In praise of Adam Oates

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Joel Quenneville led the Blackhawks to an amazing 36-7-5 record.

Paul MacLean helped the Senators into the playoffs despite a rash of injuries to star players.

Michel Therrien has been a great fit in Montreal.

But based on what the Washington Capitals have to say, Adam Oates deserves major consideration for NHL coach of the year.

“I’ve never had a coach that’s so in tune with his players,” forward Troy Brouwer told NHL.com. “He talks to you as if he’s still a player, but just a really smart player.”

And, of course, what can you say about the job Oates has done helping Alex Ovechkin get his scoring swagger back?

At the beginning of the season, Oates moved Ovechkin from the left wing, where the organization believed he had grown stale and predictable, to the right, where it was hoped the captain would give defenders something new to think about.

It didn’t work right away — perhaps it would’ve been a smoother transition had there been some preseason games to get comfortable — but sticking to the plan ultimately resulted in Ovechkin leading the NHL with 32 goals.

Communication, the Caps says, is one aspect where Oates excels, particularly compared to the last guy, Dale Hunter.

“It’s not a guessing game,” said d-man John Erskine, per the Washington Post. “Last year there wasn’t a lot of communication and this year’s totally different. It’s a 180.”

All compliments aside, Oates’ job wasn’t merely to get the Capitals to the playoffs. This franchise needs to have postseason success. An early exit at the hands of the Rangers and all the good work Oates has done won’t seem so commendable. They’ll just be the same old Caps that can’t get it done when it counts.

Related: Capitals-Rangers preview