What will the Capitals playing style be like under new coach Adam Oates and assistants Calle Johansson and Tim Hunter?
You may have to take a road trip on the scenic Catoctin Mountain Highway Route 15 North to find the answer.
When Oates and his coaching staff agreed to George McPhees suggestion to assist the Hershey Bears coaching staff during the NHL lockout, it required a melding of coaching minds.
Oates, a 19-year veteran of the NHL and Hockey Hall of Famer in waiting, will share his philosophies with Mark French, a career minor leaguer entering his fourth year behind the bench of the Bears. What kind of hockey will the two minds create?
Immediately with Adam youre going to get his views and opinions on how he wants to play, French said. He asked us if we wanted to play the same system. Two things play into it. I think, yes, its important because of the up and down movement of players from the AHL to the NHL. But we also believe in the same philosophies and that makes it an easier sell.
So what are the philosophies Oates will impart on French and Bears assistant Troy Mann?
Theres still going to be a premium placed on the defensive side and the unselfish type of hockey that really made an impression on a lot of people last year, especially during the playoffs, French said.
But when you have the puck theres a time to attack and do it with a lot of pace and tempo and with some creativity. I talked with Oates and thats where he wants to go. Well certainly encourage that.
Last season, French adopted the same playing style of former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and stuck with it throughout the season, even after Dale Hunter was hired in late November and installed a defense-first system.
Even though there were significant changes in the way the team played up there we werent advised to change, French said. They wanted to stay with it midstream. I think its better when the two teams can mirror each other and I think were getting back into that mode.
This season, the Bears will play Adam Oates hockey, which requires French to alter many of Boudreaus systems but he says thats fine with him.
It forces us to change, he said. There are one or two things that are different for Troy and me. They are small things, but in a coach world theyre big things. But I think change is good and it forces us to be better as coaches.