Adam Oates took hiring his first assistant coach very seriously, knowing exactly what he wanted to help him pass his messages along.
“To have a guy that played in the game that I’ve had some personal time with is very important to me,” Oates said.
He got that in Calle Johansson, officially named to the Washington Capitals’ coaching staff Tuesday. This will be Johansson’s first coaching job in North America; he was an assistant with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League in 2006-07.
Johansson admitted being asked to join the staff in 2005, but that wasn’t the right timing. This was.
“It just felt right. I’ve always loved Washington Capitals. I was there for long time. A lot of the same people are still there and Adam and I played together for a number of years and I know Adam well,” Johansson said on a conference call with reporters. “We got along great when we played and we still do. And also the team in Washington is a great hockey team and has great potential. So to me it was just the perfect situation.”
Johansson, 45, has spent the vast majority of his post-playing career in Europe as a broadcaster. But his one season as an assistant was important too.
“You learn a lot of things. I learned stuff every day. But I learned that the thing you have to do is be yourself to earn the players’ trust. Don’t think you’re something that you’re not. Don’t think that you can put on a role or a facade or something like that,” Johansson said. “You have to be yourself to earn their trust and I think that’s the most important thing as a coach. To be able to get through to the guys they got to know that what you’re telling them is the absolute truth.”
He holds the record for most games played with the Caps (983) and most points (474) and assists (361) by a defenseman in franchise history. He spent parts of six seasons as Oates’ teammate in Washington.
Johansson will coach a young defensive group that features Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Mike Green.
“You look at the defense in Washington today and it has great potential. To me when I see them they play pretty much the same way I did or wanted and tried to,” Johansson said. They’re great skaters, they’re great two-way defensemen, all of them, and I think there is great potential that they can become easily the best D core in the league I think.”
General manger George McPhee said over the weekend that the Caps should have the other assistant coach in place in a couple of weeks.