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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.

May rules.

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  • Henrik

    Imagine having Mike Babcock as the coach… What a guy he is.

  • Jack Conness

    Nice. Alan May was basically spot on with everything. I do enjoy his input.

  • Tadd

    Wow. Thanks a lot Ian!

  • Sam W.

    Thank you, Alan May, you magnificent bastard. Yes, I have a man crush on him.

  • VeggieTart

    I hope I get a chance to listen to this later (can’t do it at work), but clearly he feels free to rip on Oates now that he’s gone.

  • Steven Lemmeyer

    Great breakdown by Alan May. Particularly enjoyed his comments on Trotz. While I think Trotz is a safe move I think it is a smart one as well. He will better our defense, (something the Capitals clearly do not need) and will be grounded as an individual which will rub off on the players. As for the GM, yes please, steal someone from the Bruins, Wings, or some other historically bodacious organization.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja n a

    I always love Alan May’s analysis … I do wonder if he heard the little buzz on NHLLive last night about the possibility of getting Gretzky in as GM. It was just a tiny buzz … but there nonetheless.

  • hess

    i support tominsocal1 100% in that the media in this town have no guts. to call the erat and penner trades “major trades” is playing into ted’s money hungry revenue machine.

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

    Thanks for voicing that disagreement without being a troll.

  • Goat

    Thank you for posting this. I always appreciate his candor and conviction.

  • Fletcher22

    Agreed. More Sky Kerstein, less Mike Vogel.

    Not huge Alan May fan, but he’s right. Wish he would have said it a year ago.

  • hess

    not a problem peter. i wish alan may would had spoken up before these changes were made. let’s just hope pocket$ (ted) will hire some NHL folks with proven success and a coach willing to show any player the pressbox if that player isn’t buying in.

  • DashingDave314

    And right before #AlanMayDay too!

  • bggb

    The point about maximizing talent is especially true, is a hallmark of good coaches in any sport, and is supremely damning for Oates.

    It’s a very effective and simple way to evaluate coaches:

    Are they maximizing players’ abilities or putting them in unsuitable situations?
    Are they making their players better or worse?

    Oates might be a decent HC one day. But his tenure in DC was a dumpster fire of bad coaching and confused players.

  • hess

    hey fletch, it looks like sky is the voice for many capitals fans that wanted change for years now. i will follow his reporting from here on out.

  • holla

    It feels to me that something is really wrong with this franchise. I’ve listened through most of the exit interviews and I have a feeling that everyone was pulling in its own direction, the coaching staff, players, gm and ted.
    Alan wasn’t this bold while managing staff was in town, but that is understandable. I really hope that change for the better is coming, and not some other former superstar player to keep the seats packed!

  • Austin Baird

    Thanks for this, I haven’t been listening to EITM lately

  • Igor Kleyner

    Good answers all, but one question still not asked… Art museum, or Arboretum?

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

    We’ve banned commenters for less.

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

    I’ve listened every day since 1999.

  • Igor Kleyner

    Escape goat saddled up and ready!

  • Austin Baird

    My tastes on what to listen to in the morning change constantly (read every few days). Sometimes it’s Elliot, sometimes it’s WTOP, occasionally its BIG 100.3, and other times I just need to listen to some music off of my phone. I’ve also done audio books, but not for the past few months

  • Lawrence
  • Topher Gee

    I think i forgot to include Alan May in line for the next head coach.

  • http://pucknhockey.com Eric Rigsby

    I still want someone who mentions Oates’ 5v5 system to actually whiteboard “the system” and explain it. If they can, they should be the next head coach.

  • Catherine__M

    I don’t usually drive to work (which is the only time I’d be able to listen) but one summer I drove every day and I swear one of the guys quit right there on the air. Do you remember that? They were teasing him like they always did and he was suddenly like THAT’S IT! Gone! Was that for real or did it turn out to be a joke?
    That is my main memory of EITM. I wish I could find a recording of it.

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

    I think that was Craig, their old producer.

  • OlietheGoalie

    I love that man.

  • OlietheGoalie

    “He will better our defense, (something the Capitals clearly do not need)”

    I think you didn’t mean to add the “not” in there.

  • Justin Siegel

    Obviously a complete hypothetical, but if this Caps team entered the season with Babcock and Ken Holland at GM, even with the roster as it stood on opening night, I think they easily contend for top spot in the metro division. The way Babcock maximized the talent of basically an AHL roster is exactly the opposite of what Oates did.

  • Steven Lemmeyer

    Olie, I did in fact mean to put ‘not’ in there…the lack of sarcasm font attacks again!

  • Catherine__M

    I get the feeling that Chris said “major acquisitions” in the last article as major….for GMGM. Not “major” on a league-wide scale, obviously, but for him and this team those were some of the bigger deals to happen in a while (and Erat in particular was not without controversy).

    Now…obviously that’s a problem. That Erat and Penner are some of the bigger things to come out of that office in years…big problem. (I’m under the impression that Grabo landed in GMGM’s lap. I could be wrong, but that’s how it reads to me). Thanks to Katie’s recent candid take-down, we have an idea as to why he wasn’t bringing in big deals (Caps are not on any major player’s with NTC’s list because of GMGM). Which is one of the many reasons that it is good that he’s gone, as long as he’s replaced by someone who is more better able to make deals, does not alienate potential players and who can work with the coaching staff and not independently of them.

    Regardless, Chris’s point was that when the coach basically refuses to use two of the bigger players the GM has managed to grab, there is obvious and destructive dysfunction.

  • Manda

    I saw that, too and then EJ’s nod to Dale Hunter as well.

    P.S. Peter, this is totally out there, but what are your thoughts on Guy Boucher and Caps coach? I know he is in Swtizerland, but hypothetically what are your thoughts? Thank you!

  • Lynn Christian Regert

    i want him as the next coach!!…love me some may day!!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Chris Gordon

    Yes. I’m rather confused about how this has become A Thing. I didn’t mean that they were elite players, just that those were the two biggest pieces he got via trade and the coach didn’t use him. I’ve never been a homer with this team and I think we’re reading a little too much into things.

  • LebCapsFan

    No No No. Not Boucher, his trap, or his 1-3-1. I’m not totally sold on Trotz either. If that’s the case, why not bring DH32 back? I’d go with Laviolette in a heartbeat.

  • JH

    Dear Capitals organization: Please consult Alan May before making any decisions on GM and coach. Not kidding. At all. The man speaks the truth.

  • LebCapsFan

    Agree with the Sky thing, if only he’d focus more (solely) on Caps and less on other DC teams…

  • LebCapsFan

    Yes, but he needs to start coaching someplace else first, work his way to assistant coach and then head coach… The dude does know his hockey though.

  • VeggieTart

    Boucher did say, however, that he didn’t believe in coaching a “system” but in coaching the players. I appreciated the sentiment. It sounds like he thinks a coach should work WITH the players’ abilities. The 1-3-1 worked for Tampa, but something else might work here, so he may try something else.

  • 5manfront

    May can go off on crazy tangents and rants that have no semblance in reality… and then, just when you least expect it, he becomes insightful and concise and hits the nail right on the head like he does right here. Should be a very interesting next few months…

  • Darla Doxstater

    Can we *please* get MarJo off the top line? Can we *please* find a Selanne-type opposite winger for Ovi?

  • Lawrence

    With this roster (less so now then in the past but still) we need an offensive system. There is no reason that they couldn’t improve defensively next year with a more offensive minded coach than Oates. They desperately need to make improvements in the roster on defense, that alone will increase the team’s defense a lot. But no, imo, Boucher would not be a good coach.

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

    I like Boucher more than others. Yes, he did have a trap. He also employed an aggressive two-man forecheck at other times.

    But I don’t wanna handicap the coaching pool or anything. I’m just gonna sit back and hate whomever they end up choosing.

  • Graham Dumas

    Punch and counter-punch. That is SUCH great analysis of where this team has failed over the past few years. Look no further than Oates’s signature achievement: the 1-3-1 power play. It was so devastating when it first came out, and even now it strikes when hot; but teams on the PK figured it out, they figured out where Ovi was going to be and that, more likely than not, the puck was going to him. We had zero answer to shutting down Ovi, zero cycle game on the PP, until pretty late in the season (and even then it was anemic). Spot on, Alan May.

    So when does your coaching contract begin?

  • Jay S.

    Is this a job interview for head coach???

  • M Taylor

    Please?

  • M Taylor

    I wish people would step off Marcus, or am I the only one who noticed the “top” line sported 2 centers the majority of the season? And I want to say that was AO’s attempt to shore up defensively.

  • dcv

    Please no more Caps alums for coach. Even May is asking for an outsider to come in as well as someone with real NHL coaching experience, both of which rule him out.

  • Shayne Cole

    Next time compliment him on his Enrique Iglesias impersonation FTW.

  • Shayne Cole

    Every time someone digs up that photo of Gretz with the boss at the booth this rumor restarts.

  • Jon A

    I don’t really ever watch playoff basketball, but I’ve been watching the Wizards this year. They, arguably have a similar player make up as the Caps. A mix of vets and young guys. The difference maker is the coach. He’s telling the players to go out and play aggressive and take what they want by force if necessary. None of this “shooting from the outside is okay as long as we’re trying to shoot” crap. And it’s working for the Wizards too.

  • Jon A

    Also, Alan May is the man. He’s right on. Great interview and article guys.

  • kyle boyd

    there’s no doubt in my mind that Oates will make a good HC someday, just not with us. he’s a smart man, and i don’t believe he has he arrogance to be incapable of introspection. in the months that follow now that he’s looking for a job and updating his resume, he’ll start thinking about where he went wrong and how he can do better. the frustrating part of this season in my eyes was how simple the issues were. holtby for example. all it took was oates green-lighting holtby to return to his aggressive style, and we had our starter back. if he stopped tinkering with the lineup, and stopped thinking so outrageously out of the box, i think he’d be every bit as good a coach as BB was for us.

  • Jon A

    Seriously! You’re dead on, JH! They should make him the hiring consultant for coach and GM. Imagine how tough the Caps would be if he was even Assistant Coach.

  • kyle boyd

    i’ll take Alan May, president of hockey operations

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

    I’m sad this comment didn’t get a reply of:

    CHRIS GORDON IS A LYING LIAR & HE’S SIPPING THAT CAPS KOOLAID FROM UNCLE TED.

  • Capper63

    A very interesting interview. Thanks for providing it.

  • Eric Schulz

    Well, to be fair, they were major trades, especially the Erat trade.. it was just a horrible one. It will have repercussions for years to come though, as Forsberg develops into nearly a point-per-game player (I’d bet that, in his prime, he gets something like 210 points over a 3 year span, and that he’s consistently above 60 points). Getting a prospect like that for an old, overpaid, disgruntled winger is quite the feat. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of it.

  • Harjot Singh

    Alan May woulda a perfect assistant coach. He’s probably a better coach then Oatsey

  • Barrett

    Adam Oates would miss the playoffs even if he coached the 1990′s NHL All-Decade team.

  • Michael Uzenko

    and who is Alan May? Lousy player, lousy media guy.

  • Bugs Fire

    Agree. HC should know how to adapt to what your opponent will do. Ovie has been around for 9 years, it is indictment to Caps organization that the team still has no plan on what to do when whoever is Rangers coach at the time unleashes Girardi/Macdonagh on him.

  • Bugs Fire

    I think May’s comment on Mike Green neatly emphasizes the coaching problems Caps had. Yes, Green is not stay-at-home blueliner. But I find it slightly objectionable when some act as if #52 personally assured them that he is the second coming of Zdeno Chara. If Green and his offence first mentality no longer fits “the system”, then trade him. If you won’t or can’t trade him, change your system so that it *maximizes your roster”. There is no excuse for a coach to put his enigmatic and apparently unworkable “system” before team’s success.

    A head coach, given enough time and proper roster moves by GM, can build a team that fits a particular system. But I’d rather have someone who looks at the roster he got and designs the best system for the players he has. Oates tried to make every individual player better instead by making them explore new areas and changing their sticks (minus Erat and Penner, of course, who never got to do anything). I say such experimentation should be limited to one player at a time. This ain’t fantasy hockey, you got games to win. This roster is better than zero points in eleven games combined against Sens/Stars/Pens/Avs.

    Second half of Boudreau and Hunter had the same issue. It’s possible that some fault here is with GM (leaning on BB after Montreal and hiring Hunter), but we can expect nothing but failure when team is coached to what the coach things it should be, not to what it is.

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    And who are you?

    May’s opinion has value, yours does not.

  • tnc

    what? you must be hallucinating!

  • jeffreyD

    Alan May is the man! I’m sure it must have been hard to bite his tongue all season, but I agree I am so glad Oates is gone. Love his comment about Oates not having that “counter-punch” once teams figured out what they were doing.

    So glad he is gone.

  • Emily Casto

    Agree with JH 100%. If we can’t have him as head coach or GM, then make Alan May a Caps’ Special Advisor to Uncle Ted or something like that. He obviously knows the game and this team inside and out; bring him in as an official part of the organization’s leadership.

  • Guest

    A good coach is savvy enough to recognize each player’s strengths and work with that player to maximize those strengths, while addressing anything that is a weakness (an actual weakness, not just a difference in playing style). I’ve been on my soapbox yelling that all year, and Alan May addressed it perfectly.

    Oates went in to the locker room with the conviction that what had worked for him as a player should be implemented across the board. Take the straight stick for an example. Sure, as a former player, you can and should present that as something that improved your puck handling and made your shot angles more difficult to read by opposing goalies as something that worked for YOU. If this fits a player’s style and will play toward his strengths, you work with him to fine-tune the technique. wants to develop the technique that’s been presented, the coach should work with him to fine-tune it. instead of trying to mold them into what has worked for you while steering them as a team

  • Guest

    Alan echoed that sentiment as well, and I’ve been on my soap box yelling the same thing about Oates. Just because a certain style of play worked for you on the ice doesn’t mean that it’s the best style for each player on your team. Oates’ straight stick may have improved his puck-handling and given him an edge by making his shots harder to anticipate by opposing goalies, but it won’t fit into each player’s strengths.

    You have to have the ability as a coach to recognize each player’s strengths, work with him to maximize and fine-tune those strengths. You and your coaching staff also need to be able to differentiate between a player’s unique style (i.e. Holtby’s style and Olie’s “correction”, which backfired and almost broke Holtby’s confidence in his own approach to goaltending) and actual areas of weakness that must be addressed and corrected.

    You have effective lines and on-ice approach to the game. You also have to be

  • Emily Casto

    Take each player’s strengths, work with him to fine-tune them, then determine your team’s “style”. Also, know the difference between a player’s unique style of play and a deficiency that needs to be corrected (i.e. Holtby and Ollie). Your team “approach” should be a direct reflection of the skillful pairings of players with complimentary strengths and should be displayed on the ice though your game-day lines.

  • VeggieTart

    I think we’re both on the same page in that respect. I’m sure I’ve said more than once or twice that a coach works WITH a player’s abilities and tries to fine-tune any weaknesses rather than force a player into a style that doesn’t suit him. Holtby’s playing style wasn’t a weakness; his SV% before last season testifies to that. I only hope that he can regain his confidence and become the elite goalie he was before.