How many former players can say they got their first head-coaching job in the NHL and on the same day were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame? I do not need the Elias Sports Bureau to answer this one, but what a special day this has turned out to be for the Washington Capitals new head coach.
For the second time in eight months, the Washington Capitals have hired a former team captain as its head coach. Today, General Manager George McPhee announced that Hall of Famer Adam Oates, will become the 16th head coach in Washington Capitals franchise history.
McPhee has been searching since Dale Hunter informed the club that he would not return behind the bench next season. Hunter’s announcement came just three days following the Caps Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers. Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau back on November 28, who was fired for losing control of his dressing room and a string of poor performances by his team.
Oates is the team’s third head coach in just eight months and takes over a team that many felt grossly underachieved during the 2011-12 regular season. Washington did not clinch a playoff berth until the 81st game of the season and after winning two straight Eastern Conference regular season titles, entered the playoffs as an eighth seed against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Hunter’s team salvaged a measure of decency for the 11-12 campaign by beating the Bruins in a dramatic seven game series that saw Washington win the seventh and deciding game in overtime
“We are very pleased to name Adam Oates as the new head coach of the Washington Capitals,” said McPhee. “Adam was a highly intelligent player in the NHL for 19 seasons. He has been an assistant coach in our conference for the past three seasons and is prepared to lead our club as head coach.”
Oates has been an assistant in the NHL for the past three seasons. He started with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2009-10 season before moving to New Jersey in 2010. Oates was behind the bench as an assistant for the Devils’ as the Los Angeles Kings beat them in six games during the Stanley Cup Finals.
Oates, 49, played 19 seasons with seven different NHL franchises. The five time NHL All-Star (1991-94 and 97) is widely considered one of the best playmakers during the highly offensive NHL era of the 1980’s and early to mid-90’s. Only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux averaged more assists per-game than Oates did in NHL history, and during the 1990’s, only the Great One (662) recorded more assists than Oates (636).
From 1985-2004, Oates appeared in 1,337 games and collected 1,420 points (341 goals, 1,079 assists) with Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. The new Caps head coach ranks sixth all-time in assists and 16th all-time in points in NHL history.
Oates, who is a native of Weston Ontario Canada ranks 25th in NHL history with 156 playoff points(42 goals, 114 assists) in 163 career playoff games. Oates finished in the top five in assists nine times, and led, or tied for the lead in helpers three times (1992-93, 2000-01 and 2001-02) during his NHL career.
He was a six-time Lady Bing finalist during his career (runner-up in four straight seasons). All of this not bad for a player that was never drafted. Along with such NHL greats as Pavel Datsyuk, Martin St. Louis, Ed Belfour, and Peter Stastny, Oates is often considered one of the best ever NHL players to never get drafted.
The Detroit Red Wings signed Oates as an undrafted- free agent in 1985 after spending four years playing his collegiate hockey at RPI. After playing 11 seasons in Detroit, St. Louis and Boston, Oates was traded to the Capitals at the deadline on March 1 1997. Goalie Bill Ranford and tough man Rick Tocchet joined Oates in Washington, as the Caps sent goalie Jim Carey, and two young forwards Anson Carter, center Jason Allison along with their 3rd round choice (Lee Goren) in that years Entry Draft for the veteran trio.
Oates played in 387 games for the Capitals from 1996-2002, compiling 363 points (73 goals, 290 assists). He ranks 18th in scoring and 10th in assists among all players in the Capitals history. Wearing No. 77 for the Capitals, Oates was an alternate captain during the 1997-98 season before serving as the team’s captain from 1999-01 campaign.
These career numbers have propelled Oates enshrinement in Toronto. Joining Oates on November 12 when Hall of Fame inductions commence will be Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure. He will join Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Scott Stevens and Dino Cicarrelli as former Capitals enshrined in the hall. Oates has been Hall eligible since 2007.
A very proud and deserving Oates said, “Growing up I was a guy who was kind of overlooked and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to RPI and have the time for my game to mature. This is a tremendous honour and I look back and realize how lucky I was to have great coaches to help me along the way”.
Oates was part of the great salary purge from 2002 through 2005 in Washington. He was traded to Philadelphia on March 19, 2002 for Maxime Ouellet and Philadelphia’s first (later traded to Dallas – Dallas selected Martin Vagner), second (Maxime Daigneault) and third (Derek Krestanovich) round choices in 2002 Entry Draft. Oates and McPhee did not part on the best of terms.
Oates spent time with Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton before his retirement on April 3, 2004. Oates was never a member of a Stanley Cup winning team. However, he would get one final chance to win one before he retired. Oates played 67-games for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim during the 2002-03 season. He finished fourth on the team in scoring during the regular season with 45-points, and was tied for the team lead with 13-points during the post season.
Ironically, his Ducks team was beaten in a thrilling seven game Stanley Cup Finals series by the team he just helped coach to the finals, the New Jersey Devils. Stay tuned to Capitals Corner or Z-BEST SPORTS TALK for opinion and breaking news about the Caps new head coach.
Also, be sure to listen tomorrow night at 8:00 est. to the I-295 Sports Report on Blog Talk Radio, where I will have a special guest on the show to talk about the Capitals new hiring. Be sure to check back this week right here on Capitals Corner as I break down each Capitals draft pick as well as preview Washington’s upcoming options as NHL free agency kicks off July-1.