playoffs five straight years, after all — but maybe “conflict” is the right term.

Under Bruce Boudreau, offense reigned supreme until a series of postseason failures. After those, he vowed to make the team more defensively responsible while maintaining its offensive prowess.

Under Dale Hunter, it was all defense all the time. Guys often blocked more shots than they took.

Now it’s up to new head coach Adam Oates to (re?) establish what the Capitals are. Will they get back to Boudreau’s firewagon style, or stick to Hunter’s system?

The answer is “a little of both,” with a lot of teaching and tutorials in between, according to Braden Holtby.

“With Adam, I think everyone learns really quickly that he’s a very good instructor. Some coaches are motivational guys and what-not,” Holtby said. “Adam is very about the details and very technical, and that’s something you really appreciate as a professional because your job is to prepare yourself for games.

“What Adam wants to do is make sure we’re given the instruction to get better.”

Oates is pushing an entirely new strategy — a hybrid system implementing some of Hunter’s defensive techniques and some of Boudreau’s aggressive offensive approach.

In listening to Washington’s players, it seems two things are evident: 1) dump-and-chase hockey is out, and 2) skating, pressure and forcing turnovers is in.

“The system is great,” captain Alex Ovechkin told CBS Washington. “I’m excited. Everybody involved so you can create. It’s not like [dump] and chase like we played [under Hunter]. I’m excited.”

“We’ve scouted and played a lot of teams that play a somewhat similar system – New Jersey, Boston, L.A., Nashville,” added winger Matt Hendricks. “We’re going be a skating team within a very defensive structure. It’s an exciting brand of hockey. We’re going to force teams to turn the puck over.”

‘Skating’ is the buzzword out of Washington these days.

Oates’ emphasis is on pushing tempo and the need for speed, something he explained after icing a new-look top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin — with No. 8 playing on right wing instead of his usual left.

“Ovi’s a very fast guy, put some speed on the other side,” Oates told the Washington Times. “Everybody’s pretty much played with each other and I think right now our top six can go with each other but I like the look of the line so far.”

The big question now? If enthusiasm and buy-in for Oates’ approach will happen fast enough. The Caps are at a disadvantage with the shortened training camp/season, as it gives them less time to figure out what their new head coach wants.

It’s something Oates recognizes.

“It’s a growing period,” he explained. “Hopefully we’re a strong enough team to get through that. I think we are.

“It’s tough in a short season to get through it, but that’s why you have to work to be good everywhere.”


For all the PHT Pressing Questions, click here.

After lopsided loss, Julien says it’s ‘not about the young D’

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins’ young, makeshift defense failed to come through Thursday night as the B’s were thumped, 6-2, on home ice by the Winnipeg Jets.

Without injured veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid
Joe MorrowKevan Miller
Matt IrwinZach Trotman

And let’s just say, turnovers were a factor:

That was Irwin getting checked off the puck there.

“I had the puck behind the net, and I went to one side of the net, and then I just didn’t use the net to my advantage,” he explained afterwards, per CSN New England. “He got his stick in there, obviously stripped me of the puck, and we all know what happened after that. I take full blame for that one.”

But head coach Claude Julien wasn’t willing to blame inexperience for the poor outing.

“It’s not about youth. It’s not about the young D,” said Julien. “It’s about our game without the puck. I think we might have gotten a little excited here about our offense and forgot about the other part of our game.”

And to be fair, even Boston’s more accomplished d-men had their challenging moments.

Here’s Krug failing to get position on Nicolas Petan in front of the Bruins’ net:

All in all, it was a tough night.

“We’ll correct those [mistakes] tomorrow in practice,” said Irwin. “We’re a confident group in here. We liked our offense. We liked the chances we were getting. All those mistakes, D-zone, are something that we’re going to work on and get better every day.”

The Bruins host their rivals from Montreal on Saturday.

Greene named 11th captain in Devils history

Dion Phaneuf; Andy Greene
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Andy Greene has been named Bryce Salvador’s successor as New Jersey’s team captain.

Greene, an undrafted free agent that’s spent his entire nine-year career with the Devils organization, becomes the 11th captain in the franchise’s history and third American to wear the “C” (Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were the others).

A former standout at Miami of Ohio, Greene — who served as an alternate captain in each of the last two seasons — has developed into a steady, durable blueliner that hasn’t missed a game in three years. He’s also locked into the Devils long term, having signed a five-year, $25 million extension with the club last summer.

That deal kicks in this season, and runs through 2020.

As for the rest of the leadership group, four players will serve as alternate captains this season: Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique.

Elias and Zajac both wore an “A” in New Jersey last year, while Cammalleri and Henrique are first-timers.