Photo: © REUTERS / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports/Contributor / Sporting News / Gettyimages.ru
Following his tenure as an NHL coach, former Washington Capitals forward and bench boss Adam Oates shifted his career to individual coaching, including NHL players. Clients include Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl, among others.
“I really enjoyed working as a coach in the NHL. When I was fired from Washington in 2014, I waited for another chance. I had various interviews. Along the way, several of my players approached me. They asked me to study with them in the off-season. I agreed, and I really liked the work. That’s how I decided to start my own business in this direction,” Oates told Pavel Lysenkov of Match TV. [Translation via Google Translate]
One of Oates’ most memorable acts during his tenure as Capitals head coach was moving Alex Ovechkin from left wing to right wing. He still feels there was a valid reason to make the move at the time.
“Because at that time the team and our defense were not as good as they are now. The Capitals could not quickly enter the zone and launch an attack. Ovechkin was in the wrong position [based on the fact that he is a right-handed shooter rather than a left-handed shooter]. That was the real reason why I did it,” said Oates.
“It is absolutely normal that he plays where he plays now – at left wing. Because coaching decisions are largely based on analyzing what kind of players you have on the team.”
Oates has followed Ovechkin’s career, and how his game has evolved over the years. He sees no reason why Ovechkin can’t play for a few more years.
“Even though Ovechkin is getting older, he will always be great on the powerplay. And with age, you need to pay special attention to physical fitness. Because in any case, it will be a little harder to maintain as good of physical condition as before. It is also very important to play with the right, suitable partners who will help you to be your best in every game. Ovechkin is a very purposeful person, so I don’t see any problems with this.”
Oates acknowledged the fact that Ovechkin’s current plus/minus rating, -13 (at the time of the interview), is at the bottom of the league, but he also noted the stat can be misleading.
“Yes, it’s a strange number. In general, plus/minus itself is a very strange stat. It’s useful, but can be a bit misleading at times. You don’t want it to be very negative. But you need to analyze each game to understand why the indicator is the way it is,” said Oates.
“Sometimes Ovechkin can be on the ice when the Capitals remove the goaltender in favor of an extra attacker. And when an empty net goal is scored on his team, such minuses are the most unpleasant.”
Oates shared his opinion on whether Ovechkin will be able to pass Wayne Gretzky in career goals and what it would mean for him, personally.
I think Ovechkin may very well pass Gretzky. But for this, you need a lot of things to go right. It is unfortunate that center Nicklas Backstrom is injured. It is very easy for Ovi to play with him. So you need to take into account factors such as health and physical condition,” said Oates.
“How many goals does it take for Ovechkin to overtake Wayne? 106 goals? [at time of interview.] Of course, he can score so much, especially since his current contract with Washington is good for another four seasons,” added Oates.
“If Alexander can pass Gretzky, of course, I will be very happy for him. Gretzky is my idol, one of the most beloved hockey players whom I have played against and watched his game. If this happens, I’m sure Gretzky will react positively. But the very fact that Ovechkin came so close to Gretzky and his record is fantastic.”
Oates also shared his opinion on whether Ovechkin would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, immediately upon retirement, as it happened with Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, or if he would have to wait the customary three years.
“He may well get into the Hall of Fame immediately after the end of his career. There is no doubt that Ovechkin will get there. I just don’t recall what the rules are for entering the Hall of Fame immediately after the end of a career. It is clear why Gretzky and Mario were immediately included there – they were unique players,” said Oates.
For the original interview on Match TV, click here.
By Diane Doyle