Japers' Rink Mailbag: Style Going Forward and Comparing Coaches Going Backward

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Questions about what teams upon which the Caps might model their style of play and which of two recent bench bosses were better in this week's installment of "you ask, we answer."

Our first question considers the sincerest form of flattery going forward:

I don't think it is a "who" as much as a "what."  Possession is king these days, and to me that means two things.  Depth that breeds consistency of style, and speed that forces opponents to make mistakes when they have the puck and chase when you have the puck. It is in these two areas in which the Caps' lack of a team identity hurts them. Their four forward lines look very different in their approaches; if they were not wearing the same sweaters you might think they played for different teams. The Caps need to figure out what kind of team they want to be and have that be a running theme through their lines and pairs.

As to the second element, speed, the optics of games suggested that the Caps were burned by speed more than they did the burning. I don't know that it's something that could be improved merely by adding faster skaters. The object is to deny opponents the time and space to make decisions, either with the puck or in defending it, and if that can be done by having the sense to be where you need to be sooner rather than later, it can make up for shortcomings in foot speed.

It is not "Be Like Boston" or "Look Like Los Angeles." Figure out what characteristics dominate, and build to maximize them. Speed and depth = possession = wins.  It will not be as easy to build such a style as it is to describe it, to be sure. But if the Caps can do just that, then let teams ask if they need to model their style on the Caps.

However, if you really have your heart set on being the next Boston, or Chicago, or Pittsburgh, or Los Angeles, there are ways to do it.

Next up, the lesser of two lessers:

I don't know if this is an entirely fair question to either man. Ultimately, their competence is reflected in wins and losses, and even in that broad success metric you would have to consider if those wins and losses exceeded or failed to meet expectations.

Glen Hanlon and Adam Oates led teams at very different points of the development curve. Hanlon started with a team that was being disassembled and finished with a mixed bag of raw talent and fill-ins that had roster spots until farm hands could mature. To that end, Hanlon probably got as much out of his teams as one could reasonably expect - more, in fact. Let's not kid ourselves, those 2005-06 and 2006-07 teams could have been historically bad, even with a shiny brand new Alex Ovechkin. Was Hanlon the coach to take them to the next, competitive level? Experience suggests he was not. It was a team that was adrift when he was relieved and jump started when Bruce Boudreau took over in November 2007.

As for Oates, I'll live a long time and not completely understand how things went so wrong here. Maybe it was a case of too much emphasis on method and system, a "scientific management" approach to coaching. What it begat was an almost stubborn (bordering on maniacal) adherence to certain principles - "handedness" among wings and defensemen, how goalies should play the position, etc. Look up the term "Procrustean Bed." You might find a picture of Oates there, he being the sort to enforce a standard uniformly without regard to the unique talents and skills of the individual players.

What is confounding about that is the fact that Oates did tease out unrealized or dormant skills and performance from guys like Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, and even Alex Ovechkin on the power play.  But here are two charts that J.P. tweeted recently that paint Oates's teams (remember - 2012-13 was only 48 games) far too similarly to Hanlon's post-lockout teams:

In the end, Oates could not make the team equal to, let alone greater than the sum of its parts. In that respect, Oates is the far more disappointing coach.

***

Agree? Disagree?

If you've got something on your mind, go ahead and ask it here on the site, on Twitter (use #JapersMailbag), via email or on Facebook, and we'll try to get to them. As always, there are always a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.

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