Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

January 18, 2013

Ovechkin, Caps need quick adjustment to new coach

 

WASHINGTON — When the NHL lost an entire season to a labor dispute nearly a decade ago, the Washington Capitals were spared many months of on-ice misery. Had they played, they no doubt would have started their streak of last-place finishes a year early.
 
“I was in no rush to get back last time,” General Manager George McPhee said with a laugh. “It wasn’t going to be a whole lot of fun, trying to build a team. When we came out of that, we were trying to fill boots.”
 
This year’s Capitals needed the lockout to end in a hurry. They’ve been Stanley Cup contenders for a while now, but they have yet to claim the title that once felt so inevitable. A lost season would have meant another crucial opportunity down the drain for Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the talented roster that McPhee has so meticulously assembled.
 
“We have a real solid team,” McPhee said. “We’re in good shape. We have a complete team.”
 
Yet they have a major new element — one that makes a crunch of a season considerably more challenging. Adam Oates is making his head coaching debut, and the players are going to have to learn his system on the fly.
 
“It’s very tough,” Oates said. “Communication’s vital. There’s going to be mistakes. But every system has mistakes.”
 
Those mistakes will be played out in January instead of October, in games that have nearly twice the importance in the standings because there are 48 instead of 82. Oates began the truncated camp with a lengthy video session to give everyone an idea of what he had in mind.
 
“As a forward, you’re not used to skating in certain situations your whole career, and we’re going to ask you to skate (there) now,” Oates said. “It’s a transition where they’ve got to learn to do that. And the defensemen have certain situations where they’re like that. So there’s going to be sometimes mistakes based on that, and we’ve just got to fight through that.”

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