The Washington Capitals have had a very frustrating and disappointing season. Not only have they lacked the talent (especially on defense), they have repeatedly looked completely underprepared and overwhelmed. When that happens, whether it’s fair or not, the criticism tends to gravitate towards the coach. Let’s take a completely unbiased look at whether or not the Washington Capitals should fire Adam Oates as their head coach.
Reasons To Fire Adam Oates
- He thought that Jay Beagle was a first line center. A majority of the lines that Adam Oates has used during the 2013-2014 regular season have made very little, if any, sense. It came to the point where Adam Oates thought that Jay Beagle should be the first line center, and that somehow being paired with Beagle would be a good thing for Alex Ovechkin. If the Washington Capitals were extremely short-handed due to injuries, I could at least understand that. Problem: Nicklas Backstrom was perfectly healthy at the time. There’s no excuse for that.
NOTE: I’m not insulting Jay Beagle. I like him a lot. He’s one heck of a grinder. I’m not suggesting the Washington Capitals should get rid of him. He’s very cheap (only makes $900,000) and remember what happened the last time the Washington Capitals got rid of a “surplus” center (Mathieu Perreault)? It wound up biting them in the butt. I’m just saying that Beagle should not ever be a top 6 forward. Is he a good fourth line center? Yes. Is he a passable third line center? Yes. Would I ever consider him to be a top 6 forward? No.
- He has grossly misused Tom Wilson. I was extremely excited when I heard that Tom Wilson made the Washington Capitals roster out of training camp. I thought “Wilson could do a lot of good for this team”. That was because I assumed that since Wilson would be on the roster, Adam Oates would have the common sense to let him see decent ice time. Oh how wrong I was. Had I known that Wilson would be forced to be on lines with the likes of Aaron Volpatti, I would have not been in favor of Wilson being in DC. I’d rather have had Wilson play first line minutes with Plymouth (his OHL team) and grow as a player than be forced to try to impress while playing under 10 minutes a game, seeing little to no time on the power play (despite that he was a major part of Plymouth’s highly-ranked power play), and being forced to have to fight and commit penalties to make any kind of impact. Tom Wilson can easily recover from this and I believe he will, but Adam Oates has stunted Wilson’s development. That much is undeniable.
- No fewer than 3 players have wanted to be traded. Martin Erat, Michal Neuvirth, and Dmitry Orlov (more on him later) have all requested trades at some point during this season due to being unhappy with how they were utilized. Erat’s displeasure is disheartening because George McPhee spent a first round draft pick in Filip Forsberg to get him and Oates never gave Erat much of a chance to prove himself. He played well with Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer during off-season practices. So what did Oates do when an injured Brooks Laich, who was unable to practice during most of the training camp period, returned? I wish I could say that Adam Oates did the right thing in putting Laich on the fourth line and making him earn a spot on the second line. That’s not what happened. Laich was put on the second line while Erat, who worked his butt off during training camp, was sent down to the fourth line. Oates didn’t even give Erat a chance at top 6 minutes until he was basically forced to. Erat did well, so what did Oates do? He scratched him. Erat wanted out, so did Oates play him to try to give him some trade value? Nope, he continued to scratch him. As far as Neuvirth, to be honest, I can’t fault Oates for that. Neuvirth wasn’t going to be getting playing time here due to Philipp Grubauer’s unexpected development. While we’re on the topic of goalies…
- He ruined a good thing in Braden Holtby. If Adam Oates has been trying to alienate Braden Holtby to the point where he wants to be traded, Oates is doing one heck of a job. I assume that’s not the case. The coaching staff (yes, Oates is directly responsible for them) told Holtby to change his style of playing. It clearly did not work for Holtby. Most coaches would have told Braden to switch back to his old style, which was working quite well for him. Adam Oates is not most coaches. Oates has toyed with Holtby since December. Grubauer, Neuvirth, and Jaroslav Halak (more on him later too) have all gotten consistent playing time over Holtby since December. Oates has blamed Holtby for poor play when the defense has done nothing to help him out, yet used the “poor defense” argument to defend Grubauer, Neuvirth, and Halak. I didn’t count Holtby in the third reason, but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say that Holtby probably wanted (and still might want) to be traded.
- He outright refused to play Orlov when he should have been. Dmitry Orlov has been one of the few bright sides of a very dark season for the Washington Capitals. Imagine if Orlov would have been traded when he demanded a trade. Why did he demand that trade? Because Oates refused to play him until he had no other option. What’s worse, the consistent call ups and send downs of Orlov to Hershey must have been extremely frustrating for Orlov, who just wanted to play. Yes, George McPhee probably played a part in this, but Oates never playing him despite the fact that Orlov could have helped the Washington Capitals is completely unacceptable. Luckily, it appears that Orlov has forgiven the Washington Capitals because he signed a two year extension.
- He has potentially ruined Connor Carrick. I’m a huge fan of Connor Carrick. He’s a great guy who has a bright future, and more importantly, he likes Chipotle. Is he NHL ready? No, but how many 19 year olds can be called NHL ready? Here’s a hint: very few. Despite Carrick clearly not being NHL ready, Oates continued to stick with him over guys such as Steve Oleksy and Patrick Wey. Am I saying Oleksy or Wey would have been a lot better than Carrick? No. I think Connor’s going to be a very good defenseman, but Oates risked Carrick’s career by throwing him into the fire when there were better options available.
- He’s obsessed with handedness, to a fault. I think a huge reason that Oates stuck with Carrick, was “forced” to put Wilson on the fourth line consistently, start John Erskine, who is only a tad more effective than a traffic cone as far as defense goes, and “could not” start Dmitry Orlov is this. Carrick and Wilson are right-handed, Erskine and Orlov are left-handed. You can do one of two things: blame the player for not being dominant with the other hand (SHOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT HANDED ORLOV!!!! ALL YOUR FAULT!) or you can blame Adam Oates for being obsessed with handedness to the point where it prevented him from playing his best players. I’m going with the latter, but the choice is yours.
- He called out Alex Ovechkin for a very silly reason. Did Alex Ovechkin deserve to be called out for bad defense? Yes. So why did Adam Oates wait until the end of the season to do so? To be clear, I’d be perfectly fine with Oates calling out Ovechkin for his defense from day one. However, defending your star for so long and then calling him out to try to save yourself is quite disgraceful.
- He made Jaroslav Halak mad. Adam Oates said that Halak wasn’t going to start against the Blues because “he told me he didn’t want to”. If Halak actually said that (he and his agent both claim that he didn’t), that’s pretty weak of Halak. Regardless of whether or not he actually said it, telling the media the reason why is extremely disrespectful. If Halak actually said that, simply stating “I think Holtby gives us the best chance to win against the Blues” would have been the professional way to do it, but nope, Adam Oates doesn’t do things that way.
OK so now that we’ve looked at just a few of the reasons to fire Adam Oates, let’s be unbiased and look at the good that he has done.
- He’s been good for Alex Ovechkin. Adam Oates basically revived Alex Ovechkin’s career. He deserves credit for that.
- He’s been great for the power play! Might as well be an extension of #1, but let’s be fair, the power play has been pretty good under Oates.
- Jay Beagle likes him. Jay Beagle can now say he was a first line center. Might help him in contract negotiations?
- Brooks Laich likes him. Even though I can count on zero fingers the number of people that Brooks Laich doesn’t have something nice to say about, that does count for something, yes?
I was never that good at math, but I think nine is greater than four. I could be wrong. Let’s ask a gif of Dale Hunter if I’m wrong.
The bad outweighs the good. It’s time to fire Adam Oates. Should George McPhee be fired? Who should be the head coach of the Washington Capitals? Glad you asked, because I’ll be doing a post on each of those issues in the next few days. Let me know what you think in the comments!