Up here in Canada, it’s rage hangover day (also, it’s cold as s***, but that’s neither here nor there). The Canadian Olympic team has been named, and we’ve all pleaded our cases to people who agree with us, or don’t, or those who don’t even want to listen to us, like any of these people can change the decisions Hockey Canada made.
The team, she is set. (Barring injuries.)
So, on to the next question: how do you play with all that talent on the roster? How do you adjust for the bigger ice surface? How would YOU coach that team? I mean systemically – how would you chose to maximize the team’s chances of winning gold in Sochi?
I put some thought into it since the announcement yesterday, and here’s what I’ve come up with to start. And like a coach using his assistants, hopefully you guys have some tweaks that would improve my hypothetical plan.
In The Neutral Zone
My personal preference would be a 1-2-2. I think that the best team you can assemble plays defense-first, but has a ton of talent so they can transition effectively and challenge offensively. There’s no need to send two forecheckers at talented, poised players – they’ll just end up caught and now you’ve given up numbers.
In The D-Zone
I like the way Boston defends with layers, and would encourage my team to do the same. The only difference is that I’d be all over our wingers to take defending seriously (not that you normally don’t, but I’m asking for more movement), because the blue-line in the offensive zone is actually closer to your net on the Olympic sheet than it is in the NHL. That means giving up too many bombs from there isn’t ideal, which means that while you’d like to have them help in the layering, they also have to be cognizant of the increased threat up top. Stops, starts, and active sticks, like you’re killing a penalty.
Once possession is established, I think you unchain the dogs, specifically from your back-end because it’s a great way to use the extra width of the ice: you push the opposing D back by driving wide (which is now easier), and you delay (unless you have a step) and look for the late layers. I think you preach possession at all costs (as in don’t dump the puck in), because it’s easier to keep the puck with the extra space, and harder to recover it. I think you encourage spreading out in the offensive zone, specifically behind the goal line, to make players who haven’t played together much communicate on coverage switches. Read the rest of this entry »