When Adam Oates took over a Washington Capitals team that was marred with stunning inconsistency despite their talent, he had one real mission: to make the team a true threat in the playoffs.
A year and a half into his tenure, Oates has really not made any significant strides in taking the Capitals to a new level of consistency. In fact, he has made the team as streaky as any in the NHL. This season, the team has won three or more consecutive games four different times, but has also lost the same number of games or more in a row an additional four times.
The result of this is a 22-18-8 record, which places the team fourth in the Metropolitan Division and in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings.
In addition to just being a streaky unit as a whole, there have been a number of issues between players and Oates that has been awful to watch and should have been handled differently.
Chief amongst these is a dilemma at the goalie position that has raged on for the entirety of the season and is seemingly not changing anytime soon. For the first two months of the season, it was Michal Neuvirth who was shunned from playing time, with his position being oddly handed to Braden Holtby as Philipp Grubauer took control as the team’s starter.
Grubauer deserves to start of course, but the way Oates has handled the situation has already forced Neuvirth to ask for a trade, and it is a wonder that Holtby has not done the same.
They’re not the only players to have asked for a trade either, as Martin Erat has been trying to force his way out of town all season. Again, Oates has made a number of curious decisions in regard to Erat as he has repeatedly made the highly skilled 32-year-old a healthy scratch and a fringe third-line player.
There is no excuse to give a player who was effective last season and who has scored 50 or more points five different times only 13:49 of ice time per game, yet this is the total that Erat averages.
There would surely be no issue with either Erat or the goaltending trio if the Capitals were winning game after game, but they have not been doing this. Currently, they are in serious doubt to make the playoffs. The Caps are mired in locker room turmoil, and are seemingly worse off than when Oates took over.
For this, the head coach deserves to be on the hot seat, and should go out the door sooner rather than later.