Photo credit: Kyle Mace of Sweetest Hockey On Earth
In a move both surprising and logical, the Capitals announced Sunday that Adam Oates would serve as co-coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears with head coach Mark French for the duration of the lockout. Caps assistant coaches Calle Johansson, Tim Hunter, and Blaine Forsythe and goaltending coaches Dave Prior and Olie Kolzig will — in George McPhee’s words — “be involved at different times” and also help out with the Capitals’ ECHL affiliate, Reading Royals.
To adequately take on lockout-loaded teams like Oklahoma City Barons whose roster now features Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Justin Schultz, the Capitals have given their farm team the deepest coaching staff in AHL history.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for all of our coaches in the organization to work together to learn the nuances of our system of play,” says McPhee. “We also think it’s a great opportunity for our NHL coaches to get to work with our young players and frankly to give them something to do. There’s no sense in them sitting in Washington when they could be active in Hershey.”
The decision has no downside. Oates will have a chance to ply his trade for the first time in the organization, get more familiar with the players, and install his new system from the ground up. He’ll also get to work with potential Capitals starting goaltender Braden Holtby and continue to help develop Russian talents Dmitry Orlov and Stanislav Galiev. In the bigger picture, the added star power should also bring more media attention to the deserving Bears and help them fill seats.
A few months ago, Adam Oates was on top of the world, coaching the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals. A few weeks later, he was named head coach of his own team and inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same day. Now Oates gets to experience the less glamorous side of hockey again: 12-hour bus rides, three-in-threes, and living in and out of hotels. That he’d even consider this position after all his success in hockey speaks volumes of the man’s character and humility.