Defenseman Calle Johansson #6 of the Washington Capitals looks on during the NHL preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 4, 2002 at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images/NHLI)
When discussing what he was looking for in assistant coaches last weekend, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates said that having two other people behind the bench that he could trust to relay his messages was "vital" to his first season running a team.
Oates also said Saturday that having "a guy [behind the bench] that played in the game that I’ve had some personal time with is very important to me.”
And on Wednesday, he got him, when Washington hired Oates' former teammate of six years, Calle Johansson, as an assistant coach.
In his introductory conference call Wednesday, Johansson spoke very highly of Oates, praising him for his intelligence as both a player and coach.
"I've always admired Oatsie for his smartness and intelligence," he said. "If you look at the teams he's been an assistant coach for, if you look at Tampa, he made those players better that he worked with. I'm thinking about [Martin] St. Louis. He was a great player before he got there, he became even better when Oatsie was there. You look at New Jersey, [Ilya] Kovalchuk became a much better hockey player when Oatsie was there. I see no reason why when he comes to Washington he can't make the players better there."
Johansson, who -- like Oates and associate goalie coach Olaf Kolzig -- was a member of Washington's 1998 Stanley Cup Final squad, also shared his thoughts regarding the style of play that he sees Oates employing next season.
He anticipates a more open offensive system than what Dale Hunter (another former teammate) used last season, but one that still puts a sharp focus on defense.
"He does not want to sacrifice any defense to become an offensive team," Johansson said. "I think you can do both. If you want to score five goals, you don't have to let in four. I might want to tweak a little bit of the defense play, but we're going to become a more offensive team. But we're not going to sacrifice defense and become a run-and-gun team."
Strategy aside, as elated as Johansson is to rejoin the franchise that he has "always loved," he can feel the excitement pouring out of Oates as he prepares for his first season as a head coach
"I only see an upside with Oatsie as the head coach there," Johansson said. "He's a kid in the candy store there. He just loves to do this."
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