Adam Oates may be the third Capitals coach in two seasons, but thanks to an approachable and positive coaching style, he's quickly endeared himself to his players in a way that his predecessors hadn't.
Despite a rough start that left the Caps at a sub-par 10-13-1 through the first half of the abbreviated season, Oates kept an even keel with his players. Instead of harping on mistakes, Oates pointed out the things they were doing right as well.
"Adam did a good job of keeping it positive, really positive for the first bit, which helped us a lot. A lot of guys were struggling, really struggling, including myself," said Jason Chimera, who after playing under Oates' predecessors Dale Hunter and Bruce Boudreau, scored the fewest goals (3) of any of his professional seasons this year.
"The way he handled it was surprising to all of us when we were going through it," said Jay Beagle, who also played under both Hunter and Boudreau. "Just how positive he was and how he'd work through a video not always showing negative clips and showing positive clips when we'd lose a game. Not many coaches do that.
The positive reinforcement in the locker room was apparently a refreshing departure for players, as was the open line of communication, something that was at times rare last season.
"He's a coach who likes to communicate and not scream," explained NHL vet Mike Ribeiro. "Nowadays players are looking for a players' coach and a coach who can talk to you and be normal and respect you and I think Oates did that with everyone."
"I think he instilled a lot of confidence in the guys to play the game with a little bit of swagger and compete," said Joel Ward. "I think a lot of guys relaxed a bit more once they got the system down. You can tell that guys were just playing with more confidence and it showed when we started winning games."
Not that is was all sunshine in Oates' room. With their rocky start, Oates clearly had plenty of corrections to make while implementing his system in a compressed schedule.
His players appreciated the level of accountability in the locker room, and it was the tone of those conversations that carried the Capitals through lows and highs under Oates.
"You develop a relationship with a positive guy like that," said Steve Oleksy, who at 27, finally broke into the NHL this season. "When he tells the guys we need to fix something in a positive manner everybody knows we need to fix something. To be honest as a player, I know that works better than any other method. I've had a lot of coaches and I think that positivity carries throughout the room and it trickles down. I think that's why we had such a positive group in there and we had such great chemistry throughout the whole time I was here and in the playoffs.
"When you have a coach that's very positive and takes the time in teaching you things and making sure you do it right too, not just telling you and letting you try to figure it out on your own but staying on you and making sure it becomes a habit, it definitely helps you play with more confidence and feel comfortable," said Oleksy.