While Steve Oleksy led the Hershey Bears with 151 penalty minutes and 11 fights in 55 games in the American Hockey League this season, Coach Adam Oates was adamant that the Capitals didn’t sign and recall the defenseman simply to be a fighter.
“I know that’s part of his game, but I already talked to him. That’s not why he here. That’s not. We need him to play,” Oates said. “We need him to play and be matched up with Tom [Poti] and we need to be able to break out of the zone. That’s why. You’re a righty and it makes an easy pass to Tom and you for him. And we need to handle their forecheck. That’s what it’s about.”
Oleksy said he’s received that message loud and clear.
“They just want me to play my game. We’ve all been playing hockey for a long time, and no matter what level, you have to play within your means and do what you’re good at,” Oleksy said. “I’m gonna try to play a physical game and bring that side to things and make a good first pass and be strong defensively.”
Oates is a strong believer in having a balanced blue line — specifically that setting up each pairing with a right-handed and left-handed defenseman makes for easier outlet passes and allows any team to move the puck up out of the defensive zone with better speed and precision.
Without Mike Green, who is sidelined by a groin injury, the Capitals’ third pairing has featured two left-handed players in Poti and Jeff Schultz and Oates wanted to add another righty to the mix. Enter Oleksy, who at 27 will make his NHL debut at Verizon Center against the Bruins. Over the past five years, Oleksy has played on seven different teams in four different minor hockey leagues.
Steve Oleksy brings balance to Capitals defense
Washington Post | Mar 6