The NHL lockout builds a temporary wall between players and their coaches. Some players have reacted by hiring their own coaches to run practices, like Nashville Predators skating consultant Shawn Allard working with the team's locked out players.
As New Jersey Devils Coach Pete DeBoer said, regarding communication with his players: "You're not allowed any contact, so that's different."
Adam Oates was an assistant coach under DeBoer last season, before leaving to become head coach of the Washington Capitals. While he won't have formal contact with his players until the end of the lockout — and really, those phone calls to Sweden and Russia would have been really costly — Oates will have some coaching influence on several potential 2012-13 Capitals.
GM George McPhee announced on Sunday that Oates will serve as a co-coach with the Hershey Bears, the Capitals' AHL affiliate, beginning in training camp and "for the time being."
With the NHL's lockout ongoing, Caps general manager George McPhee decided that it would be best for his coaches and for the organization's players in Hershey and Reading to benefit from the addition coaching and instruction that can be provided by the Washington staff.
"Mark French and Adam Oates will be co-coaches and they will work together and both will be very involved with the day-to-day [operations] of the team," says McPhee.
… "We think it's a great opportunity for all of our coaches in the organization to work together to learn the nuances of our system of play," says McPhee. "We also think it's a great opportunity for our NHL coaches to get to work with our young players and frankly to give them something to do. There's no sense in them sitting in Washington when they could be active in Hershey."
It's a shrewd move for McPhee, who hired Oates in July to replace the departed Dale Hunter. Oates has never been a head coach. Whenever the lockout ends, he won't have the benefit of a full training camp, either. At the very least, this gives Oates a chance to get his sea legs and, if the arrangement carries over into the AHL regular season, experience behind the bench.
It also exposes the 43 players in Bears training camp to Oates and the Capitals' other coaches: Assistant coach Calle Johansson and co-goaltending coach Olie Kolzig. Oates can start to educate the organization's younger players about his systems, and find a comfort level with some players that could end up on his NHL roster — Dmitry Orlov, Mattias Sjogren and some dude named Braden Holtby among them.
Great for the organization … but a little bit of a lockout cheat, no?
Oates will have the benefit of working with and coaching his starting goaltender while the NHL locks out its players. But hey, it works both ways: Those Bears players also get a chance to work with NHL coaches, too.
Even without a CBA, loopholes are gleefully exploited.