Should the Caps model themselves after the Bruins?
In an exclusive interview with CSN Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley, Capitals coach Adam Oates takes a look back at the Caps’ first-round playoff exit, his first experience coaching captain Alex Ovechkin, and why he wants to be the Bill Belichik of the NHL.
In today’s Part One of the interview, Oates discusses the end of last season and why he thinks the Caps should follow the model of the Boston Bruins.
On breakup day you said you thought it was too soon to analyze what had just happened in your first season as a head coach. Now that you’ve had some time to think about it, is there some clarity?
I think sometimes it’s easy in hindsight. I think sometimes you feel like you need to give an answer [right after a series ends]. I think we played pretty good hockey for six-and a-half games. I don’t think we got the best shake with the referees, especially in New York [in Game 6]. I don’t think the discrepancy of the calls [five power plays for the Rangers, none for the Caps] were fair, but what are you going to do about it, right? [Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist played fantastic. I mean, my token answer to you is that Lundqvist played absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t get through him. I talked to a lot of the guys about finding other ways to beat a good goalie and we couldn’t t find other ways to get opportunities.
I’m sure you know that any time a team mentions officiating or the other team’s goalie it sounds like a cop out. Are you concerned about that?
Yes, I feel like that as I’m saying it to you, I really do.
So you understand when fans get upset by that?
I don’t know any other way to say it. I mean, Number One, I can get in trouble [criticizing NHL officials]. And Number Two, you look like a sore loser and you look like a guy copping out and looking for excuses. But then my answer is we actually played pretty good hockey, so I can’t complain about that. In Game 6, Ovi had how many shots? Five Grade A chances. He beat [Lundqvist] and missed the open net. We didn’t get a single power play in the game. If I’m not allowed to use an excuse I might as well keep my moth shut.
The bottom line is that you can’t win a playoff series when you don’t score in the final two games, though, right?
Very true. You know what? We gotta play way better. We did some great things. Some guys had great years. I’ve got to find a way to be better and I asked the players to find a way to be better. If we all collectively try to walk that path maybe the organization will get better and one of these days it will happen. You know what? Boston is a great example. I brought it up to the guys after the season and I still mean it. It’s funny, the two teams I mentioned to George [McPhee], the Boston Bruins and San Antonio Spurs, are both in the Finals. When I went on the radio and mentioned San Antonio, the guy said, “Well, they’ve won three rings.” And I said, “Yeah, but they hadn’t won in 10 years and they haven’t changed their guys.”
So it’s all about patience?
Yup, it is. You know, you gotta show some signs and I think we showed some signs. We’ve got to get better. I also don’t want fool’s gold. I think there are areas we really need to improve and we’ve got to go and do that.
Where are those areas?
I think we can be better defensively. I think that defense will lead to more offense. I think that comes with understanding the system. Last year the word of the year was “system.” We talked about that every day and I answered those questions for you guys every day. I don’t want to bring up that word next year. I don’t.
Because they know it. It’s got to be new words next year, like “execution.” I want all our players to believe that the system is right and we’re going to get better at other areas. We want to talk more specifics. There won’t be a learning curve. We’ve got to get better. I think we all saw signs of our chemistry when we’re playing good. Penalty killing has to get better; we’ve got to protect our goalie better because you can always do that. And individually guys got to get better. I think the guys believe that now. Not that they didn’t last year, but I think they subscribe to it now and I think everybody is more committed to work on individual stuff, which is great.
Has the hardest work been done, getting your players to buy into what you’re selling?
Yeah, we had some success with it, so I think that’s great. And you know what? A lot of guys had great years. Ovi obviously had a bounce-back year. Ribs, [Mike Ribeiro] Backy [Nicklas Backstrom]. Troy Brouwer had a fantastic year. I mean, for me personally, I think Brow had a great, great year for what I knew of him as a player. Greenie [Mike Green] played a great second half, John Carlson had a great year, and I don’t want to leave guys out. I love the way the third line ended the season in the playoffs, so that’s a great starting point for them next year. Chimmer [Jason Chimera] had a tough first half but he had a great playoff. So when we start next year I expect him to play the way he played in the playoff, which is great.