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Ruining hockey.

Dear Backhand Shelf,

Thanks for answering all these letters. I think this is a terrific blog and I hope this gives me a place to vent. Basically, my coach has lately been on a tear about something called the “1-3-1″ that a certain team employs—They don’t rush a forechecker. I have yet to really see the issue with this, since the team with the puck in my view, is the one that should make the move. What are your thoughts?

 Signed, Trap 4 Ever

Dear T4E, you’re right. Our own Daniel Wagner did an excellent job breaking down the 1-3-1 yesterday, even. It’s a topic covered to death, but I answered your letter because I firmly wanted to place myself in the camp of “pro 1-3-1″. The trap never killed offensive hockey in the past. It was just a good offensive system. The trap, combined with the “clutch and grab” style of play was what did us all in. As long as a team is playing without hooks and holds like any of the teams taught by Jacques Lemaire, the players in the 1-3-1 should just be treated as obstacles.

They really are just traffic cones, in the end. Hockey is a game about creativity and breathtaking speed, but it’s always the offense that’s supposed to generate the cool-looking offense and the fancy moves. The “1-3-1″ isn’t a major story if Philly isn’t holding on to the puck in that game. It’s just another defensive system, with its own strengths, and its own weaknesses.

Thanks for writing.


I was a big player in Dallas for the last four years. Things have started out okay, but I’m looking what’s going on with them and I’m getting a little jealous. They’re 11-3 to start the year and look to be playing downhill when I’ve watched them. It’s crazy they way they’re winning games, they just seem to keep skating and scoring, and I just noticed last night that they have the fifth highest goal total in the league. I don’t want to seem like the crazy ex-lover, but is there anything you can tell me that says ‘they aren’t really that good”? Love the blog, and thanks in advance, man.

Signed, Pining for Dallas


I like Jamie Benn, though

Dear PFD

The best thing I can tell you is that the Dallas Stars have a team shooting percentage of 11.2%, which probably won’t last. Considering how few teams actually break the 10% barrier each and every year, that number should show you how lucky they’ve been early in the year. Remember, this sort of start is precedented—They had an 8-4 start last season and looked unbeatable in the first half.

Remember, on a game-to-game basis, luck is something that we hardly notice, and regression takes a bit of time to happen. Sometimes, like in the case of the 2010 Colorado Avalanche, it can take a full season, but if you were on the Stars last season, you should know just how hard and biting regression can be. We’ve seen so many teams with the proverbial hot start only to fade away in the end.

That said, I’ve really enjoyed a couple of Stars games this year, and agree that with the scoring, they’ve been fun to watch. Jamie Benn is truly a delight, but with him, and with the rest of the team, it can’t last, so if you’re a bitter ex-teammate, I don’t mind letting you know this.

Thanks for writing!

Dear Backhand Shelf blog

 I don’t want to play for Ken Hitchcock. Save me from playing for Ken Hitchcock.

 Signed, I Like Skating

Dear ILS

You shouldn’t really treat your new coach like that. After all, coaches last with NHL teams almost as much as second liners do, and their importance is somehow crucial in determining results.

Where's the cool stache, Hitch?

Actually wait, did I say “crucial”? I meant “overblown”. The coach of any team, to me, just sort of has aesthetic value, hanging out on the bench, chewing ice whilst wearing a fancy suit and arguing about bad calls. Whenever a coach is fired midseason, and his replacement wins a lot of games in his place, that has more to do with inevitable percentage correction than the implementation of new systems.

I don’t really get the Hitchcock appointment and I feel where you’re coming from, ILS, but if you play for St. Louis, you have some terrific players on your team that can skate exceptionally well: Alexanders Steen and Pietrangelo, and another player in David Backes who doesn’t need a coach to tell him to find the puck in the dirty areas. The appointment doesn’t mean you won’t be allowed to skate: I watched the Blues game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night and, despite the low score, I thought it was pretty fun.

Just think of Davis Payne being some third line player whose been with the team for a couple of years being traded and play the game like you know how. Chances are you’re well more important to the St. Louis Blues than Ken Hitchcock ever will be.

Thanks for writing in, though. I always imagined that players were frustrated when their teams hired Hitch, and now I know.