Oates: Every young athlete dreams of this opportunity
A calm intensity.
Those are the words Capitals general manager George McPhee uses to describe head coach Adam Oates as the 50-year-old Hall of Famer heads into his first Stanley Cup playoff series as a head coach Thursday night [7 p.m., Capitals Central] at Verizon Center.
Those are probably not the words people would use to describe his coaching counterpart for the New York Rangers. Oh, John Tortorella is intense all right. Calm, not so much.
That’s the cool dichotomy of this playoff series.
Tortorella is an emotional tornado -- quick to criticize, slow to praise. Wearing a perpetual playoff beard, he’ll bark and whine and roll his eyes at officials.
Oates tries to be the picture of decorum.
“He’s a pro in every regard,” McPhee said. “The way he works with the media; the way he works with the players; the way he works with our training staff; the way he handles referees; I think the players like that a lot.
“He’s not a screamer. He doesn’t embarrass players. He talks to them. He has this calm intensity about him and he stays that way all season long. He’s the same guy when you’re winning as when you’re losing.”
Oates says he simply treats his players the way he wanted to be treated during his 20-year career, which began in Detroit under head coach Harry Neale in 1985-86. During his playing career, Oates said coaches rarely spoke to players on a daily basis, and certainly not as much as he talks with his players.
“I want to give the players the feeling they can reach out to me and ask me something,” Oates said. “That’s why you’ve got to do your homework. You have to have answers. You can’t just wing it. And I encourage it. I might not be able to answer it right now, but I’ll answer it tomorrow.”
Oates said he doesn’t feel any different entering his first playoff series as a head coach than he did as an assistant the past three seasons in Tampa and New Jersey. He says he has seen NHL coaches win playoff series and his players believe he’s capable of doing it for the Capitals.
“Without a doubt,” fourth-line center Matt Hendricks said. “Definitely. Adam’s a very smart guy and he’s gonna make the adjustments that he sees necessary. He’s been doing that all season and I think we’ve benefited from it.”
Oates said he gives his players an open forum to make suggestions and pointed out a conversation he had with defenseman Mike Green that led to a change in strategy.
Oates opted not to address the coaching style of Tortorella, saying he prepares his team as well as any coach in the NHL.
But unlike Tortorella, you won’t see Oates roasting a player on the bench.
“If I’m not happy with a guy I don’t have to yell at him to let him know,” Oates said. “I can talk to him. He’s still a pro and that’s what we are. It’s a different game than before.”