NHL99: Adam Oates, one of the great NHL playmakers, saw hockey as a mystery


you welcome in NHL99And the the athleteThe countdown to 100 Greatest Players in Modern NHL History. We rate 100 players but we call it 99 because we all know who is No. 1 – it’s 99 places behind No. 99 we have to find out. Every Monday through Saturday through February we will unveil new members to the roster.


“Why are you calling the guy in the middle of the bumper?” Adam Oates bluntly asks.

I think long and hard, but I can’t remember where I first heard the term, which refers to the striker in the middle of a 1-3-1 power-play formation—an Oates signature from his coaching career, which has been all over the place. NHL over the past decade. So I answered with a question: “I don’t remember where I first heard it. What do you call it?”

Oates replies, “I call him the coward, or the diamond man.”

“Is that a sandwich reference?” I ask, believing the cheese to be placed in the middle of the sandwich the same way the bumper occupies the center of a 1-3-1 sandwich.

No, it’s a reference to a mousetrap. Or I call him diamond boy because he lives inside a diamond. The word bumper has it Start Get out of my mouth. Not once. Because he is Not Shock absorber, it’s a weapon. It’s a threat. Al-Wafeer means easy. Where did the word bumper come from? Oates asks.

I say, “I’m not really sure.” “I assumed everyone called him that.”

“Well, I don’t, so who does?”

Oates discusses offensive generation tactics on the power play with the confidence of someone who knows he made his mark as a second quarterback when playing first at tic-tac-toe.

One of the greatest NHL playmakers of all time, Oates seemed to approach the sport in his playing days—and in his retirement, as an assistant coach and as a consultant working with some notable NHL players—as if it were a solved game. On the ice, he acted like he was the one with the instruction manual, and as a coach, he proved it. His five-on-four goal-making system, a system he aptly describes in terms distinct from those commonly used around the league, has become a model that every NHL team tries to emulate.

An undrafted player out of college, winning the national championship with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Oates went on to play over 1,300 NHL games and collected over 1,000 tackles for seven different teams as one of the premier passing centers in the league. for nearly two decades. He saw every corner, partnered with star players like Brett Hull, Cam Neely, and Peter Bondra to form some of the league’s deadliest combos in the ’90s, and after he locked his skates, went on to revolutionize how the NHL power the opposition.

For all of these reasons, Oates checks in at 69 a day the athleteList of the greatest players of the NHL’s post-expansion era.

“There were very few people who could play the game and see the game the way he played it,” recalls Hull, a longtime Oates player with St. Louis Blues. “You can pick a handful of guys who can do the things he did. He’s probably the greatest passer-by of all time.”

“I mean, it was insane. It was always completely flat. It was right in your wheelhouse. It was always just in time. It was that guy like Gretzky, little area going, like the quarterback. Like the puck would really come and she wasn’t.” There so far, and he’d be perfect. I’m not sure anyone was as good at it as Wayne, but I’ll tell you what, Adam was the king of it.”

Bondra has also been on the receiving end of some of Oates’ best setups.

“I remember I wasn’t even ready, when we first started playing together, to be prepared,” he says. “But you learn quickly to make sure you’re always ready because the pass will always come. It would come from different places, between a player’s shins, or from plays that weren’t plays an NHL player could make.

“He was finding ways to cook the puck and it was just my job to be ready, and sometimes I found myself shaking my head. ‘How could this happen?’ Sometimes I would look up and feel there was no goalkeeper in the net because he was going to take them to the side with whatever he does.”

Later, as a coach, Oates applied his understanding of the sport to solve the problem of scoring in the power play.

Oates’ Signature 1-3-1 Power Game Variations – Pinned First With Tampa Bay Lightning In Steven Stamkos’ first 50-goal season, then with New Jersey Devils During the fruitful second chapter of Ilya Kovalchuk’s career, and the most influential with Washington Capitals as such Alex Ovechkin You found an unparalleled scoring groove late in your career – and it’s now everywhere around the NHL.

(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

All 32 teams use some variation of the Oates 1-3-1, which includes only one outfielder, two wingers, a “bumper” in the high slot and an additional player at the front of the net – who is not used as often as a catcher. Traditional man front net. It is, exclusively, the only power play formation regularly used by any team in the NHL today.

There are some team-to-team variations based on individuals, but over the past decade the job of modern offenders has changed drastically. Fifteen years ago, the killers watched the tape only to discover: “what Will this team try to do that? “

Now that’s not even a question. There is no suspense. Contemporary NHL penalty kickers know they are going to see a 1-3-1 game. The question has now turned intoFrom Is this team doing the things we see from every team, every night? “

The sheer tactical uniformity in how teams handle the manufacturing offense in five-on-four situations may be the single biggest tactical shift in the NHL over the past decade – and that can be tied directly to the success Oates has found in Tampa, New Jersey and in particular Washington.

“I think, every now and then I see something where teams try to do something different, but they tend to quickly find that it just doesn’t work,” Oates says. Experiment teams and then go back to it.

You watch hockey every night and Ovechkin is resident standing in the same place. So who can stop him? no one. That’s it. It’s just one of those things now.”

This is perhaps one of the most amazing examples of how the live experience of a uniquely intelligent player—and Oates happens to be the only player since the expansion to go from being disorganized to delivering 1,000 career assists—become tactically evident in their subsequent approach as an NHL bench coach.

And in the simulated league, Oates’ approach, while not new—1-3-1 has been around for a generation, and Oates even ran the system in college in the 1980s—has quickly spread to every other team.

All of this begs the question: What is it about Oates’ vision as a player that has translated into revolutionizing how NHL power plays work 10 years after his retirement?

“Hockey is a very difficult game. There’s communication, there are great athletes and it’s fast and it’s played in a finite piece. It’s like a puzzle,” Oates says.

“I don’t play actual puzzles, but I watch a lot of hockey so I get to 10 puzzles a night. See how the whole world is turning into Wordle now. Everyone loves it…

“Well, every morning, my Wordle is hockey. Ho, really ho. I watch every goal — what’s good and what’s bad. I try to figure out the mystery in every goal.”

This in itself is consistent with the way Oates played the game, according to who played it with him.

Adam saw the game as a puzzle, almost like a game of chess, where he was thinking, ‘What am I going to do to beat this guy’s next move?’ Hull says. “I think it’s all personal in terms of how you look at the game, see the game, define the game. He looked at it as a puzzle, and I looked at it as how to make (defencemen) feel uncomfortable.”

“I remember what Adam taught me because I was the first man at the front check, always moving my foot at the front check,” Bondra recalled. “He said if you stop moving your feet, you stop putting pressure on the defender, and if they feel pressure, they might run out of time and make a foul. So he wanted me to catch the puck because the turnovers would happen near the blue line where Adam was. He told me if I kept moving my feet until If I couldn’t get a disc, he’d give me the disc back.”


(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It wasn’t all analytical for Oates, of course. He abhorred the false reputation of Hockey’s brand of performance leadership. Yet he fully lived – and still does – for that moment when a goal-scorer, be it Hull, Bondra, Neely or Peter Klima, would turn to him after scoring and give it a shot. the point.

“One of the best things you see in a game is when a player scores a goal, and I love watching the celebration,” Oates says. And when you see the scorer automatically turn to the guy who passed the puck to say, ‘Good play, man,’ I love that. It’s because of the players. I know. You know when it’s a great shot, a great pass or a great save for the goalkeeper.

“Recognition is what every guy’s looking for, right? When you watch a team like Tampa Bay now, they get the puck and what do they do? They look for it.” Nikita Kucherov. For me, this is the ultimate flattery. Because the players know. At the end of the day, when you have this kind of reputation, you know you’ve earned it. When a man looks at you and gives you this nod, that’s the final.”

Oates hasn’t coached in the NHL in over a decade now, but there are still plenty of nighttime scorers around the league who score from predictable positions in the power play they occupy, in part, because of Oates’ impact on the game.

may not happen the point Straight from those scorers anymore, but it’s hard to imagine any other passer’s ability to read the game and set goals up for long, as a legacy of goal-scoring in the game itself.

“I’m an analytical guy. I love math, I love engineering, and I love that,” Oates says.

“You give these guys a piece of information and they can handle it because they’re so good and I gotta watch guys like Wayne, Mark Messier, Mats Sundin, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzermann. I mean come on!”

“These guys were amazing every night. So if you pay attention to things, you will try to figure things out.”

Figuring things out is what makes Oates so cool. All other NHL players who Hit 1000 passes They were early recruiting picks, the types of high-pedigree hockey geniuses who rose to fame at the age of 15 and were selected in the top half in the first round of the draft.

Oates is different. He didn’t break into the league until his mid-twenties, went undrafted, and was even a lesser-known college free agent the year he was drafted by Detroit Red Wings from RPI. Then he solved one of the fastest, most dynamic runs on the planet and built himself into one of the best honest passers the sport has ever seen.

The same qualities that allowed Oates to literally build a better mousetrap also allowed him to change the way sports are played as a coach.

“One of the things I know personally is how hard it is to pass the puck to beat the goalkeeper,” he says. “I know the speed of my passes is important to the guy shooting them. There are innate skills that guys of this caliber develop, which is why they’ve been able to keep moving up through the ranks. And there’s a lot of subtleties behind skating speed, shooting skill, size and getting power. That’s important, yes, but There are other things that creep into your mind.

“So you talk about chemistry, you talk about timing, and then you talk about how if you’re behind the net and you want to pass the puck to a guy for a shot, there’s a certain speed that if you can get past it, you’ll score a goal, because the speed of the pass is what beats the goalkeeper.

“That’s why I love the one-timer on a power play. Because if you can get the puck on fast enough, the goalkeeper can’t react fast enough. When you go downhill on the wing, he’s already facing you. That’s a very important part of the math, Those extra seconds. And it’s profound stuff.”

(Top photo: Sports Focus/Getty Images)

s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’,

fbq(‘dataProcessingOptions’, []);
fbq(‘init’, ‘207679059578897’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

%d bloggers like this: