Hiring Adam Oates Signals More Scoring In 2012-'13 Season

9:22 PM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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(WUSA) -- I must admit, I was uncertain as to whether hiring another former Caps player as the team's new bench boss was a good idea.

Sure, when Dale Hunter took over, it re-energized the fan base, as a fan-favorite returned to Washington. But in the end, the final result was still the same. The Caps were eliminated in the playoffs much earlier than anyone wanted.

That being said, I really like this hire.

For starters, the Capitals offensive statistics should improve. Adam Oates was one of the greatest play-making centers in the NHL. In the 2001-'02 season, at the age of 39, Oates became the oldest player in NHL history to lead the league in assists. Oates' assist totals rank sixth all time. The only player with more assists than Oates in the 90's is just some guy named Wayne Gretzky. On top of that, the Capitals hired a head coach who later the same day was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Of course the key will be for the Caps to find that happy balance between offense and defense that will transform this team from one that's talked about as a contender in October to a team that's hoisting the Stanley Cup.

That mission begins with the team's captain, Alex Ovechkin. For now, at least, he's saying all the right things.

In an interview in Chicago, Ovechkin said that while you must fulfill your offensive responsibilities, you cannot forget your defensive ones.

While Ovechkin seems committed to playing defense, only time will tell if he can resume his high-scoring ways while also playing solid defense.

In hindsight, perhaps the one major drawback in the Dale Hunter hire, was his lack of coaching experience at the NHL level. Before coaching the Caps, Hunter was the head coach of the London Knights. It's a big difference telling kids at the Canadian junior league level what to do versus players at the NHL level. It took the players a while to finally buy into Dale Hunter's system.

With Adam Oates, the Caps are getting a head coach with three years of experience as an assistant coach at the NHL level. Not to mention, Oates was an assistant coach on this past season's Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils squad.

Of course it's only June, and the players and owners haven't even hammered out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement yet. But there's reason for optimism that for once the more things change, the more things won't be the same.

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