adam-oates

We’ve sometimes lobbed criticism at Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates, but one thing we can agree on is that his handling of Alex Ovechkin since being hired has been excellent.

Oates has reinvigorated the Caps captain, helping him to win the MVP the last season. Under Oates’ tutelage, Ovechkin has grown as a player and a scorer.

On Wednesday when asked about the mountains of criticism for Ovechkin after Russia failed to medal in their own Olympics, Oates — in my opinion — had one of his finest moments as a Capital.

Are you worried about Ovechkin after all the criticism he’s absorbing in Sochi?

Adam Oates: I’m not worried about him when he gets back here. Obviously I feel for him as I’m sure everybody does. He did a great job of handling it up until the [end]. Obviously he did his best. We talk about how you can only control how you play. You can’t control how the team plays or how it evolves and spins out. That’s obviously not the ending that they wanted, but when you look at it, that’s the third or fourth Olympics [Russia] hasn’t medalled. It’s not on one guy; it’s on the group. And at some point I’ll have a chance to talk to him about that.

The Russian coach mentioned Alex. He mentioned an inability to score. And I don’t know how many coaches do that — single out a player — but is that tough as a coach to hear that?

AO: To hear that? Yeah. But I have to be careful here because it’s easy [to criticize] from the cheap seats. We all watched the games. I watched them too. The first thing I saw the whole Olympics was there was five 1-0 games. Everybody thought this was going to be a high-scoring, bigger-rink hockey, but it’s not. It’s not how hockey’s evolved. It’s hard to score goals. It was obviously hard for them. It’s hard for a lot of guys. Crosby hasn’t got one yet. You know?

And if they lose, there’s a lot of heat on [Crosby].

AO: For sure. It’s hard. For Latvia — I don’t know how many shots they ended up with — but it’s hard to score goals, and it’s hard in an environment when you had one practice in front of the coach. He’s got these twenty guys thrusted at him. To me, [Russia] looked like a team that didn’t have chemistry. Some great hockey players on it. They just don’t look like they had a chemistry going in and in the games they never seemed to sort it out. That’s what it looked like to me. That’s not on any one guy or the coach. That’s just what the team looked like. They didn’t get their groove.

Does it make a difference that when he comes back here he has chemistry and a team structured in a way that will help him succeed?

AO: I think so. We try to put a plan together for everyone to succeed. And for our top dogs to succeed. You look at some of their guys… Kovalchuk scored two goals because Ovi’s in his spot on the power play. They got two power play goals. [Ovi] didn’t get them, but Kovalchuk scores because they’re worried about Ovi back door. He doesn’t get credit for that, but he’s a part of that. I think their team in general — Ovi included — did not look like they figured out a way to go north. They turned it over too much in the neutral zone to me. They were willing to play their structure of hockey which is the way they play. They’re totally entitled to play their way that they want and have success their way. Latvia had five guys back [in the defensive zone]. That’s what they thought they would need to do to win the game. I just feel bad because you end up taking criticism no matter who you are.

What kind of analysis will you share with him when he gets back?

AO: When he’s in the mood, we’ll talk about it. I’ve already taped a couple of his games and to show him what I like and don’t like about what I saw. Because I also have my own opinions about the games and when he plays for us, I’ve always tried to establish with him a rapport where we’re on the same page. And why I want him to be successful and how him being successful allows us to be successful. And vice versa. He’s been great about that and we have a good relationship that way. But obviously there’s a period of mourning for the guy. I would hope everybody who’s a Caps fan feels for him because he’s a big part of us.

He’s obviously a guy who puts a lot of things on his shoulders. Are you going to try to show him what really happened in film?

AO: Yeah and you know, nobody was more frustrated than me. I threw something at the TV yesterday I was so mad at part of the plays and it had nothing to do with him. It’s just the way the game was being played over there. I was just very frustrated because I could see it evolving into a form where nothing seems to be working. Especially today in the second half of the game — and we all saw it — nothing was working for them. They looked discombobulated. They had no cohesiveness. Mike Milbury said that and I agreed with that point wholeheartedly.

When you place a player in that situation, is it even more difficult because he came from playing this system here to where you’ve asked him to do certain things, and he’s playing in a different system, different teammates…

AO: Absolutely. You’re right. That’s why you can’t criticize one guy because everybody’s asked to do different things within the way they want to play. And that’s Canada. There are guys on that team that… Matt Duchene sat out today. PK Subban sat out today. He’s the Norris trophy winner. He sat out. You’ve got Zack Parise, who I talked to, on a checking line. Well he’s not a checking line [forward] in Minnesota. You change your roles. Well when you are on a checking line, you’re not going to produce. So your numbers aren’t going to be the same. So if [your team loses], someone might throw criticism at you. That’s not fair. That’s why it’s easy [to criticize] from the cheap seats.

Russia collectively did not have a rhythm and I think that’s the best way to put it in fairness to them. They had the most pressure because it’s in their country.

How do you want [Ovechkin] to handle this?

AO: I heard he was the only guy who talked to the media. That’s how I want him to handle it. That’s being a pro and a man, right?

Taking heat?

AO: Yeah. If you’re going to accept the accolades, you have to accept the criticism.

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  • Hyusis

    Yeah, that last comment from Oates was nice. I also was impressed with Ovi’s willingness to talk to the press.

  • Ash

    I may disagree with you on a bunch of things, but <3 you, Oatesy, for this one.

  • ATPinDC

    Thanks for doing this, Ian. I really urge people to watch the video, too. It was obvious that Adam was worried about Alex and was thinking about how to help him. I’m really grateful to him.

    Also, this line:

    “I would hope everybody who’s a Caps fan feels for him because he’s a big part of us.”

    Right in the heart!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    It hit me right in teh feels too.

  • Jonah

    damn oatsie is amazing as a coach when its not making lineups. too bad he can’t be the personal assistant coach to alex ovechkin and not the head coach for the entire team

  • remrats

    I heard Oates say, “I’m NOT worried about him when he gets back here.” I agree, Oates comments are pure class.

  • Diller M

    It’s interesting because there are so many facets to being a head coach and I think we forget that a lot. This is obviously a strength of Oates being a former player. I hope he (Oates) can be as analytical about his own performance so he can evolve and become more successful with the caps, because these kind of stories really help me regain my faith in him.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I listened again. You’re right! I fixed. Not sure why, I just couldn’t make that out originally.

  • Peter Iovino

    Aww, Oatsie. You are a great coach. You understand the strengths, weakness and psyches of the players.

  • yv

    Interestingly, firstly I have seen citation of Oates words on other site with reference to RMNB.com and now come here to read the source! You are growing in popularity!)

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    What’s the other site? Is it a Russian one?

  • Anela

    Man, it makes me so happy to see Oates step up and support Ovi especially after the comments made by the Russian coach. I hope Ovi can come back and play super strong for the Caps and that the team finds a groove. Class act right there.

  • yv

    Yep. Several of them have English translation besides Russian, like Rsport or rich in hockey content Sport express with known to you SM. Because of tremendous Ovis popularity there you seems one of the sources of info about him here.

  • dylan wheatley

    hahah his face as he says “i hope” when asked if erskine was strength training during the break

  • Troy

    Ovechkin 2013: 32 goals, 24 assists in 48 games (16 PPG and 11 PPA!)
    Ovechkin 2014: 40 goals, 20 assists in 55 games ( 15PPG and 12 PPA!)
    Oates didn’t “reinvigorate” Alex Ovechkin at all, in fact all Oates did was say “we only have 1 guy at the point, not two” and BAM! goals from the left circle… It’s easy, any scorer could put up the numbers that he does AND possibly more… Granted Ovi has a Great shot and great physical ability in terms of size and speed, but average or below everything else leads to a “solvable” hockey player…
    411 Goals in 384 assists in 656 games blah blah blah! The guy has 142 goals on the PP and 167 assists on the PP, and he takes between 4-5 shots per game (sometimes 1/5th of the entire team’s shots) not to mention the plays that fail because they are CATERED to him… Sad days lie ahead, because even if somehow the Caps miraculously run the most difficult 23 games on their schedule that are left, they will still probably face the Penguins in the 1st round AKA Pens move on…
    OVERTHROW GMGM!

  • Zachary Adomanis

    Oates coached him both of those years. In 2012 before Oates Ovi’s stat line was 38 G 27 A 65 p in 78 games. So yeah Oates moved him to a different position and had his numbers sky rocket. That is what they mean by “reinvigorate”

  • mariochalmers123

    Average in everything except shot, size and speed? You’ve never watched a hockey game in your life, and especially not recently. Ovi is great in transition, he’s a great passer and he’s become much better away from the puck. He’s adapting into a more complete player.

    You are 100% clueless my friend.

  • Troy

    100% clueless, I don’t think so. Have you ever seen Ovechkin cycle the puck? me neither. Have you ever seen Ovechkin hustle to be the 2nd man in a board battle? Me neither. Have you seen Ovechkin turn the puck over trying to stickhandle into the offensive zone? YUPP! Have you seen Ovechkin stand for 2,3,4,5 passes and barely move? YUPP! Look, man, it is just my opinion, but to say that Ovechkin is becoming a “more complete” player is irrelevant, because Ovechkin is what he is, and Oatesy needs to let him free.
    More complete player? from what, A backcheck you saw? AN interception in the neutral zone? ONE blocked shot? We can all hope, but once again, realism is a better path. Realism says Ovi is a: Goalscorer, hitter, solid/average passer (puck never settles for him oddly) and that is about it.

  • Troy

    “Reinvigorate”… re – again, back to original…. invigorate – cause life, make more attractive, give energy

    So what you are saying is that Because Oatesy came along the season after Backstrom only played in 42 games (Remember, backy has been Ovi’s center since between ’08 and ’09) and you are going to use Ovechkin’s stat line from the only season out of the last six that Ovi’s center/linemate was injured (and replaced by young Mojo LOL!) OF COURSE HE WAS ONLY 38G 27A he was playing with freaking Marcus Johansson (FIRST FULL SEASON, kinda) and Mike Knuble (ages 39-40 at the time.) Get with the picture, man. Oatesy came along after the “terrible defensive style” that brought the Capitals the most success the team has seen this decade and said “play transition hockey, steal pucks, skate fluidly, make passes, blah blah blah.” Of course his numbers went up I mean his #1 Center returned and Johansson had an extra years’ time of playing with Ovechkin… Not to mention, the Capitals brought in Ribeiro (who added 6PPg and 21PPA to Ovi’s stats on the man-advantage.) There are MANY, MANY, MANY other factors that lead to the “come back” of Alex Ovechkin, but maybe it wasn’t a comeback… Maybe Ovi just had what everyone in sports calls a “slump.” There’s only one person that can get someone out of a slump, themselves.

  • capsyoungguns

    Yes I’ve seen Ovi cycle the puck. He sees opportunities to score that many don’t. That’s his gift. He can get shots off that most players can’t. FYI shooting a lot is essential to scoring success for any player. And further to your initial post, if it’s so easy to score a PP goal from the left circle then why don’t more players score from there as consistently and deadly. Only Stamkos is as deadly as Ovi from that spot. It’s not easy. But they have the gift.

  • holtbysaidno

    “reinvigorate”… give new energy or strength to…

    Ovi doesn’t need to get back to his young, “reckless” self. That would be a waste of the experience he’s gained in his NHL career and would make him predictable because everyone watched how he played then and adjusted to stymie his efforts later. Sending Ovi back to his old tactics is like the French relying on old Maginot Line tactics during WWII.

    I agree that putting Ovi’s recent surge solely on the shoulders of Oates is a little far-fetched. But Oates shook things up and deserves a lot credit for Ovi’s resurgence. He changed Ovi’s position and tailored team strategies to accentuate Ovi’s talents.
    Ovi pulled himself out of a “slump” last year before he erupted to scoar moar goals during the end-of-season push that got the Caps (barely – RIP Southeast division) into the playoffs. But he didn’t improve from Hunter to Oates solely on his own accord.

    We’re watching “New Ovi” playing on pace to perform at least as well as “Old Ovi” (2007-2008 or 2008-2009) and effective coaching has set Ovi up for that pace.

  • Troy

    I know its not easy and I wasn’t trying to bash anything Ovi is doing, because what he does is great, its the people asking him to change his game instead of just putting someone not named Johansson or Erat on his line (in my opinion.) It is a gift and Ovi has probably the best overall shot in the NHL (snap, wrist, slap, changing angles, power, etc,) but that comes at a price. (I.E. such offensive concentration = defensive lapses) McPhee needs to do more to build a team that has players that compliment one another instead of just trying to set up Ovi 24/7 and showing your hand BEFORE the cards are even dealt!

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    I can agree with you on a lot of those little things that OV messes up. His stickhandling and speed definitely aren’t as good as when he entered the league. Some of that is due to age.

    But yes, I wish OV asserted himself more when he doesn’t have the puck. He doesn’t move his feet very much off the puck.

    I remember how OV used to be a puck carrying train, but nowadays, like you said, the puck just doesn’t settle for him.

    Some people call him a “drive killer” these days because of his turnovers from forcing shots, to mishandling the puck, etc.

    His passing is decent, above average at times. But his play without the puck is what frustrates me the most.

    Some attribute it to him getting older and just preserving himself for offensive rushes and whatnot, but he’s still lacking too much effort off the puck.

    He’s gotta start throwing his body around a little more. I’m not asking him to be the bull in a china shop that he was in his first few years. I just want him to interfere with the opposing puck carrier when he’s within stick length. When I watch him on D It looks like he thinks he’s not even responsible for keeping his man in check.

    When the opposition is working it around in our zone, you can see OV not even having his stick on the ice a lot of the time. He only starts to slightly rev it up when we regain possession and then goes 100% when he gets the puck.

    But I don’t know, he’s basically our entire offence nowadays so I can understand why he wants to be fully fresh for each offensive rush/opportunity. All of his chances are magnified even more these days because we don’t have any bonafide secondary scoring. OV knows that if he doesn’t score, we usually lose. So he mails it in on defence so that he can be most efficient on offence.

    I just wish OV understood that there are times where his defence could have lead to offence for him. He either forgot about that or really doesn’t get the idea. The latter is hard to believe.

  • johnnymorte

    I know Oates gets a lot of flack for the mess that GMGM has created here in Washington, but lets not kid ourselves. This is a man that knows the game. He is also a great communicator, which makes him an excellent teacher. However, In the words of Mike Babcock, he needs to “grab his piece.” I want to see some fire in him, like when he gnashed his teeth at the official like a sick wolverine. WIth Kuzya coming in the mail, this pathetic excuse for a manager needs to get us a veteran shut-down defenseman, because this defense is like a sieve with a hole in it. Now there are a lot of tradeable assets on this team, and a guy like Wilson can use more minutes and we can shed some cap space. This kid is the real deal and I want this kid to get minutes because he plays a style that will win us hockey games. I am going to armchair GM the shit out of you McPhee! Get your act together!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland
  • Andrew Walker

    Exactly the right response in every way. This is good, supportive coaching. He’s won a lot of points with me for this.

  • CJ

    This is the very last thing he is asked in the interview and is extremely important: Kunetzov. “If it happens it happens great. I don’t know anything about him.”

    I know Oates, like all head coaches everywhere, have a lot on their plate but this is a guy that already has a history of feelings with Caps fans. Whether you like him or not, believe in him or not, there has been so much speculation about Kuzy that no matter how he plays out here in Washington he will be a story. That our head coach says he doesn’t know the biggest prospective player we have and is effectively unknown to him concerns me. When Kuzy arrives will Oates be ready and have some idea of how to use him? I question some decisions about how some players have been used thus far and now we are talking about someone whose potentially long career with us, one that may start mid season where we have to pick up and go, will be dictated by these same decisions. That Oates is still uninformed about him is a BIG deal.

    To elaborate on why this matters, far more for Kuzy than others, is he is a man who has a real idea of value about himself coming from the KHL. Rather than an 18, 19, or 20 year old with his first shot at the “big leagues” we have someone who has been playing at a high level on a big stage for quite some time with a real appreciation of self worth. This is not a kid who will sit on the fourth line and play pitiful minutes. If he is “disrespected” by being played in a manner that he feels does not give him a chance to succeed (Read: Erat) we could lose possibly the biggest prospect since Nikki or Carlson.

  • Zachary Mott

    Oh my god I just realized that Adam Oates and Alex Ovechkin have the same initials.

  • Troy

    We already lost the biggest prospect since Nikki or Carlson. We traded him for that guy you mentioned above, what’s his name again? Oh yeah! its Mr. 4.5 million dollars for plug play man! Oh wait, not, its Martin Erat.
    That being said, I agree fully, in fact if Kuzya isnt immediately on the 2nd line or hell even the 1st, but I am the one and only mojo hater out of all caps fans I guess?! Kuzya can score 55-65 points in a rookie season which means Kuzya needs to be in a top 6 position immediately upon arrival in North America.

  • Troy

    Please don’t start with the whole “changed positions” and “predictablity” thing… he stands on the right in Faceoffs, cool, BUT WAIT! Unless he can shoot, then he’s on the left. Also on the powerplay hes on the left, on odd man rushes he mostly crosses over to the…. wait for it…. LEFT! he’s a Left winger, always has been, always will be. take a look at his 72 goals over the last two seasons and tell me how many of them come from the right of the slot? I’ll go with a handful of about 10-12, the other SIXTY are from the left…
    “New Ovi” as you stated it is on pace to play the same way that “Old Ovi” did in the stats column, but not the same as “Old Ovi” did in the amount of an impact he made each and every shift he was on the ice. “New Ovi” its scoring the same amount that “old Ovi” was, its just taking away production from the rest of the team, the Capitals are winning less, and more goals are scored AGAINST the caps when Ovi is on the ice than FOR the caps. Seems like a problem to me.
    This “Old Ovi” you speak of is being changed in my vocabulary to “assertive Ovechkin,” because he used to attempt to make plays every chance he got, their zone, neutral zone, our zone etc. That is what made him “the Gr8,” he did things that weren’t supposed to be done, or shouldn’t be done, and made them work!
    This “New Ovi” as you stated above is also being renamed in my vocaulary to “system Ovi.” The new Alex Ovechkin is like the college quarterbacks that throw the football 70 times a game for 600 yards and 8 TDs, except when something changes and the play is slightly disrupted, or the defense is right near where the play is “supposed” to be directed the ‘system” players panic. I would say this is very relate-able to Ovechkin. Ovi just takes his time on the left circle and as long as the pass is in his wheelhouse then BAM! The system’s play worked, but the minute the defense applies pressure to the cross crease pass, or to the opposite half-boards and the puck gets played around the boards to Ovi to keep the posession alive it sometimes seems as if Ovi has never fielded a puck of the boards before. it’s outrageous how awkward it is to see Ovechkin take a pass and skate towards the goal line because you know that he is most likely not going behind the net, it makes him so much easier to defend.
    What most people do not understand is the following – Ovechkin should be scoring 65,70,75 goals EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. I mean, he is playing with Backstrom and a AHL caliber player on his line the last two years and STILL leads the league in goals… Imagine if he wasn’t alongside two players that the defense can basically “ignore.” Imagine if he had a cycle game, or if he didn’t always HAVE to be the guy to shoot the puck? He might get 50+ assists again like he did for ALMOST the first six years of his career!

  • Troy

    I just wish that the Capitals team wasn’t full of so many plugs. Expensive ones too! Erat – 4.5 million, Laich 4.5 million, Chimera 2 million, Brouwer 3.6 million, etc. I understand that defensive players and physical players have their place in the game of hockey, but not as a top 6 forward, not if you don’t have at least SOME scoring touch (I.E. Joel Ward, Fehr, etc.)

    I understand exactly what you mean by each offensive possession is magnified because of the lack of scoring on the Capitals’ team as a whole, but isn’t our Gm and Coach to blame for that? I mean there aren’t many moves the team can make to improve secondary scoring when we have contracts like Brooks’ (4.5 mill/year through the ’16-’17 season) hanging around. I mean 4.5 million a year is enough to pay BOTH Perreault and Penner as well as having a 1 million dollar cash grab at the Verizon center with the leftover money… Look at the talent around Ovi his first 5-6 years on the Capitals. Zubrus, Clark, Kozlof, Fedorov, Semin, and backy (obviously.) Now take a look at the team’s talent. Backy, Grabovski, Ward? Brouwer? Chimera? Laich? no way! Not only has Ovi started to “fail” us (in terms of winning, team success, leading by example, etc.) but we have been “failing” him ever since the team resorted to putting Mike friggin’ Knuble on the first line! (P.S. I love Mike, just not a top 3 guy!)

    I am already looking forward to next year because we finally have this “veteran” core of past young guns around for a couple more years which is something THIS current group of players didn’t have upon entrance to the league. Not to mention the upsides of Kuzya, Galiev, Barber, Wilson, Carrick, Orlov. Just look forward to next year, it is a much brighter picture than the last 23 games of the season being against 21 quality opponents. There are a couple of ways to solve the problems with the roster, but they won’t be made with George McPhee “the Jerry Jones of the NHL” at the helm.

    Sorry about the rant, but as I was saying before all of that, Ovi could still treat the players around him now as if they were talented. It would give them confidence and a more unified “team” feeling rather than Adam Oates’s “pass to the Italians!” game plan of just pass to Ovi, then stare. Ovi also needs to realize there arent many teams that win a cup allowing an average of 30 shots per game against their own net. Resting on defense is a great idea to save up for offense, except when you’re saving up for offense to make up for the goal the other team scored while you were resting on defense… Ovechkin needs a reality check, hell bring back jagr after his season with the Devils as a “farewell tour.” I am sure he will teach Ovechkin many, many things about success in the NHL. The most important being: puck control. Something Ovi never really had, and definitely no longer has at all. Not talking about hands and dekes, just strong body position and smart skating when one is in possession of the puck. One of the only common traits between almost all of the great players, even currently with Jagr as stated, Hossa, Selanne, even Gonchar. Ovi honestly just needs leadership, or a little bit of help in the leadership department. One man bands don’t make the rock and roll hall of fame, but the ones of multiple players (even if mediocre) that play TOGETHER do!

  • Troy

    Wait… there’s no “8” in oatesy’s name, just “77” ;)

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Erat is not a plug.

  • RT23

    I don’t believe for a second that Oates hasn’t studied film on Kuzy. I don’t like all his decisions but my impression is that he’s a hard worker and very analytical. If he says “yes, I’ve been watching film” the next 5 questions are about which line and who’s gets demoted or scratched. It was smart of him to duck the subject.

  • Troy

    Erat *shouldn’t be* a plug

    His recent play style is changing it a little, but hell I’d still favor giving Wilson more ice time than that 4.5 million dollar waste of a GREAT prospect…

    So, as of now, Erat is playing more like a plug than one would ever suspect. Possibly because 10 minutes of ice time is not nearly enough for Erat, especially when someone like Laich and Chimera are averaging more ice time than he is. This team,, organization, roster, everything is just dysfunctional. I’ve gone off the edge lol, implode the team and start over please!

  • capsyoungguns

    I agree that the construction of the team is terrible. And a terrible waste of a generational player like Ovi and an elite one with Backstrom. The team has a whole has been going backwards for a few seasons now. I also agree that asking Ovi to be a two-way player makes no sense given his skill set. Sure he could be a much better back checker but he gets tagged with errors that simply aren’t his responsibility sometimes. And to have him become a defensive player in lieu of his offensive skills wastes what he’s good at. Better to build solid defensive players around here. But unfortunately at this time the whole team is terrible defensively. Focus needs to be on the system. Or the lack thereof.

  • capsyoungguns

    The biggest change is that Ovechkin uses the whole ice now to score his goals instead of his trademark come up the left, cut to the center, and use the defenseman as a screen. By having him start on the right wing he sees the entire ice. He still scores more of his ES shots from the left and the center but he crisscrosses the ice now and doesn’t rely on the rush. He still gets a couple off the rush but it’s no longer his bread-and-butter. He waits for the pass instead of carrying into the zone and is far more unpredictable from where he’s going to shoot it.

  • holtbysaidno

    Ask and ye shall receive. http://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/icetrack/ provides shot and goal data mapped to locations on the ice. A distinct shift in Ovi’s pp goals is apparent between Hunter’s system (left) where ppg’s are pretty spread out and Oate’s system (middle and right) where ppg’s come solely from the left side. Likely attributable to Oates’ changes to the pp configuration. Note the upward trend in shots and goals.

    As to even-strength goals, a distinction is less clear, but Ovie’s goals appaer more spread out over the ice under Oates’s system (middle and right) than under Hunter’s system (left). Arguably attributable to Oates’ change to Ovi’s position. Again, upward trends in shots and goals.

    Is Ovie a left winger at heart? Yes. Is he effective as a RW? Yes. Does he need to scoar moar goals? Hell Yes! Either way, Oates’ coaching has had a positive effect on Ovi’s output.

    Don’t get me started on +/-. +1 is determined/recorded on the efforts of three players. -1 is determined by the failure of 6 players. And +/- doesn’t accurately reflect Ovi’s performance with most of his productivity coming from the pp. Also, great +/- doesn’t always mean your a great player (Mr. Shultz) and vice-versa.

    It’s interesting that you’ll attribute a lack of Backstrom as part of an Ovi slump above, but here you attribute the presence of Backstrom as a hindrence to Ovi’s production. Oates has commented earlier that Ovi’s line-mates need to shoot more and improve offensively, so that they can’t just be ignored by opposing d-men. But that’s more an issue of the line-mates’ mentality and playing rather than Oates’ coaching.

    I don’t think “system Ovi” detracts as much from the team as you propose. Several players this year are not performing to last year’s efforts. Some of that’s bad luck or loss of confidence or whatever, but those players need to pull themselves out of their respective “slump.” to make the team better. That’s the oppositely-cutting edge of having the Hart Trophy winner, he’s overly relied on for the team’s success.

    Whether it’s “assertive Ovi” or “system Ovi”, Ovi’s putting up his numbers. Ovi (“assertive” or “system”) has been putting the team on his back. Oates’ utilization and development of “system Ovi” has helped Ovi. The rest of the team just needs to get their groove back.

  • holtbysaidno

    Don’t know why that image wanted to repeat itself so many times… thanks Disqus

  • CapsGirl7443

    good job oates, im proud of you for finally doing something i agree with

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No, he is not. He’s a leading playmaker on the Caps. Wherever “plug” is on your player quality spectrum, Erat is on the other side. We’ve been through this.

  • Troy

    While I wasn’t really focusing solely on BACKSTROM himself, more of pointing out that his numbers were low because the team’s 1C was injured. There are not many (if any) teams in the NHL that could ask their 2C to step up and provide the same production as the 1C, especially when it was a kid that had only played 60-70 games in his (Johansson) entire NHL career. I never attributed Ovechkin’s PERSONAL hindrance to Backstrom, but I did say the team could benefit more from a scoring tough opposite of Ovi, and the fact that the only way to score is “PASS TO OVI!” is a hindrance to the team.

    Also, there actually aren’t many goals from the “right” side, if you take a close look the ones near the 7-8 “o’clock” area of the right circle are more than likely shots off the face-off where he is standing on the….. you guessed it- LEFT!
    The only honest difference is A) the lineup sheet now reads RW Alex Ovechkin. B) there is MAYBE 2-3 more times per game that he receives a pass to enter the zone on the right side of the ice. C) He can now be voted as LW and RW on the all-NHL team lol!

    In all seriousness, the shots are from the left because of Oatesy’s 1-3-1, but that is also “his position.” The point i was making was basically you can take the left away from Ovi, but you can’t that the Ovi out of the left (or something like that.) Also, what about Kuzya and galiev, both play wing on their off-hand and Oatesy had a fit about that earlier last year.

    On the +/- note, by no means is that a statistic that you look at and say “wow this guy is a good hockey player.” it is worth a glance every now and then, especially to help show Ovechkin’s even strength goal scoring troubles (more of the whole team’s troubles.)

    All I was saying is that the team will get back in their “grove” if they have a captain that leads by friggin’ example. When you see your captain posted up in the neutral zone waiting for a stretch pass, how much confidence does that build? especially when you ask every other line to “tighten up defensively.” It’s just a weird situation, and I think that “assertive Ovi” shows his effort more, shows his heart more, shows how much he wants to win more, and that is one of the most contagious things in a team sport. Especially when it is your captain exerting the effort and LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Something that only Dale Hunter could get Ovechkin to do…

    It’s up to you fans, do you want the Rocket Richard and hart trophies 5 times each, or do you want a cup? The way Ovi has to play now to put up such gaudy numbers might actually be deficient to the rest of the team. (granted, once we acquire other goal scoring talent.)

  • Troy

    As a Caps fan, I hate to say this, but being a “leading playmaker” of this team dosen’t mean much. Who makes plays on the Caps? Consistently? Ovi, Backy…….. tell me when to stop? Erat has what, 9 points in the last two months. The guy is a “leading playmaker” with 22 points in 59 games? Please explain? I understand “plug” might have been an exaggeration, but “leading playmaker” is just as much of an exaggeration on the opposite side of the spectrum, right?

  • Troy

    i clicked the first 3 rows thinking they were going to be different charts you linked…. thanks disqus! haha

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No, it’s not. I hit this topic every other week in the snapshot.. http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/tag/snapshot/

  • Troy

    Actually, I kind of agree with you on that one completely. Erat – Grabo – Ovi line would probably work to be honest, but the center position isn’t the “problem” with the first line, honestly because its okay to be pass-happy as a center ice player. The problem is Johansson is a center at heart, and a pass happy winger with a pass happy center = no good.
    I wanna write for you guys :'( I guess I would have to actually follow my AP writers handbook though. Mind checking out my blog, I don’t update it much but when I do its a novel-ish? I won’t link unless you would actually like to see it haha!

    Peter wins again…. as usual. F**k’s sake I thought I had you!

  • Ternesti

    Here is the interview that Oates is talking about in the end if you haven’t seen it already http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1cq0i0_hdpvr2-20140219-1002-a_creation?start=2

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    I definitely agree with all that. Our current supporting roster is quite weaker than what we used to have with Zubrus, Clark, Kozlov, Fedrov, and Semin. The thing about that old supporting cast was that they were not only offensive, but they also helped OV off the ice. They brought a kind of camaraderie for OV that he has never had since. Off the ice they definitely made it easier for OV to deal with the pressures of being a superstar in the NHL. He had a lot more player he could relate to when he first came in and that definitely let him focus on his game more. Unlike today, where he’s the captain and the only legitimate scorer we have.

    This video gives us a reminder of how much fun the guy was having back then with his countrymates on his team. We need to bring back a guy or two of the same ilk.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZUR3_oTb-4

    Jagr, although not Russian, would be amazing. He definitely left the old Caps on a bad note, so I’m not sure how much he’d be willing to retire here but I’d love it and so would our team and OV.

    Not only could he possibly play 1RW and allow OV to move back to LW with all the knowledge he’s learned from Oates on RW (if Oates would allow it). But, he’s also very very similar to OV in terms of physique and playstyle.

    Although Jagr is a bit more of a playmaker, OV could definitely learn a thing or two about how Jagr (as slow as he is today) is still dominant along the boards by using his big frame to protect the puck. Also, Jagr used to be at the same level as OV when he was OV’s age.

    OV could really relate to him and learn a lot. It’d be like having a Czech Fedorov for OV. It’d be great and quite nostalgic!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZUR3_oTb-4

  • Another guest

    Nice editorial by the Washington Post about Ovi. Hear hear.

  • Grant

    “Adam Oates Defending Alex Ovechkin’s Sochi Performance is One of His Finest Moments as Coach”

    Well that certainly speaks volumes.

  • Grant

    Great passer, great in transition…I love this blog

  • Eric Schulz

    I’ve always defended Oates; he’s in year, like… really, he’s kind of just starting year 2 as head coach, with… what, 103 games so far? He’ll get better at the things he’s weak at, but he’s been great for Ovie; that’s pretty big.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Ian and I talked about this a bit on the podcast. He definitely gets and deserves credit for Ovi’s turnaround– but I’m not sure all of it is deserved. PP? Sure. LW switch? Why not. Even strength systems play in general? I’m less sure.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yes he is. He wasn’t on Nashville, but that’s because they were *all* plugs, he was just the best one.

  • Eric Schulz

    You hate on Chimera and Brouwer, then shout-out Ward? Those two are both better goal-scorers than Ward, where have you been?

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, but again, historically goal scorers drop off at age 24. Ovie is the only goal scorer in NHL history scoring as much at 28 as he did at 21, 22, 23… your standards for what he should be doing need to be calibrated. And I can’t speak to what Oates does outside of line-ups… 90% of coaching is stuff we can’t attest to, I think Oates is doing a great job at the other things… I have work in about half an hour, so I can’t get into it, but I think the problem is that the things he doesn’t do well are obvious to the casual fan…

  • Ash

    Exactly. Plus, as I recall, when Oates went over to meet with Ovi this past summer, didn’t he meet up with Kuznetsov as well? I’m pretty sure he’s being smart and not saying anything until Kuznetsov actually gets here, which is probably the wisest thing. Keep it close to the chest.

  • Pat

    As good as Forsberg may be, I think Kuznetsov is the higher regarded prospect. If he was Canadian he would have gone top 10 in that draft easily.

  • Troy

    Chimmer and Tb are better goal scorers than Ward? What… I mean, I swear some people on this blog must ONLY watch the Capitals play at home, and never anything or any other team… Ward has more goals and more assists while playing about 2:00 less per game than TB, and Chimmer will put up similar numbers to Joel as 3rd line linemates because – science.
    seriously though, have you not seen how the puck kind of jsut gravitates towards Ward and finds him in the right spot? Not to mention TB gets 6G and 7A from the PP (Wardo has 5PPG I believe?) and plays on a line with Grabo. Wardo puts up the same numbers as some of the guys above him while playing a much more defensive role. Wardo is the epitome of TWF on this Capitals team, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. O-zone, neutral zone, and D-zone.

    Ward is more valuable to this team than TB and Chimmer are even if he isn’t considered “as talented.” Wardo plays “assertive,” moves on the ice with urgency, and plays his heart out about as much as the entire top 6 forwards to combined.

  • Troy

    Also, problem solved = Galiev, Kuzy, and not Orlov is a part of the team.
    “hey Kovalchuck any chance you’d like to…. didn’t think so” :(

  • Roman Z.

    Oates talking about chemistry – oxymoron.

  • Eric Schulz

    Joel Ward has 71 goals and 170 points in 412 games. He has 31 goals in 161 games as a Cap; his career high is 17, THIS YEAR. Can you spell OUTLIER? Brouwer has 100 goals, and 196 points, in 426 games. Last year, he was on pace for 33 goals and 57 points. Career highs: 17 vs 33… kind of a pronounced difference there. Brouwer has 51 goals in 188 games as a Cap. Chimera has 133 goals and 297 points in 769 games. He has 52 goals in 308 games as a Cap. Granted, even just looking at his Capitals’ production, he doesn’t compare as favorably to Ward’s, but before this year, Ward had merely 14 goals in 112 games. This year is an OUTLIER. Brouwer, in absolute terms, is a clearly better player, even if he hasn’t been for the entirety of this current season (but he’s turned it up recently, so we’ll see how they finish). Chimera is older, but I’d still rather pay Chimera what he’s getting, and use Ward as trade bait. Sell high on Ward, and try to reload for the next two seasons. Clear some space, move some complementary pieces, get a top-4 defender.

  • Eric Schulz

    I believe you said you aren’t a fan of Johanson; that’s weird to me, but whatever… here’s what I would be angling towards:

    Sell high on Ward, a contending team may well give up a 1st for him, probably a 1st and a prospect. Maybe Colorado would give up a 1st for him to strengthen their bottom-6 (it’s probably gonna be in the early- to mid-20s, so that seems fair-ish); maybe the Oilers would give up a mid-tier prospect to add some veteran leadership/grit to a team that seems to need it.
    Move Erat… he would make an overqualified 3rd line winger on a contender, and in case of injury would be a legit 2nd liner. If a team went after a guy like Vanek but couldn’t afford him, Erat would be a nice consolation prize. Also, next year the cap should go up, so his cap hit next year won’t be as bad, so as long as they can afford it this year, he’s more valuable since he’s not a rental. Then, the following year, his contract is up, and that team should be looking at something like 3 years, $2.5 mil per, I’d think, which would be reasonable, so maybe they keep him long-term even. He should have value. Again, Colorado seems like a good fit with him. Maybe you try Ward and either Chandler Stephenson or Michael Latta for Ales Hemsky? Maybe they’d be fine with just Galiev? Probably not… I’d rather give up Stephenson, of course, since he’s further away than Latta, and we aren’t rebuilding just reloading, but I’d be willing to give up Latta (assuming we can resign Hemsky, obviously) … and of course you can argue there’s no point in adding Hemsky, but he may be an incredible fit with Ovie, and that puts Kuznetsov with Grabovski as 2/3rds of the 2nd line; I like it. We just need to be confident we can re-sign Hemsky… well, I’ll get to the salary cap in a sec, because I have two other moves to make… Erat to the Avs for their 1st… seems like a shit return for Forsberg, but that boat has sailed. Maybe we can get a kicker; I’d be happy if they were willing to throw in Hishon, Agozzino, or Sgarbossa. Also, it looks like the Islanders may not be able to keep Andrew MacDonald. He’s a top-4 defender, young, and cheap. We need a top-4 defender, and as we are still a relatively young team, those traits are particularly enticing (as if they wouldn’t be for some other team… but still). The Isles desperately need a goalie; they are still in their rebuild, so he needs to be able to be a starter for 5-7 years; we have a goalie who fits that description who demanded a trade… see where I’m going with this? That’s the foundation, right there, although Neuvirth may not get it done by himself… throw in our 1st rounder next year (not this, we are making moves expecting to miss the playoffs, even though we hope to make them; next year we should, we can give up that one, and this year we’ll have ours and the Avs’ 1st)… throw in Connor Carrick too, that ought to get it done, since he’s almost NHL ready as is, and should be able to replace MacDonald (as far as playing in the NHL at least). So, here’s our lines, since I added Hemsky:
    Hemsky – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Fehr
    Chimera – Johanson – Wilson
    Wellman – Beagle – Brouwer

    Alzner – Carlson
    MacDonald – Green
    Laich – Orlov
    Holtby
    Grubauer
    and we have just under $5.5 million in cap space. We will need to give Grabovski a raise, should we expect to keep him.. say that takes up $2 mil (it shouldn’t, but let’s be conservative); Fehr maybe gets a modest raise, and MacDonald gets a big one, say he gets $3 mil, and Fehr gets $0.5 mil. That leaves us right at the cap… except, honestly, I think Hemsky probably resigns for less than $5 mil… we ought to save money on him. Add in that the cap will raise by a significant margin next year… I like that team a LOT better than this one. Laich has played defense before… I don’t see how he cracks the top-6, and even the 3rd line, given how he’s played, seems a stretch. I’d love to put him back on defense, and just ask him to be a steady partner for Orlov, and allow Orlov to freelance with confidence. Maybe we can rework Laich’s deal to save some money, maybe he reinvents himself as a steady defender… worst case, we can buy him out. And we have some young guns coming up in Burakovsky, Riley Barber, Schimdt and Bowey on defense… and Zach Sanford, although he’s still some ways away, plus 2 1sts this year (ours, the Avs). Would love to see some moves like this, to reload, and can of punt on the season. It’s not really giving up, but let’s sell high on Ward, and try to get some value for Neuvirth and Erat… that seems like trades that help all teams involved; I’m obviously a Caps’ fan, and fans of their own teams can be biased when it comes to trades, but those make sense to me.

  • wifflebomb

    There needs to be a massive “Ovi” chant next time he sets foot on Verizon Center ice. Pass it on…

  • johnnymorte

    Henrik Tallinder, Dan Girardi, and Nikita Nikitin are all UFA’s at the end of this year. These are all guys that are outstanding defensemen and are by my estimation undervalued. Nikitin really impressed me with his defensive play during the games and he is currently only a 2.1 cap hit. If we can’t trade for these guys, we can lure some of these guys away with a bigger contract because we really need an anchor for this defense. There are definitely some assets that we can shed, because there are a lot of good kids ready to fill shoes. A guy like Girardi would really do wonders for this defense.

  • Hockey mom

    I also like that he was picking US over CAN because of Carlson.