|Adam Oates will get to go behind a bench during the lockout. (US Presswire)|
This past offseason, the Washington Capitals named Adam Oates to be their next coach, their third in the span of a year. It was the first time that Oates had been hired as a head coach at any level.
For a coach in his situation, missing the preseason and the exhibition games that come along with it is a very tough proposition. It's normally a chance to get to know your players and at least start to cut your teeth on being a head coach. But the lockout is robbing him of that.
To get around that setback, the Capitals are getting a little creative. No, Oates won't be able to coach or even talk to his NHL players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom during the lockout, but he will get to coach some Caps players in the AHL.
With the NHL's lockout ongoing, Caps general manager George McPhee decided that it would be best for his coaches and for the organization's players in Hershey and Reading to benefit from the addition coaching and instruction that can be provided by the Washington staff.
For the time being, Oates and French will serve as co-coaches of the Bears.
French would be Hershey head coach Mark French. For the time being, he's going to be sharing his bench with Oates.
"We think it's a great opportunity for all of our coaches in the organization to work together to learn the nuances of our system of play," McPhee said. "We also think it's a great opportunity for our NHL coaches to get to work with our young players and, frankly, to give them something to do. There's no sense in them sitting in Washington when they could be active in Hershey."
During the lockout, the coaches don't get to do much but spend time with family. This is a work-around and a pretty smart one at that. If nothing else, Oates is going to be able to go into his first game as an NHL coach with at least some idea of what to expect behind the bench. Of course, he was working as an assistant with the Devils before being hired by the Capitals, so it's not like it's a foreign environment for him. It does offer him the chance to work with the system he plans on using in Washington and see how at least a couple of his potential players work within it.
One thing to keep an eye on is whether Holtby is going to get an extra benefit from playing in the AHL for his future coach. Whenever they settle the lockout and everybody is back in camps, the Capitals figure to have a battle for the starting goalie spot between Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, who went overseas to play during the lockout. Perhaps this will give Holtby an inside track on the No. 1 spot in D.C.
There's nothing stopping the Capitals from doing exactly this even if it does seem to circumvent the rules a touch. For that, McPhee gets the bonus points. Perhaps the only downside is for French, who won't get to run his team in Hershey completely. Then again, he'll likely benefit from having Oates around, too.