When Capitals coach Adam Oates met with reporters last week following his team’s first-round elimination by the New York Rangers, the pain of having his first season as an NHL head coach end with a lopsided Game 7 defeat to the New York Rangers was evident.
In Part One of the interview Oates discusses his thoughts on the season, the psyche of his players and the importance of Stanley Cup playoff experience.
On his evaluation of this season:
I think it’s still a pretty short time to answer the questions. I think over the course of the summer you’re going to think about a lot of little things and evaluate yourself and try and think of mistakes and what you could have done better. All the little things. I just talked to the players. It’s a hard thing. Two days you’re playing in a very important game. Four days ago we’re jumping o Mike Ribeiro’s back after a big goal [in Game 5] and all of a sudden we have to flip a switch today and talk about next year. It doesn’t seem like it’s an appropriate amount of time to make that switch. I went through it as a player and I never liked that day because you lay it on the line for so long and you put so much into it that it seems weird to talk so soon. It’s just not enough time to get over it. It still has a lingering effect. You feel lousy. You’re so close and you didn’t get it done. We talked about being pros. Our job is to try and get better as coaches. Your job is to get better as players and maybe next year we go a little farther, a lot farther. You just try and keep doing it until one day it happens.
On second-guessing himself on adjustments that could have been made:
Yeah, of course. You do that all the time. I think it’s on your mind 24 hours a day. It’s incredible how you’re thinking about that stuff constantly.
On second-guessing himself when the team was 2-8-1:
I wasn’t really. It was so fast. I wasn’t second-guessing myself being a coach, I was second-guessing that, wow, I didn’t expect it to be this lousy this fast. You expect bad runs; I didn’t expect that. I guess the good things was you played so many games so fast we didn’t have time to really dwell. Then we worked our way out of it a little bit.
On rebuilding a team’s belief in itself after six straight years without getting past the second round of the playoffs:
On its psyche? I’m sure that’ll be something that next year, we’re going to get close to this point in time next year if we’re in the playoffs and that will obviously get mentioned by you guys, right? So we’ll have to talk about that. I used Boston as an example to them. They won the Cup two years ago. Last year [the Caps] upset them. The year before they won the Cup they were up 3-0 to Philly and blew it. Year before that they were one of the best seeds and didn’t get it done. Yet they hadn’t changed anything. They were still the same team on the same page. That’s why I think you’ve got to stay with it. Everyone try and keep getting better and one day it’ll just happen. You’ll grow as an organization and it will happen.
To read Part 2 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.
To read Part 3 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.
On the need to add Stanley Cup experience the way Boston did with Mark Recchi two years ago:
No, I don’t. I think the guys here are great. I know Rex, I played with him. Good guy. He was a little old  when they won. I don’t think he was a difference but he was a good player for them. I think that’s one of the things people get caught up in a little bit, one of the clichés.
On the difficulty of being patient with a team that looks good on paper:
Of course. You still have to answer the questions. That’s part of being a pro. You try to do your best. It’s hard to come up with new answers for your guys. Obviously, were not happy about it. No one’s more upset that the players.
On finding common threads:
You try to find threads everywhere. One of the things I thought about was as a player I never got it done. I played a long time [19 NHL seasons] and I lost Game 7 of the  Finals. You want to talk about going a long way and not getting it done. That was pretty far. That flight home was incredible as you can imagine. You play for two whole months. I mean, Game 7. Vancouver went through it a couple years ago, right? It’s really tough. I played with Ray Bourque, who played 21 years in Boston, didn’t get it done, moved to Colorado and they win a Cup [in 2001] without Peter Forsberg, their best player, in their lineup. So, I mean, what is winning? Does that ring really matter to Ray when he won when they had a stacked team kind of thing? There’s totally different ways you can skin any cat. You’re trying to look for answers all the time. That’s what we do.