The Arguments For and Against Firing Adam Oates

oates

Photo: Alex Brandon

In Adam Oates’ fourth game as head coach for the Washington Capitals, he put Alex Ovechkin on the top line with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle. We should have seen trouble coming then.

Later that season, the Capitals narrowly made the playoffs and got booted in the first round. In 2013-14, with a full preseason under his belt, Adam Oates has led the Capitals to their worst season in almost a decade. They’ve got less than a 1-in-10 chance of making the playoffs and an astronomically small chance of doing anything meaningful once they get there.

If you measure the Caps by their shot differential, Adam Oates’ team is closer to the fire-sale 2003-04 team than they are to the scoar-moar-goals heyday of 2008-09. On the other hand, Alex Ovechkin is likely to win yet another Rocket Richard Trophy and the Washington power play is the best in the league.

In this article, I will carefully measure both the arguments for and against the continued employment of Adam Oates as head coach of the Washington Capitals.

I’ll begin by listing criticisms. Everyone reading this will have to choose how to weigh each item, and that’s totally fine. My intention is to offer a litany for critique and evaluation. If you have items you think I’ve missed, or you think something I’ve proposed is incomplete or invalid, let me know in comments below.

1. Paired Alex Ovechkin with Jay Beagle with the season on the line.

Like driving a Mercedes-Benz SL65 to pick up groceries. Together, Beagle and Ovi were roughly equal to Steve Ott in puck possession. Ovechkin did not score a single point while they were together.

Ovechkin suffered at even strength all season, but never more than with Jay Beagle. Oates’ line decisions at the end of March forced the team to win by lucky bounces, good goaltending, and special teams–rather than the stuff a real playoff run is built on. The lines were so poorly constructed that someone improved them just by sorting them by jersey number.

The lack of even-strength scoring support for Alex Ovechkin (whose on-ice partners have shot under 4 percent) is perhaps most upsetting because it has granted fodder to the lazy hockey personalities who market in character assassination (“specialty act“) and hyperbole (“one-dimensional hockey player“). No, on second thought, the losing was worse.

2. Made Tom Wilson one of the most disadvantaged rookies in years.

Despite playing every game this season, Wilson got very little ice time and had some of the worst teammates in the entire league. His role as the team’s de facto fighter (142 PIMs) cost him ice time and further hindered his development. He has scored 3 goals and 7 assists in 574 minutes on ice.

If a team isn’t winning, the expectation is that they’ll at least develop young talent. It’s hard to argue that has happened for Tom Wilson this year. Actually, what little development Wilson got out of 2013-14, he seems to have got by shirking his assigned role. Good for him.

3. Played Aaron Volpatti after it was clear he wasn’t cut out for the NHL.

Volpatti’s shot-attempt differential indicated sub 40-percent puck possession, a  threshold for the league’s worst players and goons. Yet Oates suited up Volpatti for 40 games and 300 minutes. Both Oates and Volpatti should be grateful for Braden Holtby and the other Caps goaltenders, who saved 95.2 percent of shots in that time– keeping Volpatti from costing the team even more.

Adam Oates had no business playing Aaron Volpatti as much as he did, especially when he had much better options in the press box. For example…

4. Scratched Eric Fehr for most of November.

Fehr was a healthy scratch from November 2nd until the 23rd.

When he came back, Fehr went on to be the sturdy center of the team’s best line with Chimera and Ward, and one of the best possession players on the team in addition to its all-time outdoor goal-scoring leader.

Fehr has 12 goals and 15 assists this season– nearly all of them during 5v5. On a team barely hanging on during even strength, Fehr has been excellent– and Oates didn’t even want him.

5. Failed to recognize that Alex Urbom and Connor Carrick were outmatched.

Oates had already seen Urbom play 13 games in New Jersey, but he needed 20 games this season to realize Urbom was in way over his head. Urbom was in the 9th percentile of defenders in puck possession, by far the worst among the Caps.

Carrick fared slightly better, but he gave up an abundance of scoring chances– getting outscored 21 to 11 during 5v5. To make matters worse, Carrick was paired with the staggeringly slow (and probably injured) John Erskine. When Carskine was playing– which they did against weak competition– the Caps bled shots.

Despite that, Carrick played 30 games for the Caps before Oates finally gave him a break.

6. Sent one of the team’s best 4D, Nate Schmidt, to Hershey.

Schmidt generated individual offense and made a great pairing with Mike Green before Orlov showed up. He was one of just five Caps players to outshoot the competition during even strength. Of all the rookies on the Caps defense (which is McPhee’s problem, not Oates’), Schmidt was the best. But for some reason, Oates was done with him after December 13.

Schmidt made one more appearance in January before getting hurt in Hershey last month. On a team with an ever-changing roster of defenders, the best of the bunch somehow failed to register with Oates.

7. Kept Dmitry Orlov stuck between Hershey and Washington for two months.

The Caps defense was atrocious in November, but Oates said they were “playing good.” Instead of adding Dmitry Orlov, Oates stuck to his guys. That meant Orlov had to drive between Hershey and DC every few days for two months. We later learned McPhee was satisfying a contract requirement by calling Orlov up despite Oates’ refusal to play him.

Orlov requested a trade at the end of November, one of four three Caps players to do so this season. Instead of leaving, he played the next day. Despite Oates’ protestations, Orlov quickly became one of the team’s best defensemen– albeit with flaws.

With Urbom, Carrick, Orlov, and Schmidt, we’ve got a telling pattern of Oates’ failure to evaluate talent among the defense, which was the Caps’ biggest weakness this season.

8. Stuck with the Black Hole Line way too long.

Brooks Laich tried to play through a groin injury this year. He did not succeed. As Laich struggled, Oates paired him with Troy Brouwer, where the pair got outshot and outscored. Brouwer’s crash-the-net instincts did not blend well with Laich’s hobbled speed and declining possession, but Oates nonetheless kept them together for 30% of the season.

Brouwer’s production improved after the breakup, mostly due to the power play, which truly is awesome.

9. Wasted Martin Erat on the fourth line.

When George McPhee acquired Martin Erat last April, he explicitly called the Nashville winger a top-six player. It seems Oates and McPhee were not on the same page about that. Instead of getting top-six minutes, Erat got less ice time than any forward except Volpatti, Wilson, and Beagle.

In spite of how Oates used him, Erat was one of the team’s best possession players and even tied for third in even-strength assists (on a bad even-strength team) while playing fewer minutes with inferior players.

Oates eventually pushed Erat out, sending his asset value plummeting. George McPhee traded Martin Erat for a few minor league players and a middle round draft pick– a stark drop-off from the highly rated prospect given up for Erat in 2013.

10. Wasted Dustin Penner on the fourth line.

This is like Erat, Part II. After acquiring Penner at the deadline, McPhee went as far to call him a replacement for Erat on the left side, albeit with more net presence. McPhee declined to say if Oates would play Penner on the top line, but he probably didn’t expect what would actually happen.

Penner has played under 12 minutes more often than not, making him a fourth liner. He has scored one goal and two assists in his 165 minutes, less than ten of which he’s shared with Alex Ovechkin. That is not the usage that fans expected from the big deadline pick-up, and one has to wonder if McPhee didn’t see it coming either.

11. Implemented suffocating rules for defensive breakouts.

George McPhee built a defensive corps of mobile defensemen, but Adam Oates wanted his blueliners to play a stricter style that did not match their talents. The coach told Ed Frankovic that he instructs his defenders to pass the puck within five feet of getting it during breakouts. That’s a very big adjustment for guys like Green, Carlson, and Orlov, who were first scouted for their skills at carrying the puck through the neutral zone.

That’s one small reason for the decline of the Caps defense, but it’s also emblematic of the kind of rigidity Oates has imposed to the team’s detriment and without any perceptible benefit. The Caps’ neutral-zone play– full of turnovers, odd-man rushes against, and missed passes– is one of their biggest flaws. It’s also the direct product of Oates’ systems decisions.

12. Presided over the decline of John Carlson and Karl Alzner from a shutdown pairing.

The defensive pair known as Carlzner was a possession monster at the end of the Boudreau administration. Under Hunter, they faltered, along with everyone else, but Oates brought renewed hope Carlson and Alzner could return to glory. Instead of developing as talented young defenders, Alzner and Carlson have regressed– the opposite of what Oates’ hands-on, tactics-focused coaching was supposed to do.

Carlson and Alzner eat up big, tough minutes for the Caps, but they’re trending in the wrong direction. There’s no reason to think they’ll do any better playing under the same system or coach.

13. Played goalies in back-to-back situations.

This one is easy. Goalies in back-to-back situations perform worse. You might see a goalie do great in B2Bs sometimes, even getting a shutout from time to time, but overall they save fewer shots when they haven’t been rested.

Oates played Braden Holtby on consecutive days three times this season. He played Grubauer and Halak in back-to-backs once each.

There are few cases when statistics are as instructive as this, and yet Oates ignored it. Riding the hot hand caused a bunch of problems for the team– especially in December– but it also further exposed the team’s head coach as a stubborn man unswayed by analysis.

14. Ran Michal Neuvirth out of town.

Michal Neuvirth struggled to stay healthy this season. Once he was ready to play, most expected him to take some starts from Braden Holtby, who began struggling in December. Instead, Oates played Hershey’s Philipp Grubauer for most of the month– alienating in the process both the team’s then-franchise goalie in Holtby and his backup, Neuvy.

Already a below-average goaltender with a history of injuries, Neuvirth’s value as an asset sunk even further by the vote of no-confidence from his coach and his resulting trade request (again: one of four three this year). Despite that, George McPhee managed an impressive return, snagging Jaroslav Halak from Buffalo at the deadline.

15. Surrendered two-goal leads like crazy.

No lead has been safe under the Oates regnum. Per Adam Vingan, thirteen times the Caps have blown two-goal leads. Something about Adam Oates’ direction has made the Caps a singularly easy team to catch up to. Maybe it’s their weak possession (43 percent) when they have the lead or some poorly timed goaltending troubles. Either way: a Caps lead means less under Oates than ever before. They did, after all, blow 40 percent of them.

Part of that may be due to the next item.

16. Allowed a startling number of goals against after scoring.

Again, Adam Vingan of NBC has been all over this. The Capitals have allowed a stunning 28 goals within a couple minutes of scoring, making them one of the most vulnerable teams in the league when they should have been playing confidently.

In my own analysis in early December, I discovered the Caps were playing around Sabres-level hockey in the moments and minutes after they score– plus their goaltender’s save percentage dropped hard.

However we interpret the Caps’ penchant for nullifying their own goals, it’s definitely evidence that something is systemically wrong with how they’re playing.

17. Played down to weaker teams.

Even when the Caps were declining under Dale Hunter, they made the postseason by beating up on the weaker teams of the Southeast Division. Under Adam Oates, there’s a distressing pattern of the team playing down to the level of inferior competition.

It happened against the Oilers in OctoberIt happened against the Senators in November. Really, much of the team’s first two months was spent blowing games against teams that we thought were inferior.

Three losses to Carolina, three more to Ottawa, two to Buffalo– the Capitals wasted the games they needed to make a meaningful playoff push.

18. Fielded the worst penalty kill in the league.

There was a moment early in the season when the Caps had the best PK in the league. We knew then it wouldn’t last, but we didn’t know how bad it would get.

When on the penalty kill, the Caps allow more unblocked shot attempts than any other team in the league– by far. The only reason the team isn’t dead last in PK% is because their goalies have been magnificent (despite whatever the general manager and coach may say about them). Still, the 50 goals they’ve surrendered when a man down has cost them huge, and the tactician standing behind the bench is responsible for that failure.

19. Changed Braden Holtby for the worse.

Caps franchise goalie Braden Holtby had never even peeked under a .920 save percentage until this season. His early numbers were a small sample, but they were encouraging– until the 2013-14 campaign.

Holtby’s drop in save percentage might just be regression to a more reasonable mean or statistical noise, but Japers Rink makes the compelling case that Olie Kolzig’s tampering with Holtby’s style may have led to the decline. J.P. cites a Kolzig interview in which the goalie coach describes his instructions for Holtby to sit back in net, which may have been the operative factor in Holtby’s pedestrian .911 this season.

J.P. concludes:

Whether or not Kolzig has tried to fix something that wasn’t broken at the time, it certainly seems to be now. And if the solution is more playing time, the Caps need to place a higher priority on getting Holtby those minutes than they have over the past month or so. Time to coach, coach.

While Olie was the architect of that decision, Oates is accountable for what his subordinates do. The same goes for Calle Johansson’s choices as defensive coach.

20. Failed to analyze his own team.

If there’s any overarching pattern to Adam Oates’ failures as head coach, it’s his reluctance to make changes despite overwhelming evidence: Beagle-Ovi, Brouwer-Laich, Volpatti-Wilson, lay-back Holtby, bad breakouts, overperforming bottom-sixers, and back-to-back goalies. These problems were apparent and yet they languished while the season slipped away.

Even for amateurs like me, there are mountains of data available to define those problems and suggest their solutions. To a professional team with an analytics budget, there’s even more.

And yet, Adam Oates has revealed himself to be an anti-intellectual dilettante when it comes to analytics– to an extent that I think he’s no longer capable of performing his job competently.

For example, Oates was quoted as saying Alex Ovechkin’s line was on the ice for more scoring chances against Nashville than what was actually possible.

In actuality, Alex Ovechkin’s line was on the ice for only five shot attempts total, only four of them unblocked. Even if every one of those attempts was from a dangerous scoring area, the stat Oates cited would still be impossible. Perhaps that’s an innocent counting error or just a poorly defined stat, but it’s eerily similar to the type of patently wrong shot-quality attitudes that have sunk the Maple Leafs in the last few years. That should terrify Caps ownership.

There are other examples where one hopes Oates was merely tongue-tied, like when he told Katie Carrera he didn’t care about the team’s even-strength problems because production is “kind of a weird statistic.” In fact, production is measured in goals, which are the things that decide games and should be of paramount interest to a coach.

That could be considered an anomaly, except it’s not alone.

The problem with that statement is that, while true, it’s indicative of a cynical approach towards data-driven analysis that is unfounded. There are way more charlatans in the anti-data crowd than there are among the geeks, and any numbers nerd with his or her salt is dedicated to exposing truth– not advancing an agenda or personal brand.

So when Oates rails against possession metrics (like he did after the Ottawa game), it’s not because the stats are flawed. It’s because someone has poisoned his ear and he’s not curious to learn more. Numbers-based analysis is critical to a viable championship-contending team. Once Oates exposed himself as hostile to that intellectual curiosity, my confidence in him as a competent head coach was devastated.

(For the record, stats are flawed, which is why context is key, regression analysis is crucial, and more investment into data capture is needed.)


I told you this was an article discussing both the case for and against Adam Oates. So here’s the other side of the argument:

The power play is really good, the third line is okay, and he looks nice in a three-piece suit.

There.

The Capitals are not going to improve with Adam Oates at the wheel. He’s not the full extent of the team’s problems, and management absolutely is accountable for failures both in coaching and in construction, but I find it impossible to imagine a Cup-contending Caps team with Oates at the helm.

The Capitals have to fire Adam Oates.

maybe this coach

Big thanks to ExtraSkater, Behind The Net, Hockey Analysis, Adam Vingan, Japers Rink, Katie Carrera, Ed Frankovic, The Peerless, Chris Gordon, and Ian Oland for all the work cited in here.

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  • Ternesti

    Laviolette anyone? Since BB is gone we need a new fine f*ck fest in the Road to NHL winter classic.

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    Yeah dude. Dale Hunter and Peter Laviolette. Doubt Hunter will come though bruh.

  • cmdonohue

    Agree totally. But the GM needs to go, too. Not sure I trust him to pick a new coach.

  • JenniferH

    I have zero doubt that the drop in Holtby’s stats is because of Kolzig’s tampering. Zero doubt. Blah, blah, blah, Holtby-fangirl, I don’t care. The timing and all of the bs from Oates and his oh so glorious coaching staff that has come along with it is too coincidental. We all have our personal player metaphors for Oates’ sucktitude as a coach, mine is clearly Braden Holtby.

    We need a new coaching staff and NOW! Give Braden and the rest of this team a system that works and that they understand, an identity that they can identify with, the off-season to get it all going in high gear and then next season our Washington Capitals will get out there win a bunch of games, kick some Penguin butt, win the division, win the playoffs and win the freaking Stanley Cup!

  • Matt Mendelsohn

    To me, the Erat debacle acts nicely as a metaphor for much of the nightmare. The trade itself, the immediate relegation, the inability to see where he should have been placed, the lack of communication and subsequent pissing off of, and, finally, the inability to change once Erat started to be a great assist man despite all of the crap that came before. It was a mess from Day One and serves as a small but important look into how bad GMGM and Oates have been at assessing anyone. And the fact that Cody Eakin played as well as he did last night was the icing on the cake.

    Thanks for the great morning read. You guys are awesome.

  • Brackaphobia

    I was at the game for my birthday last night (some present, eh?) and the boo’s were louder than I have ever heard them at VC. Not a lot of effort put forth out there. Especially in the Mike Green department. It was a turnover fest.

    People around me were grumbling “fire Oates” this and “bye bye gmgm” that, then the guy behind me gets up and yells “TRADE OVECHKIN.” He really tried to argue with me the merits of ridding ourselves of the man who scores what, 65% of our teams goals? I agree that OV is a defensive liability but so is 2/3 of our defensive corps.

  • Tadd

    Thing is, while I think most of Peter’s analysis is fine, I still believe Oates has the potential to grow as a coach. He needs some tutoring and he needs better assistant coaches. Calle Johansson sucked as a coach of Frölunda in SHL, he sucks as a defensive coach. And who the hell IS Blaine Forsythe?

    Head coach needs to be head coach, but he also needs to listen to what other people say. The defensive problems, the lack of puck possession, the goaltender issues.. RMNB couldn’t possibly be the only ones who saw this a long time ago. People in the club must have noticed too.

  • Brackaphobia

    Problem is, AO isn’t listening to what anybody else says. Everybody has potential to grow but if you’re too stubborn and ignorant do take the proper actions then what progress can we expect to be made?

    Calle Johansson though, there is no saving him. And Blaine Forsythe sounds like a Pokemon trainer.

  • CM

    If you keep making parenthetical remarks like you did in the bottom I’m not going to have anymore reasons to complain. :(

  • johnnymorte

    Wow. This is harsh. Kind of have a soft spot for a guy that in my opinion is the most underrated player in NHL history. I mean this guy was the Wayne Gretzky of Nick Backstroms, and he played in an era that was absolutely loaded down the middle with guys like the former, Messier, Lemieux, Yzerman,etc. It will certainly be a bitter taste, but being an NHL coach is a completely different animal. Look at Bowman, who didn’t do anything as a player. I really wish you had done this for GMGM, but I guess people have different opinions about who’s responsible for what. In my opinion, GMGM is responsible for all of this. He created this. Everything. Adam, your system is not working. Your system is not working for our players or our fans. Everything has become very matter of fact, and all the players keep talking about is mistakes. You want a cup, change. Bring some emotion into it. Try something else. We all fail at some point. The problem with a guy this talented is it takes to long to admit to themselves that they’re wrong.

  • Aaron

    Let’s be honest – the Caps aren’t going to fire Oates. After the coaching merry-go-round since Boudreau, there’s no appetite to go through that again. So we’re stuck with him – as much as this article strikes every chord it’s possible to strike with me.
    Given that I think he won’t be fired, what I think we need instead is to bring in a veteran, experienced Assistant Coach to support Oates (and Johansson – let’s not forget how green he is and exempt him from any of this blame!). I guess that means replacing Blaine Forsyth, which would be a shame, but not a huge shame. We need someone to act as a restraint to Oates’ impulses, like playing Kuznetsov on the 4th line and Beagle on the first, whilst Grabovsky plays left wing (to pick just one example).
    Here’s an idea – the Caps have an experienced Coach in the system. How about bringing Mike Havilland up as an Assistant Coach?

  • Matt Mendelsohn

    p.s. Looking forward to the same analysis of GMGM. Once upon time this team was an impressive mix of veterans and young guns, winning so much during the regular season it became second nature. Did we have playoff problems? For sure. But talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. We overcorrected so much that we’re now an AHL team in NHL clothing.

  • VeggieTart

    Dale Hunter was a placeholder after Boudreau got fired. He was never going to come back for a full (or lockout-shortened in that case) season. His heart is with his London Knights.

    As for Laviolette, that just might work, even if Philly got demonstrably better after canning him and bringing in Berube.

  • VeggieTart

    Absolutely. I may never have played sports or been involved in sports beyond watching them, but to my mind, a good coach works WITH his players’ natural tendencies and tweaks where there is a weakness. He doesn’t try to make a player, especially a goaltender, play a style that is fundamentally the opposite of who he is. I understand that goaltending is largely mental, and that is especially true for Holtby. The change in style and the three-headed goalie monster that was the month of December no doubt did a number on Holtby’s confidence. He needs a coach who will work WITH him to bring that back.

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

    I’ve got the same list for McPhee, but it really is more complicated with him. He’s done a lot of really really smart stuff with the Caps. He deserves a ton of criticism, but I don’t see it as black and white.

  • Fedor

    Keep Oates
    Sink in 2014-15
    Draft McDavid/Eichel
    ???
    PROFIT

  • Scott

    You said it: “The problem with a guy this talented is it takes to long to admit to themselves that they’re wrong.” Look no further than Gretzky himself, perhaps the best ever as a player but a sub-.500 coach who never made the playoffs and actually seemed to get worse each year. Great players rarely make great, or even competent, coaches in hockey or any other sport. I coach high school athletics and see it even at my paltry level – former studs who know what worked for them can end up trying to hammer their players into their own mold, which almost always leads to frustration for player and coach alike.

    Oates is a former Capitals great who deserves our respect, and indeed our patience, but regardless, he in running the franchise into the ground. As many here have said, he appears to be neither learning from his mistakes nor developing young talent. Isn’t this the first job of all coaches at any level?

    Time for him to go.

  • JenniferH

    Well, I guess with GMGM, it legitimately could be a for/against list, but that would probably take you a wee bit longer. Man, oh man, think of the discussion comments, though. What a read!

  • Witter

    GMGM aside from Bruce has the worst track record for hiring head coaches. Time to clean house from top to bottom, I sure hope Ted recognizes something is broken.. well maybe he will when the fans start coming.

  • Justin Siegel

    Really makes you wonder if there is any communication whatsoever between GM and head coach. Some of these problems seem solvable with a 5 minute conversation.

    On another note, it’s so sad how this organization is turning me against some of my favorite Caps of all time (Hunter, Olie, Calle, and Oates) by putting them in positions that they’re not necessarily qualified for. It’s a nice idea to hire former fan-favorites for coaching positions, but they have to be able to get the job done and we haven’t really seen that. Really hope GMGM (or whoever the GM may be) goes out and gets a proven head coach.

  • Shaun Phillips

    And now we have Erat part deux with Penner. Ugh.

  • Tom Martin

    This article is great; very well written and informative. However, reading it kind of makes me feel like this:
    http://p.funnypicker.com/pic/534/71/img_2353471_529e6118e2867394859.gif

    I also think the ‘GMGM can’t decide what kind of team he wants’ narrative has legs, and plays into what looks like Oates slamming a square peg into a round hole. The quote below really stands out to me. The caps try to out-flyers the flyers, out-bruins the bruins, and don’t play hockey that fits the teams make-up. I think both guys need to go, but I have shifted to wanting Oates fired significantly more than GMGM.

    Brouwers quote from yesterday – “I feel like we’re trying to change our identity every night. Some nights we want to score off the rush, other nights we want to try and grind it out and there’s just not that consistency in not just our game but in the style of our game. We’re kind of losing our way in between games and playing towards other teams’ [styles] and how they’re dictating the game, and as a result we’re not getting results.”

  • Brouwer Rangers

    So I was going to make a comment about how at least several of these things fall on Kolzig’s and Johansson’s shoulders, but then I saw that you even addressed that too. Nice work, Peter.

    We’ll bring the pitchforks. Who’s bringing the torches?

  • http://plus.google.com/+jayrushing Jay Rushing

    Best article I’ve ever read on the Caps. Here’s hoping Teddy reads it and doesn’t share Oates’ view on data, stats, and analysis.

  • CAPSnOS

    Abandon Ship and move on to the O’s. So Bad. Words are not necessary. They have SUCH hard time JUST clearing their own zone. Watching them trying to clear their own zone is like…. That scene in Taken where that European guy tied to the chair gets his mouth stuffed and Liam Neeson Leaves after turning on the electricity. Never ending pain….

  • Sam W.

    Great stuff, Peter.

  • Pat D’Pirate

    At the end of the season, you all should compile all the data, stats, numbers, various letters with accents over them, etc. that you’ve accumulated over the past year, (very well put together might I add) and show it to someone on the team that will actually listen/understand or at least try to understand what the fuck has happened to the team. Next year is going to be VERY different in terms of who’s staying and who’s leaving.

  • Pat D’Pirate

    Don’t know if you can tell but I’m being sincere about showing someone the #s you’ve put together. I am running on zero sleep right now so anything I write is equivalent to me being drunk.

  • David Riven

    In a nut shell, I think the most important point is that it seems that GMGM is building a team of players who posses a certain style/strengths and then the recent coaches have not been using a system that works to the players’ strengths. Either blow up the team to accommodate the style of play being coached, or fire the coach and find one that can bring out the strengths of the players. If you think their strengths aren’t good enough to win a cup you really do have to blow up the team.

  • Pat D’Pirate

    I know it’s not hockey related, but all I gotta say about that is Joe Gibbs.

  • JenCo

    Sitting through last nights game was almost as hard as being at game 7 last year against the Rangers. Complete meltdown. This team needs management restructure for sure. Great read, Peter.

  • riggorules

    I want to know what an ideal Adam Oates 60-minute game looks like. Have they had one? They crushed Philly 7-0 but was that more the Flyers in total free fall? Was the 15-2-2 finish to last season the pinnacle, or just a super soft schedule? I don’t recall a win streak or very many dominant performances when you thought, yeah I get it, they can really be great playing like this.

  • bill

    Mcphee should not be allowed to hire another head coach. He’s terrible at it and has not learned. That is the biggest reason you fire Mpchee. You also need a fresh set of eyes to come in and evaluate the talent.

  • Smed Baildog

    I think the possiblility is still there that one day Oates may learn and grow into a good coach. But I think the likelihood of that ever happening while he is behind the Caps’ bench is slim to none. He at a minimum needs the humbling learning experience of getting run out of town to kickstart him into growing.

  • brad from the neck

    Best article you all have ever written, this should be picked up Nationally. Thank you for summarizing what many of us have been screaming. Well done, you represented the Neck proudly today!

  • Evan Michael

    http://russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2014/04/02/fire-adam-oates-yes-or-yes-or-no-but-cmon-yes/Adam Oates’s record in his 141 game career (includes playoffs) is 64-77. I am not including the loser point category, because that’s still a loss. He is 13 games under .500. I know we may rag on McPhee a lot (and with good reason) but this roster is not THAT bad. I feel like anyone who has a clue what he is doing would at least be able to win half the games played.

    Bottom line for me if that McPhee has created a roster that would never, ever sniff post-season success. The team has been constructed with virtually no grit, and even less leadership and camaraderie. Oates, in turn, has managed to make the on-ice product as weak as humanly possible. Management on this team is nothing short of a joke.

  • Lawrence

    Yup. I think this season shows how important confidence is for holtby. In my mind, almost all of his bad games, bad goals against, etc., were all due to his change in playstyle and lack of positive motivation. The guy just looked lost in December.

    I still believe that when confident, Holtby can be on of the best goalies in the league. You put him on Boston this season, and he would have some of the best goalie stats in the league (as good as rask imo). I just hope this coaching system didn’t break Holtby for good because if this team ever fields a good roster again, holtby will be the most important guy for them.

  • brad from the neck

    Who hired him? Cassidy, Hanlon, Hunter (I liked Hunter) but then said he was shocked the way Hunter coached? While Bruce had his flaws, its more evident the coaching job that man did here was magnificent.

  • Jimmie

    I wonder if there’s a serious communications problem between GMGM and Oates.

    Let me ‘splain.

    The Erat, Penner, Fehr, Wilson, Holtby/Halak situations all look to me like a head coach not liking the team the GM has given him, and making petulant decisions to express that dislike.

    Oates wasn’t a fan of Erat even though he was, and still is, a competent Top 6 winger, so he buried the guy on the fourth line. Oates doesn’t want another winger, but GMGM gives him one in Penner and what happens? He gets Oatsed.

    It’s possible Oates felt Wilson needed to spend the season in the juniors instead of with the Caps, especially since that decision (which I believe was largely GMGM’s) cost the team a valuable center. I can see how the MattyP trade led to the petulance towardf Fehr, who as an “emergency” center, wasn’t winning face-offs and, heck, Oates couldn’t punish GMGM’s golden teenager with healthy scratches, right?

    The only personnel decision I see that runs counter to the theory is Holtby/Halak, where Oates has created another goalie controversy where none existed at the beginning of the season. Were I Holts, I’d ask for a trade after the season. It’s clear the team doesn’t consider him the starter, even though he’s earned the spot.

  • Rob W.

    I cant go through another terrible season, cant do it, not good for my health

  • Evan Michael

    Agree entirely. This team is run horrendously.

    - Oates is a terrible coach running a weak roster
    - McPhee hired Oates and has built a weak team and makes the same mistakes year after year (lack of center depth, lack of a shutdown defender, always hires inexperienced coaches)
    - Leonsis just doesn’t seem to care. How long has it been obvious that major changes are needed? 3 years? He keeps McPhee employed, so the problem starts with Ted.

  • Matt Lauer

    The truth is, we could all get together and do Version 2 of this article about McPhee (although even I would have to admit that there would be more positive points to the McPhee version). And we probably should — it might even be a fun group project.

    I basically share all these grievances, but for me the most egregious one at this point is Tom Wilson. I genuinely think that he has been the Caps’ most energetic skater for the past month, generating chances and meaningful play despite the sub-standard quality of his forward pairings. I was at the Anaheim game a few weeks back, and he was by far the most noticeable player.

    And last but not least, I must renew my agreement with the claim that a good defensive scheme is one that limits shot quality, even if quantity continues to be large. Many teams have done this in the past, and have been successful. That’s the theory of it though — I DO NOT think that the Caps and Leafs succeed in this area. But I still think the theory is sound.

  • Hatfield

    21) Hiring two unexperienced assistants.
    22) Keeping Johansson on the Ovie line for far too long.
    23) Weird obsession with handedness: forcing players to play outside of their comfort zone, keeping better players off the roster and limiting line combo possibilities.
    24) Hershey Bear Steve Oleksy.
    25) Hershey Bear Michael Latta.

  • Matt Lauer

    TRUTH.

  • Lawrence

    As I said in the other thread, I think nothing will change with just firing the coaching staff. GMGM has to go with them for us to see any improvement, the cat is out of lives. This team is only treading downwards for the foreseeable future. This team needs a fresh start, a new outlook, someone who can re-tool our team while keeping the core and get us back to an above average team, while also developing our prospects and young talent properly. I DO NOT see GMGM being capable of doing that at this point. He is just going all-in year after year, when clearly that is not going to help us. We need a shakeup and there is no better time than now.

    As far as Oates is concerned. You pretty much nailed it Peter. Although, I feel legitimately bad for him at times. He looks so far over his head. He is way too stubborn. For a guy who has never been a head coach, he sure is set in his ways. He never talks to the guys after games. Only talks about the positives. Gives veteran players the longest leash ever. Thinks rookies have to prove themselves on a team with almost the worst ROW in the league. Doesn’t manage new acquisitions well at all.

    Hiring Oates was an absolutely terrible idea by GMGM. The core of this team was getting older, wiser, with more playoff experience, they didn’t need another brand new coach. They needed a veteran coach, someone that could give them a winning strategy and confidence in themselves. The whole team has Holtby syndrome now.

  • Matt Lauer

    Just because nobody has re-emphasized it yet: NATE SCHMIDT. I mean what the hell was going on with that?! He was manifestly one of the best-skating D the Caps had, not to mention a smart shooter and effective puck-mover. Water over the dam now, I guess.

  • GregV

    Really well done. When you lay it all out like this, the Caps really sound like a case study in management and organizational development. You have talented players who can tell you in specific detail after every game what went wrong, but then they aren’t coached to address those gaps in future games. If anything, they’re coached to exacerbate the problems. Players are recruited for particular skills and then asked to ignore them. The team invests time and energy training players on a particular system, and then switches everything up on a dime, throwing away any progress.

    We have a good team, but it isn’t being coached or managed like a good team. Every game we’re throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. As you point out here, not only are our players’ talents being wasted, but in some ways they’re actually losing skill.

    I hate the idea of missing playoffs, but it needs to happen to get this team focused. I think both GMGM and Oates need to go, but I also think the Caps organization as a whole needs to do a thorough analysis and some soul-searching before replacing them. If the priority is just a sold-out arena and a full roster of season ticketholders, there’s no need to change much. But if they really want to win, they need to commit to strengthening the team, not hobbling it.

  • troyerlaw

    Yes. But GMGM absolutely needs to be let go, too. He has had more than enough time.

  • CadleCreek

    gmgm all you need to know: Wilson, Cassidy, Hanlon, BB, Hunter, Oates

    Do you really trust him to get the right coach in here for this group??

  • Nathan

    Leonis, from what I’ve seen on his own blog, is a pretty smart person. I bet he already knows what he has to do.

  • Evan Michael

    If you want the short list of things to do this off-season, here is my submission. For the purpose of this list, I will keep it at 5, although there are about 100 things I could include.

    1. Fire Nanny. I know Hextall is rumored to be next in line for Philly, but try to get ahold of him.

    2. Fire Goates and all the assistants. Hire Peter Laviolette. This may not be a popular choice, but this guy does not take any crap. This team has a reputation as a country club, aside from when Hunter was here (surprise, surprise, he took them the furthest in the OV era).

    3. Buy-out Laich. He has been complete trash and without the team’s insistence to play him, they might be in a playoff spot.

    4. Re-sign Grabovski and Halak. Solidify the middle a bit and erase any goaltending question marks (ie: Is Grubaeur ready? Is Holtby back to where he was?)

    5. Get a left winger. I recommend Mouslon (would command about 5 million) or Marchand (although this may be nearly impossible, as he still has 3 years left). Also, get a defender, either through trade or UFA. There isn’t a ton available through free agency, though. (Markov, Meszaros, Schultz, Orpik).

    The bottom line is that the team will have about 12 million bucks, after the cap goes up and Laich is off the books. Bring in someone who can do something with this money. Get rid of the Country Club Culture that has dominated this team for almost a decade.

  • Myan

    Oates should feel lucky that hockey fans aren’t as nuts as soccer fans. This is what Man United fans flew over Old Trafford in the middle of a game. Hm, ideas!

    https://s3.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/l4q0r0rtDwQgo9wcdlckrw–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NQ–/http://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/blogs/early-doors/2903_Moyes_Out_Banner.jpg

  • JH

    Couple things: 1) I think your points could be consolidated into three (or four if you really want) major themes, rather than the 20 or so points you make. 2) While I agree with most of your points, some are far more signficant/damning than others, and should be weighted more heavily.

    First, your points can be consolidated around three themes: I. Personnel Utilization (non-goalie); II) Analysis and Game-Planning (I tried to tease these out as separate categories but it was too hard); and III) Goalie Management.

    Your points fall under each theme as follows:

    Personnel Utilization: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10.

    Analysis & Game-Planning
    (aka: determining what is wrong and coming up with a plan and executing on it): 5,11,12,15,16,17,18,20

    Goalie Management: 13,14,19

    Of these, I think by far the most grievous errors have been in utilization – over-tinkering lines like Beags with Ovi, mystery scratches of players like Fehr, etc. One quibble: I think Erat sucks. I think it was just a big bust. I thought he should have been given top-six minutes but he has pretty much proven he’s not bringing much to the party wherever he goes.

    Oates never gave this team a personality / style of play. Instead of the Caps imposing their will, too many times they played to the style of the other team. That’s a recipe for disaster. Letting the other team dictate the pace or physicality of the game for you is no way to play hockey. The defensive game-plan never worked. You can argue he didn’t have the tools to succeed on defense, but I’m not persuaded the talent is to blame.

    Finally, goalies. I have very little to say as they mystify me. I’ll take your word for it that back-to-back playing is unwise. But I guess my biggest quibble is driving Neuvy out. I don’t think Neuvy was the end-all be-all, and he was expendable.

    End of the day, I agree: Oates has to go. That’s a shame.

    Next question: Who should be the Caps next coach?

  • Eddie

    Here’s the thing: the core of this team hasn’t changed in a while. Same players with (you’d think) the same skills and know-how. So what bugs me is this: how do we go from being a powerhouse team to sucking floor bacteria in a year? Here’s how, from someone who doesn’t know much about Corsi and all that technical sh*t:
    The constant line shakeups, providing no consistency or chemistry.
    The personnel changes, many of which don’t make any sense.
    The treatment of people who’ve played their guts out for this team – Fehr, Neuvirth, Oleksy.
    Having a total lack of push, jump, urgency, and fire.
    In short: don’t let the door hit you on the way out of DC, Oates.

  • Myan

    Oh dear, Fedor. I think half of us would be hospitalized if that happened. Please GOD NO.

  • JH

    PS: Where’s Georgeoroth? Need him to rise from the Potomac and give us his wisdom.

  • JenCo

    Peter, Ian, and/or anyone else. What GM would you want to see take over? I have no idea about what GM’s are out there and who would fit in well with this team. Also, anyone besides Laviolette on anyone’s radar?

  • Simonezero

    “…but it also further exposed the team’s head coach as a stubborn man unswayed by analysis.”

    There you have it.

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

    One underratedly bad part of Oates’ coaching style that Peter didn’t mention: Not using his time-outs correctly. There were momentum shifts both against the Stars and the Bruins the last few days where a time-out was warranted, and could have been very useful. Instead he “let’s the boys figure it out” or something.

    No.

  • Jonah

    What a read-> what a bloodbath. That’s going to be one hell of a debate

  • MuzzMuzzington

    A great coach in Laviolette won’t be around anymore. I suspect that when Torts is fired, they will pick up Lavy.

  • tbone

    The Caps are too talented with Ovechkin and Backstrom alone to sink that low, sorry. Another year of Oates would merely be stagnant, not successful nor absolutely pitiful. If you want those guys you’ll need to blow it up, and we all know Leonsis still has a few years of tickets to sell (and games he’ll pretend to sell out) before that time comes.

    Mediocrity will always be the standard as long as people keep buying tickets.

  • Fedor

    I don’t think that Laviolette is GREATNESS. In a year, Mark French’s contract with Medvescak expires, and it is my belief that he’s the best North American coach not currently hired by any NHL team.

    That plan was posted as more of a joke though, I just don’t get the obsession with Laviolette.

  • JGP

    DO YOU EVEN WATCH THE GAMES PETER?

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Maybe, hire one of the disciples from the Boston or Detroit GM staffs.

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    Shhh, in under 2 weeks it’ll all be over. Hopefully….

  • Hockey mom

    I think Oates has tried too hard to be a player’s coach, which seems to translate as “friend or consultant” rather than the guy really in charge. I get that he doesn’t want to be the guy loosing his cool and ranting, but rather he leaves the guys to do the right things, and quite frankly they don’t seem to know what that is. This isn’t working. Most of our guys are young and still figuring things out. They need a leader, not some guy saying “you know what to do” because he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. I think most guys would rather be butt hurt every now and again, if it meant getting to the top, rather than experience HUGELY disappointing defeat frequently.

    It seems that this team has been in a weak mental space for quite a while, not just this season, but maybe going on 3-4years now. That is a huge confidence killer. Where the mind goes, the body will follow…I know it sounds new agey, but they need to get someone to get them back on track MENTALLY, new coach or not.

    Misplaced loyalty has also killed a lot of opportunities for this team. Oates appeared to not want to alienate his veteran players, except Holtby and Neuvy, by giving new guys “their” minutes. Hence, the #21 over #10 debacle. Playing #21 when he was clearly NOT healthy, DID NOT help this team. But I’m assuming he took #21′s word for being able to play and thus kept Erat on the 4th line. Erskine over Oleksy, putting Ovi on for pretty much every shootout, etc. I feel like there are a couple I’m forgetting…Now, Penner and Kuznetzov need to earn their stripes?…Anyone who has made it to the NHL has PROBABLY earned their stripes along the way. If the goal is to bring a cup home, then the players need to figure out a way check their pride and egos at the door, not give jealousy and pettiness a platform, and the COACH is the guy to crush that, not feed it. If you aren’t the guy slaying the dragon, at least be the guy sharpening the spears.

    There’s too much…and I have too much to do today…

    I hope the Caps can get it together. These players are going to look back on this and wonder what the heck just happened. This season is almost in the books, so the question becomes, do we learn from it or do we just continue this chapter?

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

    Ugh, French. Don’t bring him up. Some of us (me) think he should be the guy coaching the team right now.

  • Gman

    Wow, not much more you can say with the exception of inconsistent lines game in and game out. Ovi is successful when he is paired with Nicky bottom line and the lines need to be consistent which they have not been all season. Placing Beagle on the first line makes about as much sense as using a space heater on the equator. Laich and Brouwer need to go, never did understand the love for either. Too bad Alan May isn’t dumb enough to come out of the announcer booth to fix this mess of a team.

  • Fedor

    I probably agree, but I would disagree two years ago. Hindsight is 20/20.

  • tbone

    I’ll start this off by stating that I don’t see McPhee going, because I don’t think Leonsis has the know-how to hire a new GM, nor the balls to let him walk, but if he is gone, a new GM means a new coach.

    I don’t see why Oates is untouchable. He’s not.

    He’s made an incredible number of mistakes that frankly shouldn’t be surprising given his short coaching history. He doesn’t use the team even remotely how McPhee intends. His bonehead stubborness is costing Leonsis playoff ticket sales, merchandise sales and playoff publicity. That alone should be enough to fire him from both the GM and ownership perspective.

  • Brittany

    21. Steve Oleksy in Hershey.

  • Fedor

    Holland’s right hand, Jim Nill, got snagged by Dallas not long ago. Chiarelli’s assistant, Jim Benning, has been a mainstay on “Up next in NHL GMs line” list.

  • MartyK

    Agree with your excellent analysis and insights. Most of these issues point to organizational failures clearly pointed at GMGM. Is there ANY doubt, he’ll be released? I’m sure the players know this as well. This creates even more problems as it’s merely human nature to fear the unknown, will the new GM start over, will I still be here, etc. will the new GM bring on his own coach, etc.? Please please don’t even consider Laviolette; Isles, Canes, Fylers all dumped him quickly soon after successful seasons. Something not right there… And please not another old fan favorite with no experience and no hockey organizational skills.

  • Graham Dumas

    This is a really terrible thing to say, but since BB, we seem to have fallen back on a cadre of former Caps players to form the coaching staff; maybe that’s not the best plan, given our prior record of being, well, not-so-hot.

    Also, more substantively, it severely limits our options–much like Oates’s left-right mania.

  • mike

    I agree..but a lot of these points stem from decisions the GM made. Some out of Oates control. Get rid of them both.

  • MartyK

    Agreed Brittany

  • Big Chuck

    “HELLO!, operator? Patch me through to one Peter Laviolette!”

  • Hockey mom

    I’m still reeling from that move..ugh! I know he isn’t the “best” d-man out there, but he played with heart and always gave his all. There was a huge change in the team’s momentum when they stopped playing him.

  • Myan

    YES. I don’t know if Laviolette is the best choice for us, but I always loved his use of timeouts. When the Flyers gave up 2 goals in a couple of minutes vs Pens in the playoffs, he took a timeout to calm the troops & regroup…and guess what? The team responded and the Flyers came back. This happened 2-3 separate times during that series. THAT is coaching. “The guys have to figure it out right now” is not coaching…it’s your job to figure it out, Adam.

  • AnyoneButTheFlyers

    Great discussion, very well organized. However, does Ovi get a free pass?? He is the captain yet shows no leadership, he defense is horrible and he spends 90% of his time standing at the top of the circle waiting for his pass. Sure he lead in goals, but also in shot by a wide margin. The TEAM would be better served if he played with them, not for himself. I know this site is dedicated to Ovi, but the leagues worst +/- in YEARS should not be simply laid on the coach. Just a thought.

  • Michael Reschly

    Four trade requests? Erat, Orlov, Neuvy. Who’s the fourth?

  • Greg

    I think Erat asked for one twice!

  • Graham Dumas

    I agree with everything you said except the bit about a ticket strike. I’ve said this before, but I just don’t buy the argument for imposing economic sanctions on the team. I’m not sure I see the line between that and straight-up fair-weather fandom.

  • Graham Dumas

    Mike Keenan!!! ugh.

  • Forrest Smith

    You touched on this, but through my whole reading I just kept thinking, “Do Oates and McPhee ever actually talk to one another?”

  • Matt McNeely

    Well done. Great piece, Peter. Agree on all points.

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    On our team he’s 3rd in points per game by defencemen, first in +/-, and is the toughest competent defenceman we have.

    WHY THE HELL HE NOT PLAYING!?

  • Myan

    If GMGM’s contract extended past this season, I don’t think that Leonsis would fire him. However, his contract ends in a few weeks so I am hoping that Leonsis sees the results this season as reason not to give him a new one.

  • SamB

    IMO GMGM’s biggest all time screw up is not jumping on hiring Jon Cooper while he was still in the AHL and the Caps had a coaching vacancy.

  • tbone

    Unfortunately, like any sports team, the Caps are a business. If you aren’t satisfied with a restaurant, you stop eating there. If you don’t like the service at a repair shop, you stop taking your car there.

    I personally haven’t liked the product I’ve been served at Verizon Center since about 2011, and my attendance dropped from maybe 8-10 games a season to 0-1. I still watch just about every damn game on TV, but I refuse to pad the pockets of people (mainly Leonsis) that I frankly do not trust or like.

    Leonsis bought the Capitals to get the building and the Wizards. He is a basketball fan and a hockey owner. The two are very different.

    If that makes me a fair-weather fan, then so be it.

  • Matt McNeely

    I’m on board with this theory. Especially with the Erat and Penner situations the coach and GM MUST be at odds. There’s no way they are not. If McPhee keeps his job, which I think is likely, this reason specifically is why I can not see how Oates keeps his job.

  • mig991

    Was a supporter, but it hasn’t worked. Dineen, Maurice, Laviolette, just not a rookie coach. Been there, done that.

  • mig991

    Not the same at all. Penner is gone in two weeks, Erat got us a player (who may or may not be a decent fourth line guy).

  • Matt McNeely

    I will proudly angry-mob with any and all other dissatisfied Caps fans.

  • TeeTime

    Interesting and thoughtful. All good points. But I think there is a macro issuer that all these fixes miss… and it’s team culture.

    Ovi is larger than the team.

    That’s not to say they should dump him, completely change the way he plays, etc. Of course not. He’s an elite and rare goal scorer. If one dimensional is part of that, so be it.

    But there are consequences from letting him run the show, so to speak, and set the tone. In this instance, it is a team that thinks it is far better than it is. The Caps aren’t in 10th place because they’ve played poorly and lost a bunch of games they statistically should have won. The +/- stat might not tell you everything, but it sure tells you something (and are we all enablers because we keep telling each other how flawed the stat is?), as does the 5v5 awfulness. The GM never pulls the trigger – and the owner surely doesn’t order him to – because they both think the team is good enough. And for Ted and his business goals, it might be. But go down the list. The Caps, in everything they do, act as though a few bounces, a few small tweaks, and they could be in 2nd instead of 10th. Or playing deep into the playoffs.

    They are, at best, a mediocre hockey team. And it’s quite difficult for a mediocre hockey team, no longer in the league’s weakest division, to hide their many flaws. Oates is responsible for some dubious lines and decisions. But we can’t blame him for the lack of talent.

    Think about it — does having Eric Fehr in the lineup for that 2 weeks in November make the Caps that much better? Wilson instead of Volpatti? Schmidt instead of Carrick? Olesky and Orlov? Penner with Ovi? A better goaltending coach? A different head coach with the same talent?

    All fine changes, I guess… but if we’re honest, we have to admit that even with all the perfectly valid suggestions above, the Caps would still be a long distance from seriously contending for a cup.

  • Bradley Spies

    To be fair, part of having that powerhouse team was have an absolute star on the second line in Semin. Going from Semin to Brouwer is just a tremendous downgrade in ES possession, and even the improvement at C can’t cover that. Of course if the coach didn’t decide to put Brouwer’s name on that second line in permanent ink then maybe it would be mitigated, but…

  • Graham Dumas

    First, I’m not questioning your commitment to the team as a fan–just want to be clear on that. I respect the frustration and the loyalty.

    But the thing with your analogy is that there’s a much more direct connection between your dollar and the profits of a restaurant or repair shop than there is between ticket sales and team profitability. First, there are just way too many “customers,” many of whom are corporate box-buyers who likely won’t heed your message, and whose sales likely pad Ted’s pockets more than anyone else’s in the building. Second, ticket-sales, as I understand it, are like the last factor in team profits, well behind things like media market share, ads, and merch.

    So the problem is that, as I see it, as fans we’ve got control over maybe one lever of many, and one that, when pulled, may have questionable results at best. The only direct consequence of not buying tickets or showing up to games is a quieter house, which isn’t fun or inspiring to play in, and that ends up demoralizing the thing we all care most about: our guys on the ice.

    Look, maybe you’re right, I don’t know. But I think there are some assumptions in your thinking that need to be worked out before we all go on strike, that’s all I’m saying.

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

    http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2013/12/29/a-short-timeline-of-capitals-players-requesting-trades/ Yeah, perhaps three would be more accurate. I might’ve double-counted Erat.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Paul Fenton as well

  • Chris Cerullo

    Just wanted to point out how awesomely done this piece is. Helluva job Peter.

  • yv

    Excellent analysis Peter. One can also add that Caps under Oates are something like 0-26-5 in games when they score less than 3 goals. This statistics so big that just screaming about huge systemic problems/errors in Caps game. Zero wins, that I think unheard of.
    I was excited about Oates when I read his huge interview in that summer before lockout about how he will work with Ovi and how it would affect the Caps. He looked to me as a smart hockey man, but then he made couple out of blue remarks that make me to look on him more critically. One was his comment about SJS’ Hertl goal and the other one his disapproval of Olympics that he changed later. And then it was preseason mess and his ultraconservative approach to make obvious changes after the start of the season. At the same time, as a positives, I would add that he upend the goal-scoring game by Ward, and Brouwer, for instance, by simply insisting that he should play with shorter stick with different curve. They have been the scapegoats for many fans as the overpaid players with long contracts but now they playing for what they earning.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Eh. I actually agree with that move if we are under different circumstances. That and the fact that he’s been absolutely horrid in Hershey. I understand the fandom part of it but the guy isn’t a NHL defenseman IMO but neither is Carrick.

  • DJ Jones

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, why are we to believe this roster of players will win? Yeah so BB had them for a month and Hunter had them the rest of the way, but look the roster is the same.

    Here have been the players since 2011-now (I’m counting those who have come and gone): Brouwer, Ward, Eakin, Hamrlik, Halpern, Ribeiro, Wolski, Crabb, Oleksy, Hillen, Volpatti, Wilson, Grabovski, Penner, Orlov. You get the idea.

    Brouwer and Ward have stayed, Hillen got a new deal last season (after being injured the majority of so what GMGM saw I have no clue but it seems to have paid off huh?) Orlov stayed and then left and then left again and has stayed. Oleksy has been sent to the doghouse that is Hershey. Volpatti got a new deal after last season too, because ummmmmmmmm. Wilson has barely been used but his minutes have increased as the season winds down. Grabovski got hurt, can’t help that. Penner is Erat Jr. for Oates.

    Aside from those players everyone else is the same Ovi, Backy, Chimera, Fehr, Mojo, Beagle, Laich, Green, Alzner, Carlson, Erskine (who also got a new deal for what exactly?)

    This roster of players has not won anything but an early golf trip for 3 years straight (this group of players, I’m not counting the previous playoff exits).

    Oleksy gets sent to Hershey in favor of Carrick? Making a playoff push and Oates wants to turn Brown into a center instead of call-up someone (Latta or Wellman) who plays it and has played longer under Oates? Matty P was given away in return for no one now, yet Laich was supposed to be the 2LC? There is no center depth on the team but let’s convert RWs Fehr and Brown into that position. Fehr gives it his all yes, but he won’t ever be a true centerman.

    The players are on GMGM, he is quick to extend guys for no reason. Oates has made so many line changes and sent players away for no reason either. They are both at fault in my opinion but the players here are just Oates absorbing what was already there under BB and Hunter, GMGMs fault.

  • Barrett

    I haven’t looked at all the available coaching candidates, but I hope the next one is hard on the players in the discipline department. The only thing to fix this mess, if it can be, is the Herb Brooks “class of getting your head out of your ass”. You play lazy, you sit. You make dumb mistakes, you sit.

  • Evan

    If Ovi was larger than the team don’t you think that he would have a better line? He would demand a real center not Beagle.

  • DJ Jones

    24 & 25 I agree. Carrick > Oleksy? Wrong. Brown/Fehr > Latta? Wrong. The lack of center depth and you try to convert Fehr into one. He is playing his heart out don’t get me wrong but he is a natural right winger and always will be. Brown is a RW now trying for the playoffs and Oates says hey try center because it will help us. NO! Bring in Latta for the 4th line or a center spot because he already plays the position and has played under Oates system, as opposed to hey you’re the new guy try to understand all of this as soon as possible. The Hershey call-ups are inconsistent. Always a new guy comes in and has to try and gel with players and learn Oates style in a quick fashion for must win games.

  • Barrett

    I would like to think that all the mistakes made by both George McPhee and Adam Oates (including his coaching staff) would have amounted to a few more wins and and a playoff spot. As fans, we all want to see our team hoist the cup, but the ultimate goal is to have the opportunity to watch your team play hockey as long as possible.

  • Barrett

    So, he should be an assistant coach and could probably be one of the top assistants in the league. He’s just not cut out to handle the overall team duties of being a head coach both on and off the ice. He is out coached every single game.

  • Dave

    Nate Silver did a piece last year that showed there’s a higher elasticity of demand with respect to winning in the US than in Canada. In other words, when US based teams stop winning, the fans (to some extent) stop coming. From Nate:

    “For the United States teams, there is an imperfect but reasonably clear and statistically significant relationship between on-ice success and ticket revenues. There are lots of fair-weather American hockey fans, and they may not turn out unless their team is pretty good. In Canada, there is less competition from other sports, and there are many die-hard hockey fans who attend games almost no matter what.”

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/why-cant-canada-win-the-stanley-cup/

    Ted better not think that ticket sales are automatic, and I don’t think it’ll take an organized boycott to see them drop.

  • Lamson

    So many of those reasons point to shoddy work by the GM and a lack of communications between McPhee and Oates. Long story short, the Capitals are not a well built team and are pretty much where they should have been — struggling to make the playoffs as a 7-8 seed…before getting dumped in the first round yet again.

  • yv

    Yes, he exactly perfect assistant coach as he was with NJD and Tampa.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I hope this was sarcasm…

    Cause you know, 4th liners aren’t a dime-a-dozen… The sad part is, both players could have had major impacts towards the betterment of this team. Penner shouldn’t be gone in two weeks. I’m hoping the Caps clean managment house before he starts looking elsewhere.

  • VeggieTart

    I wonder if his decline isn’t psychological. He really enjoyed being with the Caps. He did fairly well here. And then he gets sent to Hershey. That has to mess with his confidence.

    And if he weren’t injured, I would be screaming for Schmidt to be wearing 88 again.

  • Barrett

    That’s who I had in mind.

  • VeggieTart

    But do we really want to hire ANOTHER coach with no NHL head coaching experience? Granted, he did well with the Bears for a while, but there’s probably a reason he wasn’t asked back and is now in Europe.

  • Owen Johnson

    I think you hit the nail on the head with Ovi. I love the guy, but I feel like he gets more special treatment than superstars should get. I think Oates is an enabler for that too. Every time I go to Kettler, Ovi is on the ice for about 10 minutes before going back to the dressing room while the others still skate for a full practice. I don’t know if that’s Oates’ call or not, but he does have control over it.
    I think Oates is too afraid of what happened with Boudreau (and fat-fuckgate) to do anything about it. But I also think he forgot about Ovi checking his ego at the door while playing under Hunter. Ovi is an adult, he doesn’t need to constantly be pampered, and, honestly, I think all the pampering has affected his game negatively (or, has minus-ly affected his game, if you will).

  • Owen Johnson

    Agree, but it’s not nearly as black and white as it is with Oates. McPhee is at least semi-competent.

  • Fedor

    If there was any doubt in his coaching ability, it should be completely gone after a great year he had with a newcoming team in the strongest conference of the strongest league on the continent.
    Why he went to Europe? Maybe he felt like coaching in the K is a promotion from the position in the development league?

  • hockeyrich

    Being a season ticket holder for years it’s just painful to watch this
    team. Although George has made many great moves he has blundered with coaching
    and not building a team completely to take advantage of it strong abilities and
    we have players on the team that aren’t talented enough for any league higher
    than the ECHL. When Bruce was here, we did not get the goal tending we needed
    and lacked 2 more solid defenseman. This team was fun to watch and exciting.
    Hunter comes in, this was painful to watch. Pay money to see grinders play 20
    min a game. Then we have Oates, lets change players positions that have played
    left since they where kids now put them in at right, lets change the lie of
    there sticks, lets put a system in place that has no flow. Line match ups that
    make no sense, and we have to make sure we have a right handed guys on the right
    and a left handed guy on the left. Adam! They can play either side! You are
    not giving them a chance to win! This team has no identity

    George and the coaching staff needs to go, we have some great players on
    this team and its a shame to watch this. When Hanolin was here the fans chanted
    to fire him. I think we need to do the same at the next home game. We need a
    change, and that’s the GM and Coach!

  • Shaun Phillips

    Yeah Holland has now produced two GMs from his assistants (Stevie Y and Jim Nill). Most Wings fans were very sad to see Nill leave, as well as Stevie. A lot of the Wings success in recent years is a result of Nill’s work in scouting.

  • zoltoner

    “If we’ve lost Hassett, we’ve lost the war.”

  • Owen Johnson

    Do you really think Halak is going to want to resign?

  • Shaun Phillips

    I think he’s been horrible in Hershey because they destroyed his confidence in sending him down. Sure he’s not a 1st pair dman, but as a 5/6, he’s more than servicable (and more so than any of the others to be in there lately: Carrick, Erskine, etc). He plays hard, makes smart moves with the puck, and could take some of the enforcer roll away from Wilson and let Wilson just play hockey.

  • Dcsportsfan85

    So sick of Adam Oates. I used to get angered by the outrageous claims he makes in post game interviews but now they’ve just become comical to me. His excuse for the lack of even strength goals scored is “it’s hard to score in this league or at this time of the year every one is playing a tighter game”. If that’s the case why do we seem to make it so easy to score at even strength and other good teams are able to accomplish this feat.

    Adam Oates is way too stubborn and unwilling to re-evaluate and adapt to maximizing the talent on his roster. How many times can one person keep trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. I get he has a vision for how he believes his system should work, but you have to adapt your system to a certain degree to fit the talents of your players.

    I was really excited about Oates getting a full pre-season after our strong finish to the season and Ovi’s resurgence. Whatever equity he had built up with me is completely gone and then some.

    Completely agree be MUST go, which is a shame because I actually one him and think the players really respect him as well. As far as McPhee goes I’m torn he’s made some mistakes, but he’s also been drafting really well lately and made some good deals. If McPhee stays, which I kind of hope he does, I think he needs to take a different approach and hire a proven NHL coach whose has postseason success.

  • Barrett

    Paul Fenton, assistant GM for Nashville
    Ron Hextall, assistant GM for Philadelphia
    Jason Botterill, assistant GM for Pittsburgh

  • Owen Johnson

    Data schamta. It’s all about which hand they shoot with. Amirite?

  • Ludvigs

    For everyone who grew up in the Capital Centre/ US Air Arena: “Na Na Na Na… Na Na Na Na…Hey Hey Heyyyy Goooooood Byyyyeeeee”

  • Shaun Phillips

    I don’t agree with Latta > Fehr. I think when given the chance to play his natural position with skilled players (Nicky, Grabo), he’s shown he be an offensive force and tilting the ice in the Caps favor. He also has one of the best pure shots on the team.

  • JenCo

    Thank you. Penguins have done an excellent job filling in for all their loses this season.

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

    Fedor, that’s true. He wasn’t fired. It could have been mutual.

  • Shaun Phillips

    “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

    Sorry, don’t know why that popped into my head but for some reason it felt right for this.

  • Tripp McHenry

    Holy!! That’s some good stuff! I gotta read this when I have time and not at work!

  • JenCo

    It would be interesting to know how much practice time the “stars” of other teams put in. I’ve always wondered how hockey players have to ability to dictate how much they practice. Granted they are exhausting a lot of energy almost every other night, so sometimes practice is not beneficial.

  • JenCo

    Remember in the playoffs last year, when Oates gave the team a day off between game 3 and game 4….only to have the Caps lose 4-3?

  • JenCo

    Remember when Gabby sat Ovi with about 2 minutes left in the game and the Caps went on to win and then Gabby got fired shortly there after?

  • Raoul_Duke

    To further the point of Oates being stubborn, how about all those times he sent Ovie out to shoot first in the SO? If you look at his stats (which he so loves to do), you see that he has performed very poorly in the SO. Send out someone else first who has proven they perform better, maybe we win a couple more games. Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt Ovie’s feelings? Or maybe he’s just oblivious..

  • Cheri

    You say that four Capitals have requested a trade twice, but I clicked on the article and only count three. Did I miss someone?

  • briosky2

    I didn’t read all the comments but what I will say is this. Bruce was fired during a loosing streak and when he stated to the media “that if I need to teach this team how to win battles I don’t know what to do. They’re professional players and should know how to, it come from within.” Players had a meeting and stopped playing for Bruce also lead by who……8. Then comes Hunter same problem not winning battle almost the same statement. Players meeting same results. Leader 8 again. Now it’s Oates turn and again the same problem. Now everyone in Washington wants the coaches head. Yet Bruce is successful again, Hunter is still successful also. Is it the coaches or the players, lack of effort, will to win. Dallas is fighting for a play off spot did everyone see how they played. We play like that for sort periods never 60 minutes. All the other teams are doing it, we can’t. Why? GMGM has got to go! No doubt. This time I believe it’s not the coach. It’s the players. They have to want towin the cup. To me Ovi is a great player but he is selfish and as long as he wins his personal awards he is happy. He’s making great money, he is getting married, his concern is not on the cup. He is the captain, it starts with him. The other players feed off of him, if he keeps cherry picking at the blue line for the awesome goal the other player then keep feeding him the biscuit and they don’t play defense just like him. Just my opinion after being a Caps fan since the 80′s and a season ticket holder for 6 years.

  • Michelle

    I love Ovi and respect his talent immensely, but I think he’s definitely part of the problem. If we see him coasting on D, skipping all the optional practices, and hanging out in the neutral zone waiting for the puck, the players certainly see all of that and more, and it no doubt builds resentment, even if they won’t admit or don’t even realize it. This is normal in any workplace situation, and happens all the time. The result is that many of the others start to slack off themselves, as they feel they are carrying more of the burden (and the blame, in many instances) than they should be, no matter how hard they work. Over time, it builds and builds until this becomes the culture of the team. Essentially, every man for himself.
    When you combine this with Oates’ enabling of Ovi on these issues (he has to maintain his reputation ad the Ovi whisperer, after all) and all of Oates’ other deficiencies, the result is what we’re looking at on the ice. And it’s not pretty.
    Although I don’t even begin to know how you fix this, I think you start by getting a coach that is not too egotistical to admit his mistakes and to make appropriate changes, but who’s also fair and reasonable to ALL players, not just the superstars. Someone whose ability to communicate extends to everyone, and involves more than just talking about the proper curve of their sticks.

  • Rhino40

    While I had been ambivalent at best about Dale Hunter as Coach (given the manner in which he came to hold the position), I had had high hopes for success under Oates after his tutelage helped get NJD deep into the playoffs. So, naturally it pains me to admit it, but it may be true that it’s time for him to go…it brings to mind this famous exchange:

    “What did they tell you?”

    “They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.”

    “Are my methods unsound?”

    I don’t see any method, at all, sir.

    For bonus points: what movie?

    Thiat said, If I were Ted I would fire GMGM ASAP, but the incoming GM would keep Oates for the time being–albeit on a short leash. This is because–regardless of AO’s shortcomings as a coach (be they real or perceived)–I feel that the team has a better chance of success given a measure of continuity behind the bench. A revolving door of coaches IMO is as bad as–if not worse than–an inept coach. And though he has made a number of questionable decisions, I believe AO is far too smart to be considered inept.

  • Hyusis

    22. Nudging out Mathieu Perreault

  • Pat Magee

    What available coaches are there? Laviolette is the best available that I know of…. A list should be compiled!

  • alchemistmuffin

    Nothing is likely going to change off season, and with the current management, I have a bad feeling GM McPhee’s contract will get extended….

    I think the only logical solution at this point, in my opinion, is to shake up the entire management from top to bottom. Get a new leader for the entire organization, buyout Oates’ contract and terminate McPhee. Then, we can go from there.

    As long as current president is there, nothing’s going to change with the organization. Period.

    In addition, let’s not forget why the Caps have made it to playoffs 7 times in a row: They were in the worst division for ages. The realignment and new conference pretty much exposed the weakness to everyone. I think it’s no longer possible also to make the playoffs every year, based on how competitive the Met division is, regardless of the coaching changes. The other guys have been playing in this tough division for ages now, consider us the new guys on the block. It’s going to take a while for the Caps to get up to the competitive level the other Met division teams are in.

    But, overall, something has to change. If Ovi doesn’t like it, well, sucks to be him in my opinion.

  • Barrett

    I remember Dale Hunter parking his top line so his fourth line (Beagle, Halpern and Hendricks) could close out games.

  • Owen Johnson

    Boohoo. Man U will miss the Champions League for the first time in a billion years.
    Red Devil tears are delicious.

  • Pat

    hextall

  • Myan

    Yessss!

  • Cheri

    I know things aren’t great, but I wouldn’t say the Capitals are “sucking floor bacteria”. jesus, we’re not the Sabres.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    The only reason I can think of that reasonably keeps Nate down in the A is so he doesn’t burn a year on his ELC… now if he’s played enough games to do so, then I have no clue.

  • Pat Magee

    Lavvy is a proven coach that has won the cup, French wouldn’t be too bad, although he won the Calder cup with the most loaded team in AHL history, haha.

    I’m not too sure who else is available for the head coaching position.

  • Bobandy

    Agree with most of the points made here, but not sure why you keep mentioning the decline under Hunter??! Yea, under Hunter we scored less, and were much less offensive minded, but we actually played team defense, allowed far fewer shots, and actually won some close games. That style wasn’t as exciting to watch, but prioritizing team defense and individual defensive responsibility seems to be the thing to do if you want to be consistent, and make it deep into the playoffs. Maybe this whole Ovie-Beagle pairing was Oates’ way of demoting Ovie for his lack of defensive effort (otherwise wtf was it?)?? I love Ovie, but still think the biggest mistake this franchise made was making him Captain. I mean a guy that puts out zero effort back checking is the teams leader? For that reason alone, I think the caps need someone on their coaching staff who will yell and scream, and light a fire under their bums when they need it. I don’t think Oates, Forsyth, or Johansson ever raised their voice at anyone all year! I doubt they fire Oates this year, unless they let GMGM walk, but I think I think they desperately need someone with a little sandpaper behind their bench (and on defense too)…IMHO

  • Myan

    Do you really think Grabovski is going to want to re-sign?

  • Austin

    Holy shit lmao he does

  • Austin

    We’ve gotta get a petition going to get Ted Leonsis to read this, shit we’ve gotta get the whole NHL reporter union whatever the hell all of them are called to read this if Leonsis doesn’t believe it!

    Absolutely great article. You should get bank for this

  • Alex Hughes

    I also think you could add sending Steve Oleksy down to keep Connor Carrick as another blatant mistake

  • Bobandy

    spot on…I love Ovie, but he should never have been given a C. He is not that type of player or leader. A captain should be someone who plays hard in both zones. Having a leader who does everything the right way is contagious. Having a leader who doesn’t back check is also contagious.

  • Luis Riveros

    Teddy Boy should open the check book on Gretzky as GM since to have success around here you need a Canadian Superstar as GM, Peter Laviolette as coach, Scot Stevens as D coach, and Adam Oates as Selene’s (Kate Beckinsale) biggest enemy in the next underworld movie.

  • Jeanne Blue

    Regarding the culture of the team, I am using hindsight to find 3 reasons or the lack of “heart” or team competitiveness. (As defined by multiple losses in game 7′s at home, and debacles such as last night)
    1- not being able to keep Fedorov to mentor Ovi
    2- The “Young Guns” promotion – put players on a pedestal before they accomplished anything, and encouraged an “outlaw” persona
    3- that rock band video, for much of the same reason. (and I did love that)
    All 3 occurred right around the time that a feel-good rookie AHL coach was here, and lessons were never learned. The team that didn’t show up in game 7 vs Pittsburgh, after being ahead in the series, the team that winning against Montreal was automatic and then lost AT HOME again in game 7, and the team that didn’t show up last night are all examples of lessons what has not been learned or internalized by these men.
    GMGM, Ted and this recent coaching are accountable for the big picture, but that debacle last night was a lack of execution and effort.
    I might add trading Chris Clark since he was at least able to whip Mike Green’s ass in practice, but no need to dig for more.

  • Eric Schulz

    Four things:
    1 – This is the most basic: nothing wrong with pros and cons, but another important thing would be comparison shopping; here’s the guys we could get/should be going after. Here’s why they are better/where they are better than Oates.
    2 – “Under Hunter, they faltered, along with everybody else.” So, are we gonna have more pining for the shitty .500 showing of the Hunter Caps, or can we all admit he sucked as a coach too, and move on?
    3 – I get the whole “you are responsible for your subordinates thing,” but not for goalies. I don’t think any NHL coach interferes with how their goalie coach coaches their goalie, not even Patrick Roy does.
    4 – You forgot a pro about Oates: he hasn’t been a coach for very long. There’s no reason to think he will not improve. You have to weigh his expected improvement vs the upheaval that a change in coaching staff/philosophy will cause.

  • Eric Schulz

    Fehr is clearly better than Latta. Also, Brown is a natural center; he’s played wing too, and maybe his NHL future is on the wing, but he can play all forward spots.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, I don’t see how there isn’t some kind of rift between Oates and GMGM; were I the GM, I probably don’t trade for Penner if I know that the coach thinks he’s a 4th liner. Not sure what the problem is.. but I know from experience that GMGM is at fault.

  • Clifton B

    I missed the point for the first time through. I hadn’t realized it was this bad until you posted this. I’d cry, but at least I have the Nationals to keep my hopes alive in DC sports land.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, fire Oates then hire an equally shitty, rigid, stubborn coach in Hunter: brilliant.

  • Jon A

    I agreed with your fourth point until the post game interviews started to roll in after last night. Now I think there are no more pros about Oates moving forward. He has lost the respect of the players to a point from which I don’t think is recoverable. They have pointed fingers at him and he pointed them right back, that is unacceptable.

  • Eric Schulz

    As I’ve said, I think most of his moves are either good or at least defensible. The problem is that the bad ones are so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad… again, the Forsberg trade was bad on EVERY level a trade can be bad… and he spent a decade NEVER addressing the ONE weakness on the team. If you can’t identify the one weakness (it’s not goalie, it’s on defense), then you will never fix it… that alone gets him fired, no matter what else he’s done.

  • Eric Schulz

    Laich wasn’t garbage; he was injured. He was actually playing well before he had surgery. Granted, the whole “before he had surgery” thing is a pretty big qualifier, but he brings something this team sorely lacks. We are better off keeping him and seeing if his long offseason does him any good. You won’t find a guy like him cheap or easy. We have more than enough money to resign Grabovski, resign Penner, sign a defensive defenseman, and still have some room to make a move near the deadline.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yes. Why wouldn’t he?

  • VeggieTart

    Because there are 20-some less dysfunctional teams out there that might appreciate a competent center?

  • Eric Schulz

    It happened 3 years ago, btw… so, the blame falls on GMGM, since Hunter was the coach when it happened, not Oates.

  • Jon A

    Yep. Look at how Yzerman has kept Tampa competitive.

  • Eric Schulz

    We sucked under Hunter. If he coached as many games as Oates has coached, he’d have ONE more win than Oates… he blew. He sucked, he was not good, he was Oates-by-another-name (stubborn, rigid, unable to properly evaluate talent, or identify the strengths and weaknesses of the team). The decline under him is mentioned because we declined drastically when he was our coach.

  • Eric Schulz

    So is Oates: PP, Ovechkin.

  • Eric Schulz

    He’s THREE games under .500.

  • Eric Schulz

    So, he’s going to go to a team that will a) pay him less, b) give him less ice time, or c) both?

  • Chris Cerullo

    I don’t buy that. Steve-O is a competitor and he knows if he ever wants a shot in the NHL again he has to play his way out of Hershey again. On a playoff team Oleksy is a 8th defenseman at best. Look, I love the guy but his play on the ice suits Hershey more than Washington. He’s played 22 games, has 1 point and is a -7. I have it on authority from people that are specifically Hershey Bears fans that the guy has just looked bad.

  • Eric Schulz

    Well… I haven’t seen/heard that, but my point still stands. He WILL be a better coach in 3 years than he is now, by a wide margin. Now, does that mean we should keep him? No; I think if there’s a coach out there that is clearly above average, then we are better off with him, even though it’s not great to change systems a lot. That’s regardless of the specific situation with the Caps and Oates, and if it has indeed become untenable. However, he will get better…

  • Eric Schulz

    I agree with you, Chris, that’s he an 8th defender on a playoff team. That’s why I keep pointing my finger at GMGM first and last… HOWEVER, since he’s one of our best 6 (GMGM sucks), Oates should have been using him.

  • Hatfield

    If Oates coached the ’98 team, the lines would look something like…

    Bondra-Toms-Svejkovsky
    Pivonka-Simon-Benda
    Nikolishin-Hunter-Klee
    Juneau-Oates-Bellows

  • Eric Schulz

    I blame GMGM for trading Perreault.

  • Eric Schulz

    How long have we been saying we lacked 2 more solid defensemen (or words to that affect)? God, GMGM sucks donkey dick.

  • x

    “You guys who watch it [a lot] see it. Guys who don’t don’t understand it. They think it’s defending. Well, there’s no defending in a game. It’s how much you’ve got the puck…It’s simple. It’s not hard to figure out. Teams that stand around in their own zone and say they’re defending, they’re generally getting scored on or taking faceoffs. They need a goalie to stand on their head when they do that.”

    - Darryl Sutter

  • Harjot Singh

    So today in school i wrote an essay on the caps. My english teacher asked why it was such a sob story. No joke

  • DJ Jones

    Where I am making the argument is that Brown has played RW his short career. Oates has even admitted he was a RW. Latta has played the center position his career, in trying to make a playoff push why put someone who has been used to RW at the center position? Yeah it’s 4th line minutes but still all players factor into a playoff push and the reason I feel Latta should be the centerman instead of Brown because he is a center and not a wing. Center and left wing are the lack of depth positions. Where I bring Fehr into this is that he isn’t a natural center. He will play wherever you need him to, he gives it his all no doubt but this whole conversion thing needs to stop. If Matty P were still in DC where would Fehr play?

  • Harjot Singh

    My thesis was somewhat related to Kuzyas

  • Hockey mom

    I think that is TOTALLY it!!! It seems like he is just now coming back around…As an outsider, it came as a complete shock, so if it was a shock for him too, I think it would take some time to get over it…

  • Bobandy

    Oates-by-another-name??? Have you witnessed how many shots we give up on a nightly basis this year? Have you seen how some of our forwards back check? I’m not saying he would have been our savior, or that he was even cut out to be an NHL coach, but he certainly made the caps play a lot more responsible defensively, and that seems to be our biggest problem this year.

  • bskillet

    Well I was depressed before, now even more so. After not signing Berube and signing Oates I said ok the lesser of the two but ok. After a shortened season with no pre season I said ok he didn’t get to know his team. After this dreadful year with his line combinations, lack of enthusiasm, recalling and sending it was painfully obvious he would be gone by years end. There is a whole lot wrong but I wouldn’t put too much on the team, I think the quit playing scenario is a direct result of Oates and the players frustrations. I’m thinking the best chance for a rebound season and having the Caps back is a new GM who wants nothing more then a Cup which I 90% believe will happen, with a new GM he comes in and cleans house with the entire coaching staff. Lets face it Calle was a great player but seems to be as laid back as Oates, all three are almost trance like behind the bench.

  • Eric Schulz

    I have frequently made the case recently that GMGM is very much to blame for our lack of centers, saying that we have 3 on the roster, and that isn’t enough (Backstrom, Grabovski, Beagle; also, it’s not NEARLY as bad of an oversight as ignoring, time and time again, the defense, but it’s still bad), so I completely agree that a) we should have more, and b) we should’ve kept Mathieu Perreault. I hated the trade at the time, hated it even more when Grabovski went down (having Backstrom and Perreault as the 1st and 2nd line centers: acceptable; WITHOUT Perreault, the next best scenario would’ve been, IMO, auditioning Johansson at his natural position of C on the 2nd line with Kuznetsov and Brouwer, and leaving Backstrom and Ovechkin together with Penner on the top line, because you don’t split up Alex and Nick). However, I don’t think there’s a real difference between Latta and Brown playing center. Both have played center for most of their careers, and both have very few NHL games under their belt.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, he would’ve made our biggest problem something else (scoring, possession)… I’d rather we suck and Ovechkin rules, then we suck and Ovechkin plays 3rd line minutes. We suck equally both ways… but at least we get to watch Ovechkin dominate some.

  • Eric Schulz

    He traded Eakin for Ribeiro.. that was a fine trade.

  • Roose

    Also, consider that Oates’s presence definitely influenced the Forsberg trade. Were it not for his preference for playing wingers on their strong side, we could’ve some of our many RW’s to their off-wing instead of trading one of the best prospects in the league because of a surplus. If he wasn’t the coach, we might still have Filip Forsberg.

  • Eric Schulz

    NOPE! Forsberg was/is a center/right wing… can’t play a center on their off-hand, that trade was ALL GMGM.

  • Owen Johnson

    Just to play devils advocate (I agree with you but…) the last time this organization listened to fans and the media, we decided to play a more defensive system, and,… well, the rest is history.

  • Owen Johnson

    Well at least Grabovski isn’t the one the team is hanging out to dry.

  • Roose

    sarcasm or no?

  • vh

    I say look at the players and GM. Three different style of coaches have gotten the team nowhere.

  • Bob

    I was actually Pro Oates for most of the year, even as I was watching the Caps fall apart. I was so upset with the way Hunter coached the team. That simply getting Ovi back to scoring goals seemed to be enough to allow my cynical side to be put at bay. However, since the decision to make Beagle our top center, and to watch the team fall apart in must win games (and win games they should not have, like SJ) I am not firmly on board with Calle, and Oates as being part of the problem and not part of the solution.

  • Bob

    NOW firmly on board…

  • Myan

    True. I sincerely hope that Grabo re-signs but I am scared that he won’t….especially if there isn’t a coaching change. It’s no coincidence that there were 4 trade requests this season.

  • Eddie

    The Sabres at least won their last game, Cheri… and the Capitals are capable of much more than what they’re doing. Oates has taken the team straight down the toilet with his idiotic line pairings and inconsistency.

  • Eric Schulz

    No. GMGM is 100% to blame for that trade… Forsberg was traded something like 8 days after he was drafted, and then we were fed a line that he “hadn’t developed.” Yeah, sure.
    (I wouldn’t want to *rely* on him to be your #2 C next year, of course… but I’m not sure what our options will be next year, in the event that Grabovski walks… I don’t think he will, but I acknowledge that it is a possibility. GMGM traded Perreault away, and he would’ve/should’ve been first up, before Forsberg… with Johansson having a shot too.)

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    This is by far one of the best hockey related articles I’ve ever read. Thank you for the amazing hockey education. The numbers don’t lie. The writing is on the wall. Facts are facts and regardless of what this arrogant coach says he MUST go.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    This is by far one of the best hockey related articles I’ve ever read. Thank you for the amazing hockey education. The numbers don’t lie. The writing is on the wall. Facts are facts and regardless of what this arrogant coach says he MUST go.

  • Myan

    If there isn’t a coaching change he risks going through another soul crushing season like this one. The current coaching staff has proven itself to be incompetent. Its rigid rules and ineffective systems have sucked the confidence out of players that were great in the past.

  • Myan

    If there isn’t a coaching change he risks going through another soul crushing season like this one. The current coaching staff has proven itself to be incompetent. Its rigid rules and ineffective systems have sucked the confidence out of players that were great in the past.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    It’s clear the management and the coaching staff
    do not see eye to eye. I’m disgusted with their gross mismanagement of
    some of the greatest players that will ever grace the sport (#19, #8,
    #52, #74……) I can only imagine what these men could’ve done with
    their careers under a better situation. The fans have been cheated these last few years.

  • Hockey mom

    And the players, too! They don’t get a “re-do” on any of this…it is very sad to see all this talent go to waste…

  • Troy

    Oates just clearly isn’t the guy, but it dosen’t help that the roster is build for failure…

  • Roose

    Even if you think Forsberg couldn’t be flipped (filiped lol) over to left wing because you “can’t play a center on their off-hand” it could have been someone else like Tom Wilson, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, whoever. Of course a good amount blame obviously lies with George Mcphee. Maybe I don’t understand what you’re getting at.

  • Stevarooni

    Here is my wager for the “Caps Moves” fan pool:

    I think they keep Oates and fire McPhee after McPhee has Oates fire Calle Johannson. Then they let the new GM – who has no inconvenient ties to Adam Oates – decide if Coach Oates needs to be let go either in the off-season or at some point next season.

  • Kory S.

    Oates apparently told GMGM that Perreault didn’t fit into his overall plan, so McPhee traded him.

  • Kevin Fogarty

    You can’t keep going through Coaches and not look at who is acquiring the ingredients. McPhee has build a team that can’t be competitive in the new Division and it was hidden when the Caps were in the South. Hershey will likely miss the playoffs so it doesn’t appear there is much help coming from there. And Ovie? Don’t get me started. Yea the guy is a sniper, what else does he do? Can’t kill penalties, take faceoffs, doesn’t pass, and does not make the players on the ice around him better unlike Crosby, Giroux and others. All he does is score goals and be on the ice for even more goals than he scores. That is not a recipe for success. The guy isn’t Captain material either, and is so one dimensional you can’t really change him. There is a line in the movie Remember The Titans. Attitude reflects leadership. It isn’t Adam Oates, Dale Hunter, Bruce Boudreau. It’s McPhee and Ovechkin.

  • briosky2

    Amen

  • Chris Cerullo

    Still gonna disagree with you. Carlson, Alzner, Green, Orlov, Schmidt, Erskine would be my top 6.

  • Graham Dumas

    see, e.g., game six against the Rangers where we were tied at zero late in the third, we iced the puck, and Oates didn’t take the time out. Result? Rags take game six 1-0, series tied 3-3.

  • Myan

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration considering he’s drafted 3 defensemen in the 1st round in the last decade. Green, Alzner, Carlson…all three were great defensemen just a few years ago. They’re shadows of their former selves because of poor defensive coaching. That said, I totally agree with you that GMGM is responsible for not picking up an NHL defenseman in the trade window because even with 1 more NHL level D during these past few weeks, I think we’d be up 2-3 points in the standings.

  • Jonah

    “angry mob supplies, get your angry mob supplies here!”

  • Jonah

    yeah oates wanted other people to step into perry’s role, GMGM went with oates’ judgement call.

  • Graham Dumas

    That’s interesting, and I buy that: hockey just isn’t popular enough in the US to sustain high ticket sales for crappy teams.

    All I’m questioning is whether a dramatic drop-off in ticket sales will have enough of a short-term effect on the ownership to change the direction of the team. I’m still not convinced that it will.

    But hey, reasonable minds will differ on the point.

  • Graham Dumas

    This. This right here. Nails it.

  • Graham Dumas

    That guy is a boner. I was at the Boston game on Saturday, and some dude (who may or may not have been a Bruins fan) kept yelling something about Ovechkin going back to Crimea. Wrong on a lot of levels, but definitely wrong when it comes to actual hockey analysis.

  • Diller M

    Great job Peter! I usually believe in giving a coach at least three season to allow for full acclimation, however this team is actuaLy getting worse as the time wears on. Count me on the fire Oates bandwagon!

  • capsjazz

    Leonsis has stuck with the same GM on the Caps who has, in 15 seasons, not gotten out of the 2nd round. He has stuck with the GM on the Wizards who made them the laughing stock of the NBA. Not that I care about the NBA, but Leonsis is a terrible owner who cares only about fannies in the seats. As long as the Caps are selling out, he won’t upset the ship. He doesn’t see that it has already hit the iceberg and is sinking. He has been quoted several times this year as saying he doesn’t see any weaknesses in this team.

  • DC Hockey Nut

    Of course you can’t ignore GMGM in regards to the team’s performance, however there’s a rather large “but” involved when thinking about him. That “but” being that GMGM and Oates are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page. I will give GMGM some credit; he’s put together a monster team of scouts, particularly when it comes to drafting rookies. His trades haven’t been terrible overall (except when you add in the 20/20 vision of hindsight *coughErat-Forsbergcough*). His major issue has been bringing in talent that he should know by this point Oates is going to misuse.

    This blog, the WaPo, and other places have written time and again about how good this draft was, or how amazing a steal that trade was, etc etc. In hindsight many of them have turned bad, but at the time the paperwork was signed, they were heralded as a sign from God himself that we, too, deserve to enjoy hockey. I’ve seen more positive writeups about a draft or trade immediately after it happened than negative by far over the last several years.

    What I haven’t seen much of until late is how bad those drafts or trades have turned out to be, and the one unifying factor behind all of them is the coach, particularly since Oates showed up. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oatsey as much as any Caps fan from his era could, but god damn is he a staggeringly atrocious judge of talent. It’s either that or he’s trying to get GMGM fired. Oates can run a powerplay for sure, but every other aspect of his coaching is criminal.

    This season is done. Fire Oates, keep GMGM, hell, make him coach too. At least that way the Coach and GM will always be on the same page.

  • DJ

    Can’t disagree, unfortunately the problem goes all the way to Ted. Everything changed with the Montreal playoff loss. Getting rid of BB was a huge mistake and trying to change this to a defensive team. George should have known better and instead they listen to the DC media who do not know the difference between a hockey puck and a basketball.

    Gave up my season tickets – product is poor and getting worse

  • Jonah

    so the hopes are alive for you until mid august, when the nats tumble and the skins rise, only to fall again in december as the skins fall apart, at which time we will definitely have a new caps coach who actually gets ish done!
    the life of a washington DC sports fan…

  • Jonah

    two wrongs make a right…?
    hell ill try anything

  • capsfan19

    This may sound stupid but I’m just worried that since the Caps are imploding, everyone’s going to want to be traded and then the entire team will fall apart even more. Like, really worried. It seems to me like a lot of the players are already really unhappy here, and I think the record has a lot to do with it. But it also seems like the players don’t really get along…I’m not sure how to explain it. There are a few guys who are close (ex: Russians, Chimmer/Wardo) but I feel like there’s a sort of chemistry that’s lacking. You look at other teams, and the players are basically brothers…always with each other, etc. You look at the Caps, and it’s not like that. And I’m not sure who or what is to blame for that.

  • JenniferH

    I’m not worried that he’s broken because once he started playing his style again, he did great. In fact, he posted a shut-out. And almost every goal he’s let in since he began playing his style again has not been on him, but against the oh so marvelous blue line in front of him (or rather lack thereof).

  • Matt Root

    Accountability and consistency is what this organization needs from top to bottom.

  • JenniferH

    Looks like Peter was counting Erat’s two trade requests twice.

  • Jared
  • Eric Schulz

    But you don’t draft to address a weakness, you draft the best player available. I’m not saying he can’t identify talent in the draft (his ability to identify non-1st round talent is sub-par, but he has done a fine job acquiring high picks in order to give himself a chance to gamble, which has paid off: Semin, Kuznetsov), I’m saying he can’t identify that defense is our weakness and address it in FA in order to complete the team and put us in a position to properly challenge for the Cup. You can’t go a decade without drafting a defenseman; drafting those three doesn’t show that he realizes we need help on defense, it just shows that he thought they were better than the alternatives at that spot.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, you can’t have Erskine be a part of your top-6; you really think he’s better than any other defender who’s played there this year? I’m not sure about Carrick… other than that, no.

  • Eric Schulz

    I meant that he can play center… and Oates wouldn’t refuse to play a center because of his handedness.

  • Eric Schulz

    I don’t see it that way at all. They seem to be just fine; they were joking around all season, even as the playoffs slipped out of our grasp, they were keeping things loose. April 1st prank with Chimera and Ward, photobombs, etc.

  • Eric Schulz

    Forsberg/Erat trade needed no hindsight; it was monumentally stupid at the time, and nothing bad that came of it was remotely surprising.

  • Eric Schulz

    Goal scorers like Ovechkin, Brett Hull, Mike Bossy… they never win the Cup, because they can’t play defense, and defense wins Championships. The only way a guy like that would win a Cup would be if somebody else on the team could play defense… wait, maybe we should get some defenders who could play defense. Hear me out: if we acquired some talented players who could play defense, and some nice passers, maybe some complementary goal scorers, maybe we could combine all those disparate skills in order to put together a roster of guys whose skills actually COMPLEMENTED each other, and their strengths would cover up for their teammates’ weaknesses? It’s like if you had an offensive defenseman like Sergei Gonchar, but paired him with a defensively conscious defender like Joe Reekie; that way, instead of hating on Gonchar for not being better defensively, you could appreciate what he DOES bring to the table… only on a roster-wide scale. You know, it’s so crazy it might work!

  • Michael Blaesing

    Well, if I wasn’t depressed about the team after the Dallas loss I sure am now

  • Eric Schulz

    NO! GMGM is WAY WORSE than Oates at bringing about this team’s misery. He needs to go before anything will change. I don’t know what great trades you think he’s been making, but NOPE. Other than acquiring Penner and Brown this year, and sending Eakin to Dallas for Ribeiro, I haven’t liked any trades he’s made

    since he decided we didn’t have enough offense and moved out Brian Pothier to get back Joe Corvo.

  • Diller M

    “I feel like we’re trying to change our identity every night. Some nights we want to score off the rush, other nights we want to try and grind it out and there’s just not that consistency in not just our game but in the style of our game,” Brouwer said. “We’re kind of losing our way in between games and playing towards other teams’ [styles] and how they’re dictating the game, and as a result we’re not getting results.”

    YES! This is what I’ve been banging the drum about all season! This team has no identity. GMGM wants a puck control game but his last two coaches are trappy guys and really Oates has no idea how to manage a system. The result is wasted talent and poor results. Thanks for saying this Troy!

  • Diller M

    Ovi doesn’t pass? Can you explain the multiple 40 and 50+ assist seasons?

  • Diller M

    Oates would have scratched himself for playing too east west through the neutral zone

  • Diller M

    Hunter sucks seconded, Olie sucks <——- not a fan (he was overrated as a player), I would argue Oates has actually gotten worse since he became our head coach.

  • Diller M

    E problem with your premise is that Patrick is the minority owner. He would have to get bought out or agree to fire himself.

  • Chris Cerullo

    I don’t think he’s healthy. Oleksy belongs in the AHL.

  • Eric Schulz

    I’m not sure about the point about Oates being a trappy guy. Hunter was obviously a horrible, awful, atrocious, garbage fit with the team, and he had no idea how to identify talent on the team and tailor his gameplan to that talent. It’s pretty easy to see why Hunter was the worst coach ever.
    Oates… I really don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing, so it’s hard for me to say that he’s a trappy guy. I don’t have any idea what he’s trying to accomplish… I really don’t see what Brouwer’s talking about either, as far as sometimes grinding, sometimes going high scoring… the inconsistency, to me, is the baffling combinations that Oates throws out there. Penner – Backstrom – Ovechkin seems like the most obvious top line ever. Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Brouwer seems like an equally obvious 2nd line, once you put together the 1st. After that, I can see mixing and matching some parts on the bottom-6 to forge an identity: Chimera – Johansson – Fehr for speed, Chimera – Beagle – Ward to grind and physically wear down opponents, Johansson – Laich – Wilson for the best combination of defense, skill, and size… I don’t feel like we changed identities too often, I feel like Oates just didn’t seem to really grasp roles… I mean, Johansson – Beagle – Ovechkin is a great example. Honestly, while I know everybody hated Beagle with Ovechkin – and, of course, I get that – but to me, it was the three-man combination that was truly baffling. Had it been Penner – Beagle – Ovechkin, then I could see that he’s trying to give Ovechkin guys who can cover for his defensive weaknesses, and perhaps drive possession by dint of not getting stuck on defense all the time (Beagle’s faceoffs can maybe, hopefully prevent us from losing possession right away and having to get it back, but when we don’t win, we don’t have 3 black holes on defense, so instead of giving up multiple chances, it’s one-and-done, and now we’re going on the attack… and with Penner and Ovechkin’s size, while that line may lack a puck carrier, we should actually be able to dump-and-chase, and cycle… and Penner’s forechecking could help to create turnovers and create more possessions). I just don’t see what Oates was trying to accomplish with his combinations; he didn’t seem to do a good job of combining complementary talent. Had we changed identities, I feel like I’m okay with that. We could go up against a physical team and throw out:
    Penner – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Brouwer

    Chimera – Fehr – Ward
    Latta – Brown – Wilson
    then go up against a skill team and throw out:
    Kuznetsov – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Johansson – Grabovski – Fehr
    Penner – Latta – Wilson
    Chimera – Beagle – Ward
    something like that, to me, would’ve made sense… at least then you can see him trying to match up with a team (maybe he thinks we match up well… or maybe he flips it, and goes with the 1st forward lines to try to out-physical a skill team, and get them off their game.. and the 2nd to run circles around a grinding team and dominate puck possession, w/e)… what he did, to me, made no sense.

  • Whitey Wheeler

    Oates is the Jim “Swinging Gate” Zorn of the Capitals.

  • Eric Schulz

    The version of Erskine we got, whether it was injury or just decline, does not belong in the NHL. Oleksy deserves a roster spot over this version of Erskine. If you think he will rebound next year with better health, and then prefer him over Oleksy, fine… but this year, no.

  • araporrada21

    I don’t agree with firing Oates but maybe hire a veteran coach as an assistant to work together with Oates and after some musical chairs maybe it will mesh well for 14-15

  • cobra617

    They need to get rid of GMGM and the new GM has to make the decision on Oates (which in IMO should be to replace him). The new GM will bring in his “guy”.

  • Myan

    Yeah, that sounds false to me. If the best available player is a defenseman and you don’t need a D, you would trade that pick, not draft the guy anyway. Nevertheless, if either of us knew anything about the game, we’d be in it. (Gabby ref totally intended)

  • Tikanan

    I think you fire the GM and try to acquire D talent, and give Oates at least the beginning of next year. I give Oates a small benefit of the doubt given that he inherited a very talent depleted team especially on defense.

  • Hawk31

    We need someone with years of coaching experience in the NHL. I think Oates is going to be a good coach in this league at some point. He’s too smart not to get there. But for now…..I think it might be time to make a move. Peter Laviolette is out there.

  • Alex Hughes

    This was a tremendous article

  • Roose

    I think he is projected as more of a winger in the NHL. I feel like lots of guys start out listed at center, but what do I know.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    If you follow what has been said in many interviews with players a large portion of our favorite team’s woes rest on the shoulders of Mr. Adam Oates. While he may have been an excellent play maker and passer with some of the greatest vision the game of hockey has ever seen, he’s making a terrible coach.

    He’s the one who tried to put Kovalchuk on the right wing.

    He’s the one that wants to play left shots on left wing, and right shots on right wing.

    He’s the one pulling the passes up the same-side boards that’s crippling the breakout.

    He’s supposed to be the savior of the power play.

    He’s not doing his job.

    Yes, the chemistry in the locker room is still bad. Yes, John Maclean as head coach is ultimately responsible, and yes, the players themselves are not performing. But if you want to see a little change that could have big payoffs, fire Adam Oates.

    That was posted by a Devils fan in 2010.

  • David Foss

    Yeah, it’s just that bad.

  • Eric Schulz

    It’s hockey, not football. You take the best player available, because by the time he’s NHL ready, your roster will look very different than it looks at the time you draft him.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    In the spirit of picking the Top-6 forwards on your team, my top-6 of these are #s 1, 4, 9, 10, 14, and #20. I believe it’s the decision to put Penner on the 4th line that will have been too much for GMGM to stomach, since it is obvious that he brought his 6’4″ body w/ 13G & 19A to his credit to the Caps to be a top-6 scoring threat. He was not brought here to improve the 4th line offensively. Of course, the Beagle-Ovi thing must be difficult for McPhee to sit back and observe patiently. Regardless of his appearance in the GM box at game, I suspect this reflects his true emotions watching this debacle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl0Z-eTQ3oY

    My initial thought about Oates early pairing of Ovi w/ Crabbe and Beags was similar to what commentators have said about new Nationals manager Williams opening day line-up that had neither Werth, Harper, Zimmerman or LaRoche batting clean-up (Harper was actually batting 5th!?). Unexpected but probably the new manager wanting to put his stamp and assert his way but also probably something that won’t last very long. Of course, Crabbe w/ Ovi didn’t last long as Crabbe isn’t around Kettler these days; but, on the whole, with Oates the situation with pairings has gotten worse and at the most critical time of the year, i.e. during the playoff push.

    #14 regarding Neuvirth gets me as I saw in the first two weeks of the season that he may be shafted by Oates, which he was. After giving up 5G on opening night vs Chicago Holtby gave 3G on 11 SOG in game 2 vs Calgary before being pulled in the 1st period. Neuvy came in and stopped 27 of 28 SOG, drew a key penalty in the 3rd that gave the Caps a game-tying PP. Neuvirth was spectacular the rest of the night, winning the game in the SO. It is almost a given that a goalie that wins a game, especially in such fashion as Neuvirth did is rewarded for his effort by starting at least the next game. In spite of showing superior play to Holtby early in the season Neuvirth’s reward was to back up Holtby the next two games. It was clear that Oates had settled on Holtby–for no good reason, in my mind–as his #1goalie and I saw the future trade request coming then.

    I don’t agree with point #19. Even in the Japers Rink article they show a goal by Skinner to illustrate their point. However, that goal by Skinner was incredibly soft and Holtby should’ve stopped it regardless of any coaching he received from Kolzig. You can’t blame coaching for not making that save. Period. In a sense, while Ovi is the star of the team (and the best, most visibly passionate, player), it seems to me that, from FANS, Holtby is the Caps most coddled asset. Does it occur to anyone that maybe he just isn’t during the regular season the consistently spectacular goalie that he was vs Boston in the playoffs and that combined w/ the Caps terrible defense, shot differential, and propensity for allowing odd-man rushes, and continuously changing identity this year Holtby has been somewhat exposed as not being as great as he seemed, which is not to say that he is bad. Neuvirth has a better Sv% than Holtby this year; lifetime it’s .917 Holtby vs. .911 Neuvirth. I just don’t think that that difference is great enough to consider Neuvirth below average, as RMNB does, while Holtby is great. I think a good team could win a Cup with either goalie (if you can win w/ Fleury in ’09 you can win w/ most goalies not named Nabokov, who was the reason the Isle lost to the Pens last year) but the Caps this year would need Brodeur in his prime to even make the playoffs.

    The treatment of Olesky has been mentioned in the comments so their is no need to say more. It sucked.

    For me the biggest problem with Oates, which can’t be measured statistically like much of these criticisms, is his failure or inability to motivate and inspire his players. Carlson referred to at times lackadaisical play vs Nashville a few days ago in the height of a playoff push. Brouwer has mentioned the continuously changing team identity he experiences daily, which is no way to build chemistry and shouldn’t be happening in March. A teams biggest challenge in March should be dealing w/ injuries and how to play newly acquired players at the trade deadline to lines that are already established. You definitely shouldn’t be changing your top-line center to a 4th-liner. Oates referred to Boudreau or Lavoliette-like outbursts like we saw on HBO 24/7 as high-school. But sometimes they are necessary and tactically can be very effective. I was very curious to see how Oates handled the team in the locker if we got another HBO 24/7 for next year’s Winter Classic. Looks like that won’t happen.

    One other very poor decision by Oates: Given that he had no head-coaching experience, he foolishly chose as assistants two men w/ less experience than he had. Essentially he was choosing a couple of Yes-men to his ideas.

    The final indictment of Oates, who I personally was glad to see hired by the Caps and thought would do better, is not what he has done but what other coaches have done with presumably less. Cooper in Tampa after losing Stamkos, Babcock fielding half an AHL team in Detroit, Richards in Columbus, Roy’s first season in Colorado, and even Deboer, with all he lost in New Jersey before the season, has his team playing inspired and still in playoff contention (albeit very slim chance contention). The Caps are gross underachievers compared to all these teams.

    While it seems most think Oates should be canned, the real question is who should replace him? Some have offered suggestions and I will toss out two names for consideration:

    Barry Trotz (who is speculated to be available after this year)

    Ron Wilson

  • Eric Schulz

    I ABSOLUTELY agree Kolzig was overrated as a player. He seemed to let in a softie every game.
    Um… yeah, in theory Oates should get better, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t, as I said (assuming he gets another chance… would seem likely, even if it’s not at the NHL level) over the next few years, but yeah, he seems to have gotten worse…

  • Eric Schulz

    I don’t see why the team (owner) would bring in a GM who thought we needed to start over. We have most of the pieces, we just need a guy who can complete the puzzle. The theory behind completing the puzzle is simple; Oates was hired because he seemed like the guy who was ready to do that. It was the wrong choice, of course, but that doesn’t mean the process behind his hiring was wrong. I think we do the same thing; hire the guy who knows what needs to be done, and reload.

  • VeggieTart

    Yes, Fehr is better than Latta. But Latta could probably be a very good 3/4C and better than Beagle. I watch Hershey games, and he’s also great at getting the puck to teammates, even if they can’t convert.

    I like Beagle, but he’s all heart and hustle.

  • Just_sayin3

    I had high hopes of Oates coming back to Washington as a former player….Dallas 5-0 shut out? UGH! This has been one of the saddest seasons in a long time… :’(

  • Myan

    LOL I’m at least 100% sure that is false but nice try.

  • Ryan Odell

    I vote organizational firesale, from upper management down. The negative psyche is too pervasive for small break fixes. Rebuild around Ward, Chimera, Carlson and Alzner.

  • Ryan Odell

    And Backstrom

  • Owen Johnson

    No, Grabo is a winger now. DON’T YOU SEE???

  • Hockey mom

    This! This! THIS!!!

  • Scott Mallon

    one simple solution that will perhaps give hope and unease a bunch of Caps Fans.

    Hire Peter Laviolette.

    Done. Any coach that has passion and can get the freaking flyers to the finals against the blackhawks and who won a cup with the freaking hurricanes can stand behind a stacked under-performing Caps team’s bench any time.

  • DCSportsDork

    Don’t ever forget that Jon Cooper was available in the summer of 2012. You know, Tampa’s coach that was under the helm of arguably the greatest AHL of all-time in the 2011-2012 Norfolk Admirals? Remember him? He’s about to hit 100 points in his first year!

  • Bugs Fire

    Here is my #21.

    Alienated his players to the point of open sabotage.

    In Nashville, Caps had to win to stay alive in playoff race. In Nashville, Caps could and were supposed to win. Yet all they did is they played well five minutes of overtime. First goal was a lucky bounce and two more came on power play.

    Normally, I only watch Caps games. Because of the playoff situation, I did see some of Detroit/Columbus. It devastated me even more, because now I know there are teams out there that actually fight to win. The whole sixty minutes. Sometimes 65+.

    Yes, occasionally coach and a player don’t get along. As an adult, coach must inform GM of this and GM must find a trade. Coach-team chemistry is important.

    But with Adam Oates, it is hard to find someone he made happy. What is missing from Peter’s very short list of positives is revival of the gr8 Alex Ovechkin. Right, because Oates messed that up too. Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, when I saw Grabovski-Beagle-Ovechkin line in Music City, I cried. Notice that Grabovski is probably the left wing here. WTF. I have no real understanding of the game, but this must be some voodoo stuff. Fourth-line grinder centering best goal scorer in the league and the guy brought here to solve depth issues at center. Whatever.

    And the damage done here is beyond just the lost season. This roster may not be enough to win the Cup, but it should be enough to make playoffs. But in all likelihood it will get much worse in off-season. There is real possibility of losing Penner, Halak and Grabovski. There is real possibility of Laich and Green declining even further due to injuries. Holtby may be damaged beyond point of no return. Kuznetsov will play to earn his first real contract, but why would he stay in DC after that? Who wants to play for the team where coach seems to have no clue?

    This is most devastating because there was every reason to expect Oates to do well.

  • Bugs Fire

    #22 Failed to further improve Ovechkin.

    This is one thing other than power play that should be in favor of Oates. He revived Ovie. It may have happened anyway once #8 was unshackled from Hunter system. Yet most experts agreed earlier that Ovie got better under Oates.

    What was supposed to happen was Ovie acquiring new dimensions to his game.

    As strange as it may sound, separating Ovie from Swedes is not a bad idea. I feel Johansson is a bigger problem than Backstrom, and just adding Penner to the first line could have done wonders. Maybe telling Backstrom to shoot more.

    But the best option was Fehr-Grabo-Ovie. We only got a short glimpse of that, but it was great. It turned out Ovie can pass, and do it well once he has linemates who actually don’t mind scoring a goal.

    Enter Adam Oates. The line was obviously working, but hey, Ovie must be with Europeans.

    And then came Beagle. Peter asserts that Oates does not listen to stat analysis. Well, apparently he does listen to some analysts. Unfortunately that guy’s name is Milbury, because the only rationale to put Ovie with Beagle was to cover for #8 defensive deficiencies. Right, by choking up his ability to score.

    Actually, this may be the actual reason that Oates will be fired. Because one thing every Caps coach must do to keep his job is to keep #8 happy and scoring.

  • Eric Schulz

    You are 100% wrong; it’s not a try, it’s fact. You are tied up in thinking about hockey like it’s football. It’s not; it’s actually pissing me off that you are questioning my draft knowledge. I know what I’m talking about; very few players after the top-10, even the top-5, end up being difference makers at the NHL level… it’s very, very, very hard to draft players after the top half of the 1st round who will play more than 100 NHL games, you can’t hamstring yourself by trying to cherry-pick the right TYPE of player; that’s partially why I didn’t like choosing Tom Wilson over Teuvo Teravainen.

  • Bugs Fire

    #23 – Explains everything (conspiracy theory alert!)

    Oates is trying to get GM fired. Hear me out.

    Adam Oates is not stupid. Nobody, and I mean nobody can be that stupid. Nearly everything he has done seems to maximize Caps chances to miss playoffs. Someone as successful as Adam Oates was as a player cannot possibly not know simple things about hockey (like, you know, possession leads to shots, shots lead to goals, goals lead to wins, and wins lead to the holy Cup). And when certain elements of his system failed again and again, he made no corrections. Maybe he is stubborn and inflexible, but I doubt that.

    And like any good conspiracy theory, this one has the smoking gun. Here it is.

    Four very good players joined Capitals roster during Oates’ tenure. Erat, Grabovski, Penner and Kuznetsov. As much as we love to hate George McPhee, that is upgrade compared to Forsberg, Ribeiro and Perrault. This is even without factoring in Latta.

    Now, two players did relatively well under Oates (deployment-wise) and had arguably successful seasons. Grabo and Kuzya.

    Of the two others, one was thoroughly humiliated by being scratched in favor of Aaron Volpatti. Yes, Erat only scored one empty-netter his whole time here, but low scoring did not run Jason Chimera out of town last year. It does not change the fact that Erat trade was questionable at best, but if you got a veteran winger by trading away your best prospect, at least max him out.

    What is happening to Dustin Penner is not even funny. I said after the deadline that it would be hilarious if Oates does Erat to him. I am sorry about that, I couldn’t possibly imagine that was exactly what Oates was going to do. People say Penner is not really that good without Getzlaf/Perry, but he is not a fourth line grinder. Not funny.

    So why Grabo/Kuzya are treated better than Erat/Penner? Maybe Oates loves Russians? Not really, just check out Orlov’s saga.

    What is different is that Erat and Penner are McPhee’s deadline trades. In the case of Grabovski and Kuznetsov, credit was given to Oates for bringing them in. It was reported that Grabo chose Caps after speaking with Oates. Adam went to Russia to talk to Kuzya, without being asked. That’s nice, but how often do you see HC take a 24-hour round trip flight to chat with a player. That’s GM’s job.

    So here goes – Adam Oates sabotaged Caps season in order to get George McPhee fired. He miscalculated a bit – Caps were supposed to be left for dead in California, but GM made a nifty move acquiring Halak, and reinforced HH duo helped Caps to get 6 points out of 4 games they were supposed to lose. What did Adam Oates do to bring this squad to its knees against Preds and Stars is a mystery, but I am sure a master of intrigue has few tricks. Or maybe players are in on it.

    Naturally, like any other conspiracy theory, it is completely baseless conjecture. To prove me right, two things should happen:

    1. GM is fired
    2. Caps win the Cup under Oates in his third year once he unleashes the unstoppable lines.

    To paraphrase, I will be embarrassed to be wrong, but most of all I will be disappointed not to be right (see #2).

    Oh well. It’s only game, why you heff to be mad?

  • Shuvel55 Joe

    This organization is a complete joke. It starts with the owner as the biggest problem and works it’s way down the ladder from there. GMGM has to go. Plain and simple. He has failed to keep a coach, has traded top prospects for people who lack dedication to the team who asks for a trade because he knows how much disarray the organization is in. He has also failed at drafting and extending proven prospects for the long haul. Since 2008-2009, what exactly has he done? Everyone can blame the coaches all they want, but the reality is that this coach was hired by GMGM, who also hired Dale Hunter, who also hired Bruce, and has been a reprehensible manager of a professional sports organization. George McPhee is an embarrassment and needs to be ousted.

  • Myan

    Dude, chill out. Both of our theories are very blanketing statements as draft picks in any sport are circumstantial.

  • Eric Schulz

    THREE very good players. One solid player. Above average: maybe. Very good? No. In his prime, maybe. But at his age, not really. He can still be an asset (granted, not with that contract, and not in exchange for Forsberg), but let’s not overstate his value. He could’ve helped the team more than he did had Oates given him a more suitable role (even getting too few minutes, replacing Volpatti would’ve been a boon to the team), but he’s no longer “very good.”

  • Rob.

    My thing is, you have changed the Coaches, you have changed the players, there is just one thing left to do… only have gotten past the 2nd round once, and that was a team he inherited, he only made a few changes to it. So it’s clear to me, he is the problem. GMGM Needs to go, and I hope Teddy knows it by now.

  • Arttu Jurvakainen

    HIRE BRUCE!

    TRADE FOR KNUBLE!

    CRASH THE NET!

  • JenCo

    Any new GM that Ted hires will bring in their own people. Also, why would Oates want to wait a year for a cup? What would that prove? Winning is everything. There is no way he wants his resume to show a downturn like this. It would make him undesirable to other teams. These guys don’t WANT to lose. These players are probably as tired as we are of not being able to live up to the hype of 6 years ago. Also, did I miss in here the WHY Oates would even WANT GMGM fired? Is it because you think that Oates wants total control and is tired of the pick ups that GMGM made? He wants to decide who gets hired and how they are used together? What’s the reason for the conspiracy?

  • PastaBowl

    All this is well and good, but it is an over simplification to support a knee-jerk fire the coach reaction to this season. While I agree with some of your points (ex: over-playing Volpati, under playing Schmdt & Orlov, creating the goalie circus) some of your other points are laying blame on Oates that isn’t really his.

    This team has played down to weak competition for years, this is not new to Oates and speaks more to the players attitudes than anything else.

    Failed to analyze his team, how has he done any worse than Hunter, who forced a team that was built to score into the most boring shell of a team with it’s best scorer on the bench when one more goal would have iced the game? Hunter’s results were not good enough either.

    Whether players (ex: Holtby, Clazner, etc) have regressed or are just having a bad season will be clarified next season. However, it is possible that Holtby just hit a wall and for the first time in his career had a crisis of confidence that he has to learn to deal with, and that Calzner are feeling the pressure of being the only consistent D-men in the lineup?

    All your points could be argued from either side yet despite your headline your only purpose was to propose that Oates be fired. You forget that he is coaching an incomplete roster that was not of his making and has a GM who while seems adept at assembling a core for a rebuild is unable to take the next steps to improve the team. GM has consistently refused to trade his “core” players even when an upgrade was warranted and instead just tinkered with the lineup, stocking up on dime-a-dozen type players.

    I don’t hate GMGM, or the job he has done, but it is time for a change, for someone who is a finisher. I also don’t think a quick fire of Oates is the answer, he is the 3rd coach in 4 seasons and none have fared well enough, and while we hear ” you can’t fire all the players so you have to fire the coach” every season, this year it is time to start “firing” the players. Get in some guys that know you have to fight harder with a 2 goal lead, that the PK takes more effort than 5-on-5; players who don’t love to win but players who absolutely HATE to lose.

  • Q

    Get ready for the first narrative from the media when/if Oates is fired. “Ovi – Coach Killer.”

  • GMGM=DADA

    None of the coaching staff has experience that we have always needed….please bring in a coach/staff who has coached a NHL team before and NOT played on the Caps.

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

    I don’t see how 3000 words after 100 games is either oversimplified over kneejerk.

    > how has he done any worse than Hunter

    He hasn’t. Hunter was god awful, Oates is demigod awful.

    > Whether players (ex: Holtby, Clazner, etc) have regressed or are just having a bad season will be clarified next season.

    Fair point on Holtby. With Alzner and Carlson, there’s a clear trend with a big enough sample to show a decline.

    > You forget that he is coaching an incomplete roster that was not of his making

    I did not forget this. I mentioned this many times. I also think this roster is good enough to make the playoffs.

    Your conclusion about wanting bigger actions than just firing a coach is fine. I think firing the coach is the simplest and most evidence-based thing they could do, and they should do it first. Other stuff is more complicated, and we’ll talk about it in due time.

  • PastaBowl

    Fair enough Peter, to be honest I don’t follow you enough to know how you felt about Oates at the begging of the season, so perhaps you have wanted a coaching change all along. However, I still think firing Oates is an easy way out, and it may not even end up better. Firing Hanlon and getting BB worked, but firing BB didn’t work out, as we agree, Hunter didn’t work out, and look around the league the results of firing the coach are mixed. The Caps management has spent 5 years putting new paint on crumbling walls and it is time to replace the walls. If Oates goes, so be it, but he is not the weakest link in the chain so he shouldn’t be cut loose unless everyone before him is cut loose at the same time.

  • Bugs Fire

    You must have missed the part where I characterize my theory as completely baseless conjecture. Conspiracy theories need no reason.

    I am sorry if you were misled thinking that I was serious. The “Caps win the Cup” line must have being a giveaway. This group cannot win the Cup (although they should be able to make it to division finals at least).

    But I invite everyone to come up with the explanation as to why Oates made all these dumb, dumb decisions. I presented the evil genius theory. Some people think he is clueless clown. Is there middle-of-the-road explanation?

  • Bugs Fire

    I agree that Penner>Erat (at least because Penner scored a real goal for Caps, right?). But it’s still true that Grabovski/Kuznetsov deployment was/is reasonable, while Erat/Penner were/are buried.

    By the way, this reminds us there is another flaw in Oates’ system – he seems to despise all the net-crashing activities (hunt for rebounds, screen the goalie, clear your crease). So expect Penner to continue to be misused. Latest word is that in two hours pancakes will be on the who-knows-what-number-that-is line with Kuzya and Wilson. And Beagle and Johansson are now reassigned to ruin whatever momentum Brouwer had. Whatever.

    Eh, go Caps?

  • Bugs Fire

    Dale Hunter was obviously a temporary solution.

    Maybe they should try to look for someone who never wore Caps jersey. (Curious – Hanlon is listed on NHL.com as Caps player in 2002, although with no games played)

  • Eric Schulz

    Yes; I didn’t disagree with the main thrust of your argument, just that those guys aren’t on the same level…
    Also.. I totally get why people are down on MoJo, but I remember how solid he was as a rookie (playing both ends), and the stick skills he has flashed. He’s having a bad year (or two), doesn’t mean that he’s not a good player. My theory: while he has the SKILLS and TALENT to be a nice complement to the top line of Backstrom and Ovie, for whatever reason, he doesn’t have the attitude/makeup to do it (I prefer a bit more of a grinder-type, honestly, like Penner, of course… who’s not just a good fit because he’s on the team, but a great example because I’ve been able to watch him more than other guys I could throw out there, like Dustin Brown, Milan Lucic, Ryan Smyth, Gabriel Landeskog, and some more, but a guy *like* Johansson could still make it work). I think maybe he is stretched being asked to fill-in-the-blanks for those two, and so he’s constantly thinking. That’s why I’d prefer giving him his own line: preferably play him at center and surround him with guys that will complement *him,* and allow him to play his game. The PERFECT scenario presented itself when Grabo got hurt… now, I know ya’ll would just hate to break up Chimera – Fehr – Ward, but I really think we need to better use our talent; worry less about handedness, but more about CENTERS:
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Brouwer
    Penner – Johansson – Fehr
    Kuznetsov – Latta – Wilson
    Chimera – Brown – Ward
    or something like that…maybe swap Penner and Kuznetsov, I’d love either of those line combinations.. could easily have top line of
    Penner – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    then put together the kid line of
    Kuznetsov – Johansson – Wilson
    and finish with, oh
    Fehr – Latta – Brouwer, and
    Chimera – Brown – Ward

  • Dino

    Yea he is….a Defenseman HAS to have a physical presence on the ice….He is the ONLY one that does

  • Dino

    I know of two season tickets that are available next year

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

    Noooooooooooo they don’t

  • Brian

    Oates telling GMGM that MP85 didn’t fit in the system. And leaving Oleksy in Hershey after he played well for the first half the season.

  • Fat Clemenza

    Probably a good article but who really cares about the Caps? Trade Ovie, never been and never will be a team player, and rebuild.

  • Scoops

    Came back to re-read this again with Trotz’s hiring… STILL. SO. EPIC. Praise JESUS that Goates has been replaced by a legitimate coach!!!