CHICAGO – Alex Ovechkin is ready to be turned loose again.
The Washington Capitals star was wearing a wide grin Tuesday after learning that the team’s new head coach, Adam Oates, has a track record of encouraging offensive play. That’s a distinct departure from the defence-first system preached by previous boss Dale Hunter.
“It’s not blocking the shots and it’s not dump and chase,” Ovechkin said during the NHLPA’s executive board meetings. “Any system that I play I learn a lot. I’m an offensive guy, it’s not a secret to anybody, and I’m pretty excited and very happy to hear the Caps signed that kind of guy who likes offence.”
After learning Oates had been hired, Ovechkin gave him a call of congratulations.
The two don’t have a history. In fact, all Ovechkin knew of Oates was seeing his sometimes animated displays behind the New Jersey Devils bench. The 49-year-old Oates was one of the NHL’s best setup men during his playing career and was credited with helping turn the Devils into a more potent team during two years as an assistant.
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“I just talked to him briefly and he seems to be a great person,” said Ovechkin. “I’m looking forward to working with him and again, you’re always excited when something big happens with your team. …
“I hope we’re going to work well and we’re going to play and we’re going to win I think.”
Ovechkin has seen his offensive production dip dramatically the last two seasons. The Capitals captain seemed to be out of favour with Hunter at times during the playoffs, when his ice time dipped as low as 13 minutes per game.
The Russian intends to build a strong relationship with the new coach. He hopes it might help him get back to being the most dangerous scorer in the league.
“I think coaches and players have to have a good relationship, especially in the kind of situation where we have right now,” said Ovechkin. “It’s nice.”