BRETT HULL is excited to see what his friend and former teammate Adam Oates can do as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, particularly when it comes to how he can help revitalize Alex Ovechkin.
Well, to a certain extent.
"I'm excited about it but I'm also not really excited about it because he's going to break all the records," Hull said with a laugh. "It's crazy. He's going to thrive under Oates. There's just no question. When I played, Adam was my coach. He told me what we were going to do, when we were going to do it, how we were going to do it and it always worked. He'll be able to do the same thing with Ovechkin and (Nicklas) Backstrom too."
Leading up to Oates' induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, Hull has spent a lot of time reminiscing about his time playing with the Weston, Ont., native.
They played only 195 regular season games together in St. Louis, but both men readily admit that their chemistry was unlike any other experience they had during their careers. In less than three seasons, Oates recorded 286 points (228 assists) and Hull, who is also enshrined in the Hall of Fame, notched 212 of his 741 career goals. Hull believes that Oates' experience working with superstar players, from himself to Boston's Cam Neely and Washington's Peter Bondra, will help the first-time head coach make a connection with Ovechkin.
"To me, the number one thing in being a great coach is being able to understand great players," Hull said. "Alex Ovechkin is going to be like a kid in a candy store. He's going to be reborn and he's going to be the happiest kid on the planet because he's going to have a coach that gets him."
The decline in Ovechkin's scoring prowess has been well documented over the past two years. He went from three consecutive seasons with more than 100 points and at least 50 goals to totaling just 85 points (32 goals) in 2010-11. Last year, his offensive production shrunk to 65 points (38 goals) and in the playoffs Dale Hunter, whom Oates later replaced, infamously limited Ovechkin's post-season ice time.
If there's anyone who can jump-start Ovechkin, it's Oates, Hull said. "He's going to get Ovechkin. He's going to get the ego -- and egos aren't a bad thing," Hull said. "All great players, all great goal scorers have egos. You have to feed the ego and the more you feed the ego, the happier Ovechkin is, the happier the rest of the team is, the better the rest of the team plays."
On Monday, Oates agreed with the assessment that his time as a teammate of elite players prepared him to understanding the demands they face when coaching them.
"They have different pressures," Oates said. "They drive to the rink and he expects to score a goal tonight. Yeah, he wants to win, but he expects to score a goal. 'Yeah, we're going to win, and me score.' (Alex Rodriguez) goes to the ballpark expecting to hit a homer, not a single; Kobe Bryant knows he's going to get 30 shots. 'If we're going to win, it's because I'm scoring tonight' -- they have a different mindset."
-- The Washington Post