It was a hall of a day for former NHL center Adam Oates on June 26. First the 49-year-old was hired by the Washington Capitals as the club’s new head coach and then he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame along with Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Joe Sakic.
Oates is scheduled to be officially introduced as the Capitals coach at a press conference on June 27 as he takes over from the departed Dale Hunter, who led the team to the second road of the playoffs last season. George McPhee, the general manager of the Capitals, said the club is pleased to announce Oates as its newest coach as he brings over 20 years of NHL playing and assistant coaching experience with him.
Oates just completed his second season with the New Jersey Devils where he served as an assistant coach to Peter DeBoer. The Devils made it to the Stanley Cup finals, but were eliminated in six games by the Los Angeles Kings. He worked in the same capacity with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009-10. New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello said he’s sad to see him leave, but is glad Oates was given the opportunity to prove that he can handle the head coaching duties with a good team.
Oates becomes the fifth consecutive head coach of the Capitals who has been hired with no previous head coaching experience in the NHL. The others were Hunter, Glen Hanlon, Bruce Cassidy, and Bruce Boudreau. With the Devils, Oates’ focus was working on the club’s power play. He was quite successful since the Devils had the 28th-ranked power play in the league during the 2010-11 season and improved to 14th place last season.
Washington finished the just-completed NHL season in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a total of 92 points. They beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games in the first round of the playoffs and were then beaten in seven against the top-seeded Eastern team the New York Rangers. They played a defensive style of game in the playoffs, but Oates was one of the greatest offensive players in the game and has a lot of attacking talent at his disposal in Washington, including Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Nicklas Backstrom.
Oates played 19 seasons in the NHL with seven different teams, including six years with Washington. The others were the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, St.Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, and Anaheim Ducks. He retired from the game after playing 1,337 regular season games and scoring 341 goals and 1,079 assists for 1420 points. He also added 42 goals and 114 assists in for 156 points in 163 playoff games. Oates is number six on the NHL’s all-time assist list and is the 16th top scorer of all time.