Oates named new Capitals coach
It was a day Adam Oates likely never will forget.
The Washington Capitals on Tuesday hired Oates as the team's new coach. Hours later, he was announced as one of the newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Not a bad day," he said after receiving his Hall of Fame call. "I haven't had too many days like this in my career."
Oates will be introduced as the Caps' new coach at a press conference Wednesday. He replaces Dale Hunter, who chose not to return to the team after Washington was eliminated in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We are very pleased to name Adam Oates as the new head coach of the Washington Capitals," Capitals GM George McPhee said. "Adam was a highly intelligent player in the NHL for 19 seasons. He has been an assistant coach in our conference for the past three seasons and is prepared to lead our club as head coach."
Oates never has been a head coach at the professional level. Last season was his second with the Devils, and he worked as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2009-10 season.
"It's something that he wanted and I'm just glad it worked out for him," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told The (Bergen) Record. "He's been great for us, solid in every way and it's a great opportunity for him. We're totally supportive of it."
Oates is the fifth straight coach hired by McPhee who had no previous experience as an NHL head coach, a list that includes Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau and Hunter.
Oates' main job with New Jersey was running the team's power play, and that unit made great strides in 2011-12. In 2010-11, the Devils' power play was 28th in the League at 14.4 percent; last season it improved to 14th, succeeding at a 17.2-percent clip.
"Obviously he knows the game very well, he understands it very well," Devils forward Dainius Zubrus told the Washington Times. "Honestly there's no reason for me to think he's not going to do well. All the stuff that he worked with the players here and the stuff he was trying to teach and the way he was approaching this, it was great.
"I think he’s going to do well. I really enjoyed working with him the last few years. I know he helped me a lot with different stuff. A lot of times we'd go after games and go through some video and things like that. I thought his input was very good."
The Capitals finished seventh in the Eastern Conference this past season with 92 points, but they upset the Boston Bruins in the first round and took the New York Rangers to a seventh game before losing in the second round.
They had their most success under defensive-minded Hunter, but with top-flight offensive talents Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, it will be interesting to see if Oates pushes the tempo similar to when Boudreau was in charge.
Offense never was an issue for Oates during his 19-season NHL career with seven teams -- including parts of six seasons with the Capitals. His 1,079 assists are sixth all-time in League history, and his 1,420 points are 16th.
Those numbers were enough to earn Oates induction into the Hall of Fame, along with Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.
McPhee reportedly had narrowed his final list to Oates, former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland and Jon Cooper, coach of the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.
McPhee wouldn't comment on his final list when asked about the coaching situation at the NHL Draft last week, but said he was very happy with how the process had gone.
"I can pick any of them and I think we'll be in good shape," he said. "They're really good candidates. The hard part is picking the best one or the best fit because they're all terrific. I've really enjoyed meeting these people and spending time with them. They're really good."