Fates of McPhee, Oates lie in hands of Leonsis

Fates of McPhee, Oates lie in hands of Leonsis
April 14, 2014, 3:00 pm
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(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

The fates of Capitals general manager George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates apparently will hinge on meetings this week with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and club vice chairman, chief operating officer and president Dick Patrick.

According to an email from a Capitals spokesperson, McPhee met with Leonsis and Patrick on Monday morning and will do so again later this week or next.

Oates said he has not yet spoken with Leonsis and was unsure if a meeting will be requested, but made it clear he wants to fulfill the final year of his three-year contract.

“Me and my staff, we really enjoy coaching here and love coaching the guys,” Oates. “I feel we started a little process in terms of what we want from them and how they have to improve. I think we’ve got to improve.  Of course I want to coach the guys, but whatever happens, hey, whatever’s best for the organization, that’s fine.”

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McPhee, who is in the final year of his contract, said he planned on speaking with reporters “in a couple days.”

In two seasons behind the Capitals’ bench Oates has compiled a record of 65-48-17, but, like the three coaches the preceded him, he’s fallen short in his efforts to make the Capitals a Stanley Cup contender.

The Caps concluded the 2013-14 season on Sunday with a 38-30-14 record and 90 points, three behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings.

Oates said he conducted a few exit interviews with players on Monday and would like to speak with each of them before they leave the Washington area for the summer. He added he did not know if McPhee was also meeting with his players.

“Some of the decisions are above me and I haven’t been told either way,” Oates said.

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Oates said there are improvements he can make as a head coach, but said he does not believe he falls into the category of a successful assistant coach that cannot be successful as a head coach.

“I know every position,” he said. “I know how to talk to the players. I know how to instruct. I know how to show video. I know how to run a bench.”

Oates said he thought his team was “disconnected” in the way they played at times and pointed to a revolving door of 14 defensemen as one significant reason why.

Oates said he and McPhee agreed last summer that the Capitals needed a top-four defenseman but recognized the fact they were not in abundance.

“You’re a little handcuffed, but so what,” he said. “Everybody is. But you know what? The show goes on.”

Oates said he did not see his communication with McPhee as an issue this season, saying they spoke every single day. He said Marty Erat requested to be traded on “Day One” and later made that request public.

“That put George in a tough position. That had nothing to do with me and George. Nothing.”

Oates said his decision to play left wing Dustin Penner on a fourth line also was not a reflection of what he thought of McPhee’s moves at the trade deadline.

“We brought him in because he was playing for a contract,” Oates said. “Trades affect guys differently. That’s not a disconnect between me and George. I look at that as George trying to improve the team.”

Oates said every NHL team has a different policy on how much influence a coach has on player personnel moves.

“It starts with the top,” Oates said. “I have no problem with my relationship with George. It’s also hard in the salary cap era to find that magic answer. There are not a lot of players out there teams are willing to give without robbing you. Sometimes you’ve got to swallow the sword and say, ‘We’re not going to do anything this year.’

Oates said he believes the Capitals are better than they were when he took over two summers ago “in some categories,” but made it clear where they need to improve.

“We need to get help on the blue line,” Oates said. “If you get a little help for the guys on the blue line, all of a sudden the way we’re playing looks fine.”

Oates said he plans on keeping his assistant coaches for next season.

“I’ll get my feedback from my boss, I’ll pass that along to my assistants and I’ll give my assistants my feedback on them,” Oates said, adding he believes he’s a good communicator.  

“If you ignored someone’s thoughts that would be a mistake,” Oates said. “I really believe in communication. If you’re closed-minded I think that’s a mistake, which I’m not. I’m a very open book.”

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