The Capitals have hired Adam Oates as their new head coach, the team announced on Tuesday.
Oates, 49, was most recently an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, who reached the Stanley Cup finals this spring before losing to the Los Angeles Kings. He was chosen over seven other candidates, including finalists Mike Haviland, a former Stanley Cup-winning assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks, and Jon Cooper, who led AHL Norfolk to the Calder Cup Trophy this spring. Oates’ professional coaching experience consists of two seasons with New Jersey and another with the Tampa Bay Lighting.
Oates is the 16th head coach in Caps’ history. He replaces Dale Hunter, who took over last Nov. 28 after the firing of Bruce Boudreau and led Washington to the second round of the playoffs. It wasn’t the only big news of the day for Oates, who was also voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It continues a trend under general manager George McPhee: Washington has not hired a coach with previous NHL head coaching experience during McPhee’s 15-year tenure. Oates is the fifth such head coach. McPhee hired Bruce Cassidy in 2002 from the International Hockey League. Glen Hanlon was coach of the AHL Portland Pirates when he took over in 2003 for Cassidy. Bruce Boudreau, of course, replaced Hanlon on Thanksgiving Day, 2007 and led Washington back to the postseason four years in a row. Hunter left his junior team, the London Knights, last fall.
Oates had a brilliant 19-year NHL career, including six years with the Capitals from 1996 to 2002. He finished his career with 341 goals, 1079 assists and 1,420 points. In 1997-98, he had 18 goals and 58 assists to help Washington reach the Stanley Cup finals for the only time in team history. He was team captain for the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons – taking over for Hunter then, too. He also played with the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues, the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers. Oates’ longest stints as a player were his six years each in Boston and Washington.
The Weston, Ontario native played three years of college hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he had 66 goals in three seasons and led the school to the NCAA title in 1985, and then made the leap directly to the NHL with the Red Wings as an undrafted free agent. Only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux averaged more assists per-game than Oates in the NHL history. He played in 1,337 career games.
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