“Congratulations guys! You’re now the new coaches for the Washington Capitals! You should start putting together your drills for training camp and thinking about line combinations. Oh, by the way… you don’t actually have a team to coach.”
Imagine being on the top of the world, like Adam Oates has been. You were an assistant on a Stanley Cup Finals-caliber team (a team that, on paper, should not have been there). Your name keeps coming up for head-coaching positions in the off-season before your old team comes calling. You jump at the chance to lead a team. Almost everyone loves your style and your hockey IQ. It’s a perfect fit. Now that you’re here, what’s the first order of business?
The Players have it easy. They can go play overseas (or in the case of younger guys, the AHL and ECHL) and keep their skating legs and hockey-minds fresh. GMs are still dealing with minor league players and rosters, preparing their draft lists and backing the side of the owners. Scouts are always out on the road finding the next Francois Bouchard Anton Gustafsson John Carlson. Coaches have it rough. Not to diminish the plight of millions of out-of-work Americans, but might be easier for NHL coaches to be looking for work. At least you could potentially coach in the minors somewhere. I hear the bus ride from Wichita to Fort Wayne is quite nice in November.
So what does a coach without a team do while waiting for the players and management to resolve their differences? I suppose there is some scouting of players in Hershey or junior tournaments and that could be done. There is always fine-tuning your system based around what you hope you team will look like, barring KHL injuries or the loss of the entire season. You could always spin your wheels while watching daytime TV and put on some weight. It worked for Ken Hitchcock.
I suppose the Caps could send Oates, Tim Hunter, Olaf Kolzig and Calle Johansson to a bunch of local schools and ice rinks for PR duties. At least the teachers might know three of the four.
“Who’s the old guy with the huge nose?”
“I think that’s Ovechkin.”
“Why does it say ‘Hunter’ on his shirt then?”
“Well, they do say Ovi’s a head hunter…”
I imagine Oates taking long lunches, calling in sick twice a week to play golf and reading every post on Reddit on his work computer. Or trying to convince George McPhee that there are some promising players in the South Pacific Hockey League that need scouting. No matter what, you can be certain, just like the rest of us, that the Caps’ coaches can’t wait for hockey to be back.
So much for that whole ‘Dream Job’ thing.