WASHINGTON – Adam Oates will be the 16th head coach in Washington Capitals history, WTOP has learned.
George McPhee, team vice president and general manager, remarked on Oates’ hiring Tuesday, “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 spent his career as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils for the past two years, working under John MacLean, Jacques Lemaire and Pete DeBoer. He helped improve New Jersey’s power play from 29th in the NHL (14.0 percent) in 2010-11 up to 14th in the NHL (17.2 percent) last season.
Oates also spent the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach under Rick Tocchet with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Oates, 49, played for seven teams over a 19-year NHL career, including parts of six seasons with the Caps from 1997 to 2002. Oates led the Capitals in playoff scoring in 1998 as Washington advanced to its only Stanley Cup Final in team history.
Last season Oates helped the Devils finish with a record of 48-28-6 as New Jersey reached the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2003.
Ironically, Oates takes over for the captain of that 1998 Caps team replacing Dale Hunter behind the bench. Hunter stepped down as head coach on May 14 after the Caps’ Game 7 elimination in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers.
Hunter’s mid-May announcement offered Capitals General Manager George McPhee the rare opportunity to take his time and perform a thorough search for his next head coach. McPhee’s three previous head coaches were all mid-season replacements: Hunter, Bruce Boudreau and Glen Hanlon.
“It’s been a real enjoyable process,” McPhee said June 13 of his coaching search. “It’s been a fun process doing it in the summer. Obviously if you have to do it mid-season it’s more difficult, there are fewer people to talk to and some limitations and time constraints.
When you do it in the summer it becomes a real thoughtful and comprehensive process, you can talk to a lot of people and come up with a plan of how you’re going to do it. We’ve enjoyed it.”
Other candidates that were thought to be among the finalists include former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, and Norfolk Admirals head coach Jon Cooper.
Oates is the fifth head coach McPhee has hired since 2002. None of the five have had previous NHL head coaching experience before coming to Washington.