The Stanley Cup Playoffs provide us with some of the best drama in sports, with their greatest offering being the glory of sudden-death overtime. No sport makes you switch from oh-man-oh-man-this-is-good-this-is-good to THIS-IS-BAD-THIS-IS-BAD quicker than hockey, which becomes doubly painful when “this is bad” turns into “that happened” and the finality of your favourite team’s loss starts to hit home.
Sometimes we’re treated to an extra 100 minutes, sometimes 100 seconds, but at some point the game just…ends. Abruptly. The game is over, pack up your belongings and go, there’s nothing else to see here.
With the Stanley Cup Final getting under way tonight, it’s the perfect time to look back about how we got here (and to cross our fingers hoping we get more OTs). The two teams in the Final happen to show up below in nine of the 24 extra-time games.
The concept of defensive “layers” is not unique to the Boston Bruins; in fact, it’s pretty ubiquitous around the NHL at this point. I first came across the system in the ECHL when I played for die-hard layer afficianado Davis Payne, now of the Los Angeles Kings. As far as the terminology goes when it comes to explaining it, the language of hockey is not universal, so it often feels like one coach is teaching something different when that’s not the case at all. Some people call a delay an escape, some people call a mid-lane drive a net-lane drive, and some people call layers “stacking,” or whatever the heck they feel like. Either way, variations of what we’re about to talk about (with different points of emphasis) exist all over.
The Bruins execute using layers particularly well, so I figured today would be a good day to explain the concept so you know what you’re looking for tonight.
On its face the idea is basic: just because a player on your team gets beat one-on-one doesn’t mean your opponent is free and clear. Without layers, that’s how it was for me in Junior B, the BCHL, and the NCAA. You had your responsibility, and if you blew, you were giving up a grade A scoring opportunity. You were killing the team.
As a right winger playing that older style, the left d-man was my responsibility. Black, white. I was to be within a stick’s length of him when on the strong side, and he was not to get a shot through to the net (mild exaggeration below, but you get the idea).
He often did because I was really not that fond of getting hit with frozen hockey pucks, but I faked doing my job pretty well. Read the rest of this entry »
I thought this was a pretty entertaining press conference. Partially because Jagr says stuff like “when I won the Cup the first time I didn’t speak English and was homesick,” and “the mullet is going to come back,” but mostly because he sounds just like Goat from the old Adam Sandler skits (NSFW)
Dallas Eakins, Oilers new coach. (Pic from The Toronto Star)
With a lot of head coaches changing roles this summer, it seemed like the right day to re-run a column I wrote a number of years ago (so excuse the dated political references) for Hockey Primetime. Relationships between head coaches and assistant’s aren’t always as peachy as they appear.
A hockey team, like any workplace, is made up of a huge number of relationships. Between the players, players and coaches, coaches and managers, managers and owners. But by far my favourite relationship to keep tabs on, are the ones between the coaches behind the bench.
Being named head coach isn’t like being elected president. They rarely get to step in and make sweeping changes to their “cabinet”. Imagine if Obama stepped in to run the country and had to keep Bush’s staff. I’m pretty sure he’d hire a professional food-tester to take the first bite anytime “Cheney” was left alone with his meal – I’d feel the same way if I had a scorned coach in waiting offering to “help” me.
And occasionally, assassination-worthy tensions exist between the staff. This only makes sense, since most assistant coaches will still be striving to be head coaches after not getting the chief gig. The pay is better, and you get to be the boss. Your way or the highway. Read the rest of this entry »