patrick kane 3

I often write about “systems” in hockey, and in doing so, imply that every team uses them. I do that, because, well, they do. Sort of.

Not all teams use systems in the same way. Some teams have a roster that offers them the luxury of using “guidelines” for certain players and certain lines.

Systems confine players to set paths on the ice, which means that while you might be moving a player not smart enough to move himself into the right position, you may also be limiting your more talented players from being able to make reads and plays that can turn the tide of a game in your favor.

What makes sense then, is being open to a little deviation from the plan by allowing your talent to use their instincts. Not everyone, mind you – just your true talent.

I’m actually a big fan of varying the systems throughout your lineup based on the tools you have to work with, because it doesn’t allow your opponent to figure out what you’re doing and beat the same pattern consistently. If you have a crazy fast checking line you may want them to forecheck in a 2-1-2, where a slower line might be best sagging in a 1-2-2. As long as you keep the same foundation in the d-zone, particularly with breakouts, pairing talent with proper direction can be a killer combo. Read the rest of this entry »

Jon Cooper

We are getting down to awards-picking time when everyone picks who they think will and should win awards. Among the awards people will talk about at this time is the Jack Adams, which is given annually to the best coach in the National Hockey League.

Now, it should be noted that it stands to reason that the coach whose team is the best in the NHL might be the best coach, or at least be in the running. Ken Hitchcock and Claude Julien have both, for example, done pretty well this season by any measure. However, this is not the way in which the award is traditionally given out; instead, it’s usually granted to the coach that made the biggest surprise surge in the standings, and less often to the one whose team was hit with the most significant injuries.

Given the latter consideration, it is not at all surprising to see Mike Babcock’s name bandied about — mainly by people in the greater Detroit metropolitan area, but also Steve Simmons — as being a Jack Adams candidate. Perfectly legitimate to think so. Given how hard injuries have hit everyone of basically any importance on the team (they’re second in the league in man-games lost to injury, in fact), that the ship has remained anything resembling steady is kind of incredible. Among the Red Wings who have missed at least semi-significant time due to injury include: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist, Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Danny DeKeyser, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, and the list goes on like that. Basically, only Drew Miller, Kyle Quincey, and Niklas Kronwall have been consistently healthy from front to back.

But the problem with this is that through it all, the Red Wings have remained right where everyone basically thought they’d be at the beginning of the season: Firmly in the middle one-third of the league. That is to say, prior to last night’s games they were 14th in the NHL, having finished 13th in the lockout-shortened season, and that’s probably about what everyone foresaw. This doesn’t take into account, obviously, that by all rights based on injuries they should be lower, or that even with a team that was half-comprised of AHLers, they haven’t really slipped underwater in terms of possession for more than a dozen or so games here and there this season. It’s pretty remarkable and certainly praiseworthy. Read the rest of this entry »

james reimer cool

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Thoughts on Thoughts” is a feature that looks at Elliotte Friedman’s terrific weekly post “30 Thoughts.” Justin Bourne selects his 10 favourite tidbits, and elaborates.

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Friedman’s column, March 24th: Leafs’ Reimer should follow Cammalleri’s lead

Opening:

Friedman’s opening this week centered on the plight of James Reimer, and how he could use a little dose of that “eff you” that Mike Cammalleri has shown over the past few weeks. Friedman explained how Cammalleri expected to be dealt to a contender at the deadline, but nobody traded for him despite the fact that he was available. (Overpriced and underperforming, as he was.)

Since the deadline, Cammalleri has killed it, scoring nine goals and 15 points in 10 games (impressive when you consider he only has 37 points on the season). Friedman explained how he sees that run as a bit of an “eff you” to those GMs. True or not, he believes that Reimer, in a situation where the Leafs have shown no respect or trust for him, could use a dose of “eff you” attitude himself coming down the homestretch, only towards the Leafs’ brass.

reimer benchI wrote something similar Monday morning about starting Reimer Tuesday night. If I may quote myself – I do agree with myself fairly often – “Reimer could very well post a classic “eff you coach” game tomorrow night and get hot, and that’s the Leafs best chance at winning six or seven of their next nine games, which they’ll likely need to do.” As in, if he starts playing for himself and changes his mindset, he could pull his mental dune-buggy out of the muddy bog.

My one addendum to Reimer’s situation is that it’s one thing to be “proving a point” on a team that overvalued you (a compliment) and kept you a la Cammalleri, and another to feel like an outsider on the inside of your own dressing room. “Eff these guys” – even if it only means the coaching staff and management – doesn’t feel very good, and isn’t something that’s a part of Reimer’s natural pet-all-the-puppies disposition.

10 Thoughts

2. Carlyle is taking heat as his team hits the iceberg, but last Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to Tampa proved the players must take greater responsibility for their own defensive mindset. There’s no coach in the world who doesn’t prepare his team for Steven Stamkos. The Lightning’s franchise player scored three times, without being bothered in the process. Toronto is fun to watch, but that game hammered home the point that this style isn’t going to work long-term. Prediction: at least one of the more offensive-minded players goes somewhere else this summer for a defensively stout replacement.

We’ll get to the prediction at the end, but first the “style” stuff: the most damning thing I can say about Randy Carlyle’s Leafs is that it looks like they’re playing shinny, which means one of four things:

1) The players aren’t listening to him. He’s put a system in place but his guys skirt it at will so it looks like a ball hockey session in gym class. Not good. Read the rest of this entry »

Toews possession

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I keep a notebook of my hockey thoughts, and every so often I’m left with a pile that aren’t column-worthy, but are still points I’d like to make. Let’s get five off the books today, shall we? I’ll try to get through the rest as the week goes on.

1) The race to the top of the Pacific Division is crucial

It doesn’t entirely matter whether the winner of the Pacific Division – either San Jose or Anaheim – manages to eclipse the St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference or not. The winner of that division will draw Minnesota, Phoenix, or Dallas. The loser…the Los Angeles Kings.

I’ve got a secret: the Kings will be no fun to play in playoffs. Don’t tell anyone.

williams2They give up a league-low 2.04 goals a game. They’re one of the league’s three biggest teams. They’ve recorded the second-best goaltending in the league (statistically-speaking). They get shots, they don’t give up many, they have the puck an awful lot…you get the picture.

Because I expect the West to be a war of attrition en route to the Final, I’d rather take my chances with a team called the Not Kings if I sincerely hoped to go deep – which means winning the Pacific outright.

One of the Ducks or Sharks will need their best right out of the gate.

2) New playoff seeding kills a few races down the homestretch

The new playoff format is actually pretty simple, despite how it sounds the first time you hear it – the two division winners will get the two wild card teams in round one (in the order you’d expect), and the 2-3 seeds from each division will play each other. Get it? Got it? Good. Read the rest of this entry »

James Reimer3

I’ve often written that the goal in the offensive zone is to create chaos for the opposing defense so they have to make decisions. Once you’re asking people to make tough decisions, they occasionally make the wrong one, and suddenly they find themselves in a lot of trouble.

Well, on a much bigger scale the Toronto Maple Leafs have caused chaos for themselves with their poor play over their five game losing streak, and they find themselves having to make the “tough” decision: do they go with James Reimer, who hasn’t been very good since Jonathan Bernier went down, or do they go with their AHL starter Drew MacIntyre against the St. Louis Blues at home tomorrow?

No seriously, that’s a real question people are asking.

Of course you start Reimer. This is madness.

Just so we’re not beating up a straw man, here’s two tweets from this morning that had me a little baffled from Toronto radio host Greg Brady: Read the rest of this entry »

Red Wings win

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First off, on the question of “Who’s to blame?” …”Not James Reimer” is a good place to start. I’m not saying the guy is Patrick Roy reincarnate, but his three goals against came on a breakaway, a partial breakaway, and a 2-on-1 that ended in an uncontested snappy-wrist-shot from the slot by Daniel Alfredsson (while he was forced to move laterally). Out of 31 shots? Keep his name outcho mouth.

We’ll look at the Red Wings three goals, and just how Detroit earned (or were handed) the opportunities they needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.

1-0 Detroit

Nyquist scores

What happened: Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring on a breakaway, 12:50 into the first period.

Video:

Analysis:

This is as far back as the video goes, but what we’ve got off the top is…

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…Kessel and JvR forechecking, Kyle Quincey trying to break the puck out, the Red Wings looking sound positionally, and the Leafs F3, Tyler Bozak….oh god where’s Bozie going. Bozie, you’re high, what’re you creeping in for? We don’t even have the puck!

Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan O'Reilly

At six feet tall, Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly weighs 200 pounds. Like most hockey players, the bulk of that is thighs and ass which give him a stable center of gravity that makes him hard to knock off the puck, and allows him to have some jump in his first few strides after stopping. He’s hard on opposing defenders, is good in puck battles, and isn’t afraid to go to the front of the net. He’s good at hockey in general.

Oh, and also…

Zero PIMs this year. Not a single penalty minute. Not one mis-call that saw him have to sit in the box through 1,316:03 of ice time (basically 22 hours of hockey). That’s the most of any Avalanche forward, a little under 20 minutes per game.

Which brings about these two tweets that I also found relevant. Read the rest of this entry »