In the NHL, the process of a head coach losing their job can be a very quick and unexpected situation. Unfortunately for Adam Oates, it appears that he could quickly be on his way out of town, but the problem that must be fixed with the Washington Capitals is staring him right in the face.
The main problem with the Capitals is the team’s play in the defensive end of the ice, or exactly the play which has haunted it for the entirety of the Alexander Ovechkin era. Over the first five games of the 2013-14 season, the Capitals have let in an average of 3.8 goals per game, an unacceptable total that has been the direct result of a defense which has looked useless for long stretches.
With this being a known area of weakness, one would expect that Oates would attack it vehemently both prior to and during the season. Instead, it appears as if he has put a blind eye to defense in favor of working on an already effective power play unit.
While the Capitals did start off poorly during the 2012-13 season under Oates before roaring back in the second half of the season to win the Southeastern Division, it is unlikely that Ted Leonsis will see this as enough reason to maintain faith in his head coach during a prolonged period of poor play. After all, each season brings a different set of circumstances in the NHL, and the 2013-14 season is no different for the Capitals.
For one, the Capitals are no longer in the Southeastern Division, and their new division is much less forgiving in terms of playing teams that will be easy to grab points from. Gone are the days of playing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers. In are games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
To say that this is a slight improvement would be a disservice to the Capitals’ opponents in’ the Metropolitan Division, as they are miles ahead of the teams’ former division mates.
The result of having a tougher division is that there is nearly no time to come back in the division, even if the season is only six percent done. Each point is now much more valuable, and as a result each regulation loss only puts the Capitals further back in the race to make the playoffs.
It is never easy to say goodbye to a head coach which a team has had success with, but uncomfortable things must sometimes be done in the professional sports landscape. After all, this is a performance-oriented business, and after only recording two points in five games, it is clear that the Capitals’ performance is absolutely brutal right now.
At some point in the near future, someone will have to feel the brunt of this poor start, and the easiest person to discard is the head coach. Unfortunately this has to be Oates, but he has not been doing his job of getting the Capitals to win games to date.