Adam Oates unplugged: Tapping into Ovi

Adam Oates unplugged: Tapping into Ovi
September 28, 2012, 12:04 pm
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With the NHL lockout delaying the start of training camp and threatening the Oct. 11 start of the regular season, Capitals coach Adam Oates took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview with CSNWashington.com Insider Chuck Gormley.In the fourth and final part of the interview, Oates shares his thoughts on Alex Ovechkin, the pressures of winning and what he sees as the future of the Capitals. To read Part One, click here. To read Part Two click here. To read Part Three click here.
CSN: Is there one attribute, in your opinion, that makes a successful coach?
Adam Oates: Theres no perfect formula. I think the hardest thing would be coaching a player who thinks hes bigger than the game and we dont have anybody like that here. At the end of the day, I want to be a communicator. I want the guys to understand this is the way were going to play, this is how you can fit into it and this is how you can succeed. Youre going to be allowed feedback to a point. And everybodys different. A guy whos a 20-year pro is different than a one-year pro.

Lets talk about Ovi. You probably heard a lot about him before coming here ...
Of course. Watched him a lot.

You said when you were hired you didnt know him that well.
No.

When he was here a few weeks ago he said he spent about three hours with you. What was that like?
It was great. We talked hockey. We talked life. I told him what I expect from him, what Im going to be for him. I think hell like the way we play and we just talked.

Was your perception of him before you talked any different than it is after spending some time with him?
No. The perception I had of him as a fan and coaching against him is also the best thing Ive always liked about him. Yeah, he likes to score goals, but he looks really happy when someone else scores. I think hes been great for the game, I really do. I think hes a very good player, a great player in this league.

Last season Ovi faced a lot of criticism. His offensive numbers 38 goals, 65 points were down; people said he wasnt enjoying the game as much. But George McPhee says he was physically dominant in that Boston series. How would you judge his game?
I think theres lots of ways to judge his game. Thats one of the things that make him special, his physical ability. Youve got to factor in systems. Mike Green and Nick Backstrom were hurt for a lot of the year, so theres some production loss right there. I also think he scored a lot of goals in a league where its tough to score right now. Can he score more? Sure. Does everybody play to their best caliber every year? No. Hes what, an eight-year pro now? I mean, nobody lights it up every single year. Can he improve? Sure.

What are ways you think he can improve?
I think everybody can improve all the time. I really dont want to talk about specific players. Our conversation was private and Im going to keep it that way.

Fair enough. Lets go back to when you retired as a player in 2004. You moved back to California Palm Springs and you still have a home there, right?The last couple years of my career I decided I was going to retire there and I built a house there. I wasnt sure what I was going to do with hockey, if anything at all at that time. Then I got the call from former Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet in 2009 to come check out Tampa and I was ready and I said sure.

What did you do during those five years after retiring?
Played golf, enjoyed life.

Did you feel anything was missing?
No. I was enjoying life, seeing family, seeing friends. I watched a lot of hockey, I was still a fan, of the playoffs especially.

Were you happy to get the call to get into coaching?I was happy, sure. Tock is a good friend of mine and I went to camp without a contract. I got the job offer, I took it and I really enjoyed it. More than I thought I would.

In what ways?
I really enjoyed trying to pass the knowledge along. I thought I could teach more in the NHL and I still think that now. I think a lot of people think you cant teach in the NHL. I disagree. Im hoping to teach Nick, Ovi, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson. I think I can teach Mike Green something. Why not?

Is that why youve broken down so much tape of every player? I think as a coach you have to be careful about it. But Ive been watching a lot of tape of systems, individual players and mannerisms and thats how I view myself as a coach.

A lot of times thats the role of an assistant coach. Whats the biggest adjustment from going from an assistant to a head coach?
You dont have the same time, but you also have more authority.

Is there anything about this job youre not looking forward to? Dealing with the media, maybe?
No. Im not worried about that. Im not perfect, nobodys perfect. Ill make mistakes. We all do.

Does it feel different being back here or is it a lot the same?
Oh no, its very different. A hundred percent different.

How?
Were on a different side of town in Arlington. I never even came to this side of town. Even coming as a visiting coach its different. It feels different. It feels more pro, more real. More like you can win the Cup. I think the fans help that. I think the city helps that. The culture, the pressure, the

Expectations?
Yes, yes.

Do you think that is important for a team?
I think so. Theres a pressure there. I think thats healthy. Can it get crazy? Sure. I think its a good pressure. I played on two original six teams Detroit and Boston and I played in Philly and the pressure of playing in those cities is different. I think you can measure yourself based on that. Its a healthy pressure. Its like when your dad comes and watches you play, its a good pressure. You want to play in front of your dad. In original six cities its every night. Go play in the Boston Garden, its there every night. Yankees-Red Sox. Theres a reason its a rivalry. Montreal Canadiens, its almost crazy there. Toronto, crazy. I think here were still growing and its great to see, because going from Boston to here as a player in 1997 it was missing. Its been created here and it starts with Ted Leonsis.