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 Two of the interview Oates discusses Alex Ovechkin’s decision to play for Russia in the World Championships, his thoughts on the Rangers series, and the leadership inside the Capitals locker room.
On the importance of Alex Ovechkin missing the Capitals’ final team meeting to play for Russia in the World Hockey Championships:
No, I met with him. We talked and it’s important that people understand where he comes from. That’s a very important thing in his country. We totally respect that. No problem at all. If I said no he would have stayed. Yep. We talked about it. I talked about it with George [McPhee]. The Olympics are there next year, in their country and it’s a very, very important thing for them. He gets a tremendous amount of pressure [to play for Russia] and it did not affect his play here at all. You know what? He texted me after the game 20 times, ‘til 2 in the morning. He was very upset. I think he’s come tremendously far as a person and player this year. That’s such a very unique thing in our business, to have that World Cup. I never played in it. I hated it. It’s the stupidest thing in the world. You lose here and tomorrow they want you to go play in some tournament. For the Canadian and American guys it doesn’t make sense, but for the European guys I understand it.
On Ovechkin taking on too much responsibility for playoff shortcomings:
I think it’s good that every player thinks about it in that form. I think you’re supposed to. I think that’s part of what being a pro is because as a staff we’re going to try to get a little better and a player has to try to get a little better. You’re good, you’re in the NHL and you’ve got to try to get a little better. He’s a little different. He’s our leader. He’s our most visible person. He obviously knows the stats [1 goal, 1 assist in 7 playoff games] and we talked a lot about that. He does take it hard, which is a great sign of character.
On things he wishes he’d done differently against the Rangers:
I haven’t really thought too hard abut that series necessarily. I’m sure over the summer I will. There’s no one thing that came to my mind. I mean, there’s a couple line changes in the course of the seven games that I thought I should have done something different. But you kind of go through that every single night. You make mistakes every night, everybody does. There was nothing that really stuck out that was a blatant flaw.
On if there was a pressure to change any of his forward line combinations against the Rangers:
I really didn’t feel the pressure to change, no. Everybody has their opinion of what’s not working, right? We outchanced them 3-1 every night so I don’t look at it as not working. You know what? I looked at it as working. We pretty much showed video every day that there’s a lot of things that were working. There were a couple games where … [In game 6] we were six penalties in 30 minutes. It’s tough for it to work when that happens. You get into those flows of games. In Game 4, Holts [Braden Holtby] has a miscue with 3 minutes left in the first period and they had one chance, all right? They had one chance. So, I can’t penalize my team for that. No way. And you know what? I don’t think the guys should think that way. I don’t. I think you need a little bit of luck sometimes. I thought Game 3 or 4 we should have won. Game 6 we could have easily tied it and maybe won. But we had five great chances in that game and you’re not going to get any better chances. You deke the goalie and miss the empty net. To me that’s not a system breakdown. That’s not a system flaw and you know what? I don’t believe in making changes based on that.
On if the penalties really hurt the Caps in the series:
I thought the penalties were very frustrating in the series. Obviously, you don’t agree with every call. Obviously, some we earned. You know, it’s a tough subject. It really doesn’t matter now.
On the leadership in the locker room:
I thought the guys were fantastic, quite honestly. I really saw the sign of the leaders in the room when we were struggling in the beginning. Nobody pointed any fingers to [the media], everybody kept quiet and we worked through it, which I think is a sign that they talked about it. I called them in one time and we talked about it. We just kept going. To me that showed that they believed in it and that’s one of the things I thanked them for today. They embraced a new staff.
To read Part 1 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.
To read Part 3 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.