Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Boring Hockey - And The Coaches That Preach It

Just thinking about the coaches that preach the "take no chances" style of game, the counterpunchers. Personally I think these guys get too much credit. I think we watch the games and see the nice geometric arrangements of players on the ice and the obvious sense of order, and admire the coach for removing the chaos from the game.

But is it more difficult to coach this way than to give the players decision making power on the ice?

I mean a young defenseman for Quenneville, Crawford, MacTavish, Tortorella, Quinn, etc ... these players have the chance to join the rush or pinch on the cycle, you hope they make good decisions, and that they learn from their mistakes. That they learn to assess the risk and reward in that fraction of a second and make the right choice, to do it almost instinctively in time.

A defencemen for Lemaire, Burns, Hitchcock, Babcock, etc ... these guys aren't going to roll the dice unless they already have a forward back and their team has an overwhelming chance of maintaining possession.

The same defenceman for Quenneville, in his own end, can charge the puck carrier and try to create a turnover ... he might get beat doing it, you hope he picks his spots wisely. For Lemaire his defenceman, in their own zone, they just seem to keep the opposition on the outside and take away passes from him through the middle, and you know that the 5th Wild skater is going to be inside the box. Christ, it's like the shift will never end, and probably nothing will happen, Minny are never going to get the puck back, and the other team is never going to get a good scoring chance. Not unless there is a madass carom or someone on the other team gets frustrated enough to try something rash.

And that's just the D, it's the same sort of thing with the forwards, arguably moreso.

I know that Lemaire is very sensitive about being accused of coaching a boring style, he basically implies that the reporter who asked the question must be a knob head for not seeing the beauty of sound positional hockey. But it IS boring, just is. And they keep selling out the building in the Twin Cities. Go figure.


Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Agree and disagree. I think all of the coaches you mention - Lemaire, Burns, Hitchcock and Babcock - are really good coaches. I like MacTavish a lot but I would bet that if any of these guys were coaching the Oil they would be in first place in their division (granted that's only a few points away). And Babcock and Hitchcock and Burns for that matter allow creativity in the offensive zone as long as Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Forberg, Gagne, Modano, Hull, Elias, Gilmour etc etc play both ends of the rink.

But I guess the question is - where is Lemaire going to get the Wild? They had one nice little playoff run and other then that - nothing. Gaborik, their one truly talented offensive player, will probably leave - apparently he hates it and why wouldn't he? Mitchell is gone.
So while the Wild are mired in their mediocrity year after boring year (and sooner or later those crowds will thin out if they don't start winning) you'd think the Oilers will be improving because they are a better balanced team - good team D with the offensive creativity that I think you need.

So short term pain for long term gain? As long as the long term gain is there, I guess.

Would Rexall be full if the team was dull as hell but near the top of the conference?

3/29/2006 1:14 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Would Minnesota be worse with Trotz behind the bench? ... there's a guy who plays aggressive hockey, always has. I'm not sure if they would be better or worse (my unsubstantiated hunch is better BTW, Minny has more talent than they get credit for), but I can guarantee that they would be more fun to watch.

Everyone used to credit Ottawa's success to the stifling passive system that they played. But since Melnyk intervened and demanded an uptempo game ... they're even better, granted probably about the same if you discount the impact of Hasek. But they are a whole helluva lot more fun to watch.

I agree that the coaches you have listed above are all very good. I'm just not sure that "boring style" = "brilliant coaching". Not convinced at all.

I remember when Hitchcock got turfed by Dallas, Dennis was jonesing for the guy to become Oilers bench boss. Myself, I thought that the only thing worse would be if he were put in charge of Christmas. :-)

3/29/2006 7:19 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Style vs Success I guess. I saw a few people on OF complaining about the trap the Oilers used in the 3rd in Van on Sat and the thing I liked about it was that it worked.

I like up and down hockey...or at least some form of it...but you'll never win with that system unless you have a goalie that doesn't soil his pants at the prospect of odd man rushes or guys with open looks in general.

3/29/2006 8:38 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I remember Staios being behind the Vancouver goal line at one point while Garrett was speaking of the Oiler "trap". Ballsy play by Steve, scared the hell out of me, though I PVRed back at commercial and Pisani was there to cover, still.

The Oilers drove in deep and kept the puck there. And they got lucky, way too aggressive for so late in a game IMO.


Last night in the third they were playing a 2-2-1 after the line changes too. And they were trailing. Including the time where Smyth got impatient and decided to chase the MIN D behind the net ... if Smyth was Kariya-fast and the MIN D (don't know who, didn't recognize) was Ferguson-slow ... mayyyybe that's a good idea, but even then ...

Ron Low's teams used to charge the O zone with that setup. Just never worked, the opp would just wait and then rattle it around the boards, you could see it a mile away. Stupid as all getout.

I kinda miss Ron Low though.

3/29/2006 9:18 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

If you ever want to see how coaching has changed watch the 72 series dvd, Specifically game 8 - with five minutes left the number of mistakes from both sides is unbelievable. Guys trying to deke other guys while carrying the puck out of their zone in the last few minutes of a tie game of a tie series. And a pretty big one at that.
That would never happen today.
Agreed though Vic, I do think these guys are good coaches but "chip it in/chip it out" does not equal coaching excellence.

3/30/2006 6:27 am  
Anonymous iwocpo said...

Not sure I'd include Babcock in that group, considering the offensive seasons of Lidstrom and Schneider. Lilja stays at home because he doesn't have the offensive abilities to push it. But, Kronwall's a different story. Granted, he hasn't scored since the Olympics, but he continually joins the rush and Babcock encourages him to maneuver once inside the blue line. He does that, but he's still learning how to finish.

3/30/2006 7:09 am  

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