Inside The Capitals Organization: Q And A With Jim Slater, Forward Player Development

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

The ultimate success of any organization is directly related to the people that makeup the organization, and hockey teams are no different. The number of people and man-hours that go into developing, preparing and supporting a hockey team throughout a season is simply immeasurable. 

Besides the 22 players on the Capitals’ roster and the 40-plus prospects in the Capitals’ system, there is a head coach, five assistant coaches, four equipment managers, three trainers and two strength and conditioning coaches that makeup the more public-facing elements of the Capitals organization.

However, that’s just scratching the surface, as there are just as many people behind the scenes. There are 11 people that currently makeup the “Hockey Operations” staff, which includes analytics and player development staff, 15 people in the scouting department and countless other support staff involved in the day-to-day operations of the Capitals organization. (More on all of these awesome folks can be found here)

In the first of a series of posts that will focus on the the structure of the Capitals organization and strive to provide a little more insight into the daily and yearly operations of the team, we bring you a one-on-one interview with Jim Slater, who is part of the “hockey operations” staff and responsible for “forward player development”.

From Washington Capitals 2021-22 Media Guide

Playing Career

Jim Slater began his playing career with the Cleveland Barons of the NAHL in 1998, spending four seasons with the Barons before attending college at Michigan State. A native of Petoskey, Michigan, Slater played four seasons for the Spartans, was Assistant Captain in his sophomore season and captain of the team for his final two seasons in East Lansing.

Slater, a center, played 10 seasons in the NHL, from 2005 to 2015. He was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round (#30 overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and played six season’s in Atlanta before relocating with the team to Winnipeg where he played for four more seasons. He recorded 67 goals and 71 assists in 584 NHL games before wrapping up his playing career in Europe, playing four seasons in the Swiss National League.

Slater also played for the US U20 National Team in 2001-02, the US National Team in 2005-06, was assistant captain of the 2011-12 national team and played for the 2018 US Olympic Team.

Move To Coaching

It was during Slater’s second year in Atlanta when head coach Bob Hartley sat him down for a talk, a discussion that would have a lasting impact on the remainder of his NHL career.

“He brought me into this room, and he started telling me about [upcoming Hockey Hall of Fame inductee] Guy Carbonneau,” recalled Slater. “How he was a big scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and changed his game to be a penalty-kill guy, a faceoff guy, and a shutdown guy. That really stuck with me. I knew I wasn’t going to be a superstar in the league, so I had to change my game to be effective.”

Washington Capitals

Slater began his post-playing career as an Assistant Coach at Michigan State in 2019 and joined the Capitals as a “Development Coach” on September 20, 2019.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of this. I’m excited about helping the team and a phenomenal program,” Slater said in an interview with the NHLPA website in 2019. ‘It’s a great place to learn about coaching, to learn and to see how it all works. The coaching staff has had great success, and this is a great opportunity for me to be a part of it.”

Slater’s official title with the Capitals is “Forward Player Development” under the “Hockey Operations” department. He was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his role with the Capitals.

Q AND A

1. How did your position with the Capitals come about?

“Hockey is a small world. I never had any affiliation with the Caps during my playing career. When I retired I definitely wanted to stay in hockey, especially in Player development. Rob Tillotson, a guy I had (known) when I played in Atlanta who is now head of team services for the Caps, put in a good word for me with Steve Richmond, who is the Head of the Caps player Development dept. I met with Steve and GM Brian Maclellan and discussed my thoughts and views on development and that’s how it came about. I’m very fortunate to land with such a great organization in Washington/Hershey, who values its players and their development.”

2. What are your roles and responsibilities with the Capitals over the course of a calendar year?

“Player Development is a great role to be in. You get a mix of a lot of different roles. First and foremost it’s helping to get the players to be better all around. It includes on ice instruction in Hershey during the season and, as I like to say, a consultant for the players.  We hope they ask us questions not only about on ice but about off ice. Brooks (Orpik), Olie (Kolzig) and Steve, we’ve all had great careers in the NHL and we all had different paths to get there as will these prospects. We try and help them in any way we can. We keep an unbiased view on the players and our main focus is to help make them into the best hockey player that they can be. To reach their potential. We watch a lot of games on our prospects both in person and on video. We run the development camp in the summer. We do some scouting. It’s a great mix that I live to be a part of in every aspect. I wish I had a Player Development dept when I played to utilize.”

3. Do you work with just prospects, or all forwards in the Capitals organization?

“We work with all our signed and drafted prospects. I work with the forwards. Brooks works with D, Olie works with goalies and Steve is doing all as the head of the department and he oversees everyone.”

4. What specific skills or aspects of the game do you work on?

“I don’t specifically work on one or two things. To me there is so much to the game of hockey. I really try and focus on game situational and transitional aspects. I’m a firm believer that the game starts on the wall and finishes in front of the net. Lots of details and responsibilities for each position as well. My goal is to be as truthful with a player as I can be. I’m not a skills coach, per say. Everyone thinks skillls coaches are stickhandling skills but I know what it takes to get to the NHL and stay in the NHL and those are details and responsibilities in your all around game.”

5. Are you involved in scouting and draft preparation?

“No, we’re not involved in scouting or draft preparation. We take over after we draft our picks. The amateur scouts hand us the baton to take over and we develop them into the best player we can.”

6. Will you be participating in rookie camp and/or training camp?

“Yes, we will be involved in both.”

7. Any notable interactions with Alex Ovechkin? Nicklas Backstrom?

“I remember taking a one timer on the PP off of Ovechkins stick in a game that broke my shin pad. Backstrom and I played a lot against each other and you always had to be on because if you weren’t he could make you look like a peewee player.”

8. Do you use any new technologies or utilize advanced analytics over the course of a season?

“I’ve been into cognitive training lately, both on ice and off ice, and like to use these things called blaze pods to help with that. If you have prospects that take control of there own development and utilize the resources that we provide then that’s when you see real development.”

I’d like to thank Jim for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions, and for providing interesting insight into the Capitals organization.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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3 Responses to Inside The Capitals Organization: Q And A With Jim Slater, Forward Player Development

  1. novafyre says:

    Thanks Jon, good informative interview. And also thanks for the Media Guide pdf.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the insight! Interesting look.

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