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 the third and final part of the interview Oates discusses how close the Capitals are to winning a Stanley Cup, his greatest challenges in his first year and changes the Caps need to make in the offseason.
On his first season with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green:
You know what? I think every team needs their core guys and I think ours are fantastic. I really think it’s just going to be a matter of time. We have to keep growing as an organization, keep improving and I feel one year it’ll happen.
On how close this team is to winning a championship:
I think it’s very close. It’s hard to put your finger on it. You look at St. Louis, right?. They added those pieces at the end [defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold] and they lost in the first round, right? So who knows what they’re thinking? Last year I got to the Finals with a team [the Devils] that nobody expected. It can happen. There’s no magic formula. You just gotta keep staying with it, keep trying to improve and one day, sooner or later, it will happen. I think it’s very close.
On if this season reaffirmed his belief that he can be a head coach in the NHL:
Quite honestly, I never really worried about it. I worried about what [the media] would say. But I wasn’t worried about myself.
On the greatest challenge of being a head coach:
The challenge this year was obviously getting over the start. It was very difficult not being able to talk to the guys for such a long period of time because of the lockout and then, you know, all the things we’ve talked about a lot of times. The no exhibition games, right into it, a couple guys hurt. A lot of things didn’t go our way early to allow us to start [turning things around] sooner. But I’m glad that we turned it around. I think the guys saw signs that there’s something in place that makes sense to them. And a lot of guys had good years, which I think is a very encouraging sign. You feel good about yourself when you have a good year so we had to be doing something correct. To see a few guys have success is a nice reward.
On pieces he’d like to see added:
I’m sure George [McPhee] and I will talk about that. Obviously, we have guys [free agents Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson, Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks] who have to be signed and we’ll see from there.
On the importance of having a second-line center like Ribeiro:
It’s huge. You all saw how valuable he was to our team. Hopefully, the parties will work it out because we love him.
On ways the Capitals could have gotten to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist better:
You know, it was pretty difficult because of the style they play. They protect right in front of him. He’s the Vezina Trophy winner. He’s fantastic. Not having any power plays hurt us. It hurt our rhythm a little bit because it’s part of our team. You gotta kind of stay with it, hopefully one day you get that fluky one and maybe he doesn’t have his ‘A’ game. Nobody’s perfect all the time. He happened to be hot this series.
On any injuries his team was dealing with in the playoffs:
Well, we missed Brooksie [Laich] and we missed Marty [Erat], for sure. Everybody had bumps and bruises, but those were the two big guys. Obviously, we missed Brooks a lot. He was really close. We were hoping to get [to the second round]. He would have been a great addition.
On the possibility of Laich playing in Game 7:
You know what? He didn’t have any practices with contact, so for me it wasn’t a decision to put him in Game 7. It wasn’t at all. We wanted him for the second series and we had to be good enough to get there and we weren’t.
To read Part 1 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.
To read Part 2 of 'Oates Unplugged' click here.