On Monday, CRL host and beer aficionado Alan May went on Elliot in the Morning to discuss all the recent hubbub regarding the Capitals.
May, who’s not really reserved when on TV, released the kraken on Adam Oates. It’s almost like he’s been waiting months to say this.
Were you surprised that both McPhee and Oates were fired?
Really in my opinion, Adam Oates should been fired way before this and I was very relieved to see that he wouldn’t be back to be the coach.
Why don’t you think Oates should be here?
Well I just look at it. It was always “the system, the system,” [as an excuse] a year ago. It was proved this year. Everyone’s throwing daggers at Ovechkin for being minus-37 or whatever it was, and with other players. But the five-on-five system did not work that he had. It was a non-physical, non-compete system. It was skate around, take ice away, but we see in these playoffs how physical and how violent — how much physical interaction there is — and [Oates' system] wasn’t any of that. And you look at all of the bad stats. They were shutout six times at Verizon Center this year, all the two-goal leads [they wasted]. They never won a game where they didn’t score more than two goals. It was very upsetting to me to watch a team that has a lot of toughness and a lot of grit on it not be able to be used. I don’t care who was on defense of the 14 guys, there’s a better system to play than that. The players will do whatever you tell them. To me it looked more like a power play team than anything else and it got hard to stomach.
As the year went on, it got too hard to watch all the time. I take a boatload of [grief] from a bunch of guys around the league. Former players, guys that I know that are coaching, scouts, management, and they all say, “what is wrong with that team? They’re so much better than that.” But I think it was the system. It’s just not the right way to play hockey or the correct way to play hockey in my opinion.
Did George just accumulate the wrong players after having so many different coaches?
Every coach now has a different style. I used to say with the coaches I had, “it’s a different face in the same horrible suit.” At least now guys have a style and a way that they do things but the number one thing you have to be, regardless — every coach is going to have different systems and styles — is you have to be a great leader, and you have to have a knowledge of the game. At the same time you’ve gotta learn. I look at Mike Babcock in Detroit. This guy is a trendsetter. He continually evolves as a coach. He always has a counter punch. My friend Glen Gulutzan in Dallas, he’s coached here the last few years and he’s an assistant in Vancouver now. He didn’t have a counter punch. Oates didn’t have a counter punch. When people figure out what they’re doing, they didn’t have a counter punch. You’ve gotta have a coach, regardless of the system, that’s able to counter the other team when they figure out what his team is doing.
The players can adapt to anything. If you’re talented enough to be in the National Hockey League, you’ll do whatever your coach tells you, you’ll play the system that they want. Players crave to be taught the right way to play, or a new way, or how to be successful. And I think the number one thing — getting back to “all these voices” — the number one thing that has to change on the Capitals is the tone and the attitude has to change from the players, coaching, management. It’s all gotta change for the better. It’s gotta be back from finger-pointing to guys looking in the mirror and they gotta accept they’re doing the best they can and support their teammates. And you have to have that attitude of “we’re in this together.”
This year, I’ve heard it more than I’ve ever had since working for this team. It was fractured in the dressing room, and I think that stemmed from the coach.
How much did those Ovechkin and Halak comments contribute to that?
I’m going to give you a project for the next month. Try to find me a Scotty Bowman clip where he rips one of his players or singles out his players negatively in the media. You won’t find it. Go back to the 1960’s and look back at the microfilm, and see if you can find a Scottie Bowman quote in St. Louis, Montreal, Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, you won’t find it. I don’t believe you can do that. I don’t believe you should do that. If you don’t want your players to attack you in the media, if you don’t want to fight there, you shouldn’t go there yourself. To me it’s absolutely wrong. You speak in blankets when talking about your players. I just don’t think it’s right.
The things that were said about Mike Green on the last day, Monday, April 14th. Him being “enigmatic.” I believe when you have a guy that plays like Mike Green does, you unleash him and set him free. You don’t make Ovechkin a shot blocker. You don’t tie Mike Green to your net and tell him to cross-check everyone in the face. You gotta get him playing to the utmost of his ability.
The players are there, they’re drafted for certain reasons, they’re traded there for certain reasons. You take what they do, let them excel at that and add to the different parts of their game. I’m just not a fan of guys finger-pointing like that.
May goes on to say that he believes the Caps need a proven coach at the NHL level to eliminate excuse-making and that whoever becomes the new general manager will make his mark on the team immediately — as soon as the NHL draft in June. This is a fantastic, insightful interview which every Caps fan should listen to.