Why did Johansson return? 'I don't have a Cup'

Why did Johansson return? 'I don't have a Cup'
July 18, 2012, 7:22 pm
Share This Post

When it came right down to it, there was one thing that brought Calle Johansson back to the Capitals as an assistant coach under Adam Oates.

I dont have a Cup, Johansson said Wednesday after being announced as the newest member of Oates coaching staff.

Johansson, 45, has won a pair of gold medals for Team Sweden in the World Championships and represented his country in the 1998 Winter Olympics. But whenever hes been asked whether a gold medal or Stanley Cup was more important to him, Johansson was direct with his answer.

To me, to win the Stanley Cup with players and coaches you fight with every day for nine months or 10 months, that is the absolute and ultimate goal. For me, thats really unfinished business.

Johansson spent 15 seasons in Washington and played more games in a Capitals uniform than anyone in franchise history before retiring in 2004. He was offered a job as an assistant coach of the Caps under Glen Hanlon in 2005 but at the time the move didnt feel right.

Johansson remained in Sweden and was an assistant coach for one season with his native Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. But when the head coach was fired Johansson stepped down and began serving as an NHL color analyst for Swedish television.

Johansson said he always hoped the Capitals would invite him to return as a coach and when Oates called shortly after being named head coach of the Caps, Johansson didnt hesitate to catch a flight and sit down with his former teammate.

Im not doing this just for my own sake, to become a head coach, Johansson said. Im doing this because I like the people around the organization, I like the players and I want to make them better.

Oates, who played with Johansson from 1997-2002, said Johanssons knowledge of the game, combined with his communication skills, makes him the perfect choice to run the Capitals young defense corps. Aside from veterans Roman Hamrlik, 38, and John Erskine, 32, the Capitals entire blue line is 26 years old or younger.

When I played with him I really liked his game, Oates said. He was very undervalued, very smart, very durable, and he played in all situations. He was a guy who did everything.

When you look at our top four or five defensemen, they are very solid NHL defensemen who wont need a lot of tweaking. But a guy like Calle, who has a high hockey IQ, will only add to them on a day-to-day basis. He played at a very high level. Some guys arent able to communicate that, but I really feel he can.

Johansson says he still has a lot to learn as a coach, but says his greatest attribute might be his honesty when evaluating players and instructing them on ways to improve their game.

I learned you have to be yourself to earn the players trust, he said. Dont think youre something youre not. Dont think you can put on a faade. To get through to the guys they have to know that what youre telling them is the absolute truth.

Johanssson said he believes that with Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jack Hillen, Jeff Schultz, Cam Schilling and Erskine the Capitals have as much defensive depth as any team in the NHL.

I think there is real potential and they can become easily the best D corps in the league, he said.

In his job interview with Oates, Johansson said it didnt take long for him to hear what was needed, saying Oates is as excited as a kid in a candy store to start working with the players.

He does not want to sacrifice any defense to become an offensive team and thats what I like, Johansson said. I think you can do both. He does not want to become a run-and-gun team. There no such thing with him and thats what I like.

As for the importance of wearing a Capitals jersey longer than anyone else in franchise history, Johansson said he wants todays Capitals to feel some the same sense of conviction to the city, its fans and their teammates

Its pride. Its all pride, he said. You have to want to be proud of the team you play for. I hope the players want it to be like that. For me, it was always about the team and going to war with the same guy beside you.