Of all the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin might’ve been the happiest when the club hired one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history, Adam Oates, as the team’s head coach.
“It’s not blocking the shots and it’s not dump and chase,” Ovechkin said, not-so-subtly referencing former coach Dale Hunter’s defense-first philosophy. “Any system that I play I learn a lot. I’m an offensive guy, it’s not a secret to anybody, and I’m pretty excited and very happy to hear the Caps signed that kind of guy who likes offense.”
Ovechkin did add “you don’t forget about defense,” but that didn’t stop Caps GM George McPhee from joking that his captain “still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while.”
It’s not likely Washington will revert all the way back to run-and-gun hockey next season, but associate goalie coach Olaf Kolzig did admit the Caps “maybe weren’t utilizing the players that we had” under Hunter.
For example, Ovechkin.
In Game 2 of Washington’s second-round playoff series against the Rangers – a 3-2 Caps victory – the former 65-goal scorer spent just 13:36 on the ice, more than six minutes less than grinding forward Jay Beagle.
Ovechkin’s salary in 2011-12 was $9 million.
Beagle’s was $525,000.
Forward Troy Brouwer is hoping Oates – who finished his career with 1,420 points in 1,337 games – can balance offensive freedom with defensive responsibility.
“Adam has a lot of good ideas on how to make sure a team is even keeled,” Brouwer told the Washington Post. “Dale was very defensive and we were taking that to the extreme, even if it’s not to that point it’s important that guys continue to pay attention to the details.
“I sure hope that our star players don’t throw everything we learned out the window and don’t focus solely on offense. We need those guys blocking shots, paying the price and getting back in the defensive zone too. Those are skills you can’t forget, those are things that make a difference for successful teams.”
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