WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – As questions loom about the future of the Caps following their sixth straight playoff collapse, head coach Adam Oates helped shed some light on which direction the team will go in an interview with the Junkies Thursday that came off more like a state-of-the-franchise address.
“The margin of error is so small,” Oates said, beginning to explain why the Caps are no longer in the playoffs.
One of the biggest offseason questions will be what happens to the nucleus of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. What was once a promising young core is now aging, and concern over whether they still possess the potential they once did makes you wonder if that nucleus will be broken up.
It doesn’t sound like they’re going anywhere if Oates has any say in personnel decisions.
Before comparing the nucleus to that of basketball’s San Antonio Spurs, which hasn’t changed in “fifteen years” as he put it, he stuck within the realm of hockey to explain what his team has.
“I talked to the players yesterday about that and we talked about the Boston Bruins because two years ago they won a Cup,” Oates said. “Last year, the Caps upset them but they were the favorites. The year before they won the Cup they were up 3-0 to Philly and blew it. The year before that they were the No. 1 seed and blew it. And they haven’t changed a thing.”
He addressed the NHL’s realignment and how moving into a new division with the Devils, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins will affect the Capitals future playoff chances.
“One area that you have to upgrade is, there’s a lot of teams that play physical and grinding, and they’re in our conference more so than the West,” he explained. “And we’re going to have to play them more and that makes players understand the game a little bit more. Almost every night you got to really show up and be physical.”
Obviously he looks at the new division as a positive change for Washington.
23-year-old Braden Holtby gave up five goals to the Rangers in the Caps Game Seven implosion, but Adam Oates believes that because of his youth, it’s unfair to expect him to play at the level of All-World Henrik Lundqvist.
“Lundqvist is the best in the world,” Oates said. “You know, that’d be like comparing one of their players to Ovechkin. That’s not a fair comparison. The guys have salaries for a reason and they’ve done things for a reason. Ovi is a former MVP of this league so you expect him to play better than certain guys on the other team. I think Holts played great for us. Does he have room to improve? Absolutely.”
And of course he talked about how the Rangers were able to shut down Ovi to win the series.
“They did the same thing that every team does to him every single night during the year,” Oates said. “They put their best players against him. And saying that, he still had five Grade A chances in Game Six. So you’re putting your best players against him, yet he still got his opportunities.”
So what happened?
“He didn’t score. There’s no other way to cut it.”
He also spoke on the team’s plans for Mike Ribeiro and more in-depth on what they need to do to improve for next season.
Listen to the full, unadulterated interview below.