Today, the second and final assistant coach for John MacLean's staff was announced to be former Tampa Bay Lightning assistant Adam Oates. The official site has the announcement with plenty of information about Oates the player. For those who aren't aware, Oates was a fantastic playmaker, one of the best who wasn't named Wayne Gretzky in his era. Unfortunately, it doesn't go into Oates as a coach, largely because he's done it for only one professional season - as an assistant in Tampa Bay.
That's a bit of a shame because his prowess on the power play and as a center (read: faceoffs) was a benefit for Tampa Bay last season. Upon learning that he was an assistant with the Lightning, I asked John Fontana and Cassie McClellan of Raw Charge for what they knew about Oates. According to their response, I think you'll agree with me that this was a good hire by New Jersey.
John and Cassie informed me that Oates was originally brought in as a power play consultant but was hired as an assistant prior to the season. Oates worked largely on the power play, which had a break through once they went to using two regular units - by about January, much to John and Cassie's chagrin.
The Lightning improved from a power play success rate of 17.8% (19th in NHL) to 19.1 (9th) in this past season according to the numbers at NHL.com. Granted, the Lightning scored only 2 more power play goals (61 to 63) and allowed 3 fewer shorthanded goals (9 to 6); so the improvement in efficiency really comes from scoring more power play goals on 17 fewer opportunities. Given what John and Cassie said about the Lightning not going to two units until halfway through the season, which helped their PP, I wonder if the numbers would be even better throughout a whole season.
Both John and Cassie noted that Vincent Lecavailer became much better on faceoffs when Oates came in, though not necessarily so for Steve Stamkos. Per the faceoff numbers, I'd say that he had a good effect on both. Lecavalier's faceoff winning percentage jumped from 50.9% to 53.2% between 2008-09 and 2009-10; and Stamkos not only took more draws (nearly double his 08-09 total), but his own winning percentage improved from 45.4% to 47.9%. Both took over 1,000 faceoffs last season for Tampa Bay, so their improvement helped get the Lightning more possessions right away, helping the team overall. If Oates had a hand in either getting better at taking draws, then it's another reason to like the hire.
Therefore, I can't help but think this is a good hire. I've said that the Devils needed improvement on the power play and Oates got into coaching by trying to do just that. I agree with Tom Gulitti, Oates should be expected to work on the Devils' PP and I expect improvement. His past experience as a center will likely be a benefit for Travis Zajac and the other centers, as well. Plus, I'd like to think that as an "outsider" to the organization, he may able to provide a different perspective on the Devils' offense as a whole and offer different ideas for improvement.
The only concerning part is the lack of experience Oates has at being an assistant. This is his second job in pro hockey and he'll have to prove that what improvements he made to Tampa Bay were a direct result of his efforts to some degree. Along with MacLean, the experienced Larry Robinson should be expected to help him out with the coaching side of matters.
Still, I really like the move in the same sense that I liked the Arnott trade: they address needs for the Devils. The Devils needed a second line center to boost the offense, and there's reason to believe that Arnott can do just that even based off of his injury-shortened 08-09 season in Nashville. The Devils needed help on the power play and brought in an assistant coach who did just that in his prior job. Hopefully the trend of addressing needs continues in the coming days. This could include the signing of a new third line center; an improvement on defense; a backup goaltender - which shouldn't be too hard as Yann Danis wants to come back per Gulitti; and (most of all) the re-signing of Paul Martin.
Big thanks to John and Cassie of Raw Charge for their information on Adam Oates. Now it's your turn. What do you think of the hire? Are you comfortable with a coaching staff of John MacLean, Larry Robinson, Oates, and Chris Terreri? If you don't like the hire, why not and who would you have wanted? Please leave your thoughts in the comments. (P.S. Don't talk about free agency here, talk about it in the comments to this post instead.)