EXCLUSIVE SCOUTING REPORT: D-Men Add Offense
In each issue, Bluelines and The Fischler Report will bring you a special, in-depth report from David Kolb, whose scouting career dates back to the early 2000s working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As you will see later, this is an in-depth, no-frills assessment of a specific tactical success. An exclusive look at how defensemen can add punch once the puck is in the offensive zone.
On Monday, I discussed how a defender can properly join a rush and add to the offensive pressure. Today, on the heels of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-4 overtime win over the Dallas Stars last night, I’ll be looking at one way a defenseman can help create an offense after his team wins the line blue.
At 5-on-5, once a team has taken possession of their attacking zone, the next best strategy is to get scoring chances. This can happen through cycling or just hard work – and the possibility of a mistake being made by the defensive team. Last night the Stars scored a goal that brilliantly and effectively used a defenseman to confuse the Toronto defense.
Less than five minutes into the third period, and trailing by a goal, defenseman John Klingberg activated and slid to the left side of the Toronto net, with his right stick inside the ice. Initially, Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly had Klingberg covered and broadcast an inbound pass from Joe Pavelski.
But as the game progressed and the puck circled the net confusion ensued and before you knew it Toronto had 5 players on the right side of the ice – and none were covering a Klingberg persistent on the left. Seconds later, the puck returned to Pavelski who was now in the right place to cover Klingberg, and without hesitation he threw a cross pass to an uncovered Klingberg who broke through the goal on one reception.
What made it work was that Toronto didn’t suspect the Kingberg-Pavelski switch, while Pavelski didn’t even have to look up to know Klingberg was waiting, the weak side at the door.
Rielly slid down the right side – with his left stick inside the ice… And with laser-like precision, Marner found a wide-open Rielly, who laid down a pinpoint home!
Hockey‘s answer to baseball’s Ruth and Gehrig
Now is the time to put Connor McDavid and Leon Draiisaitl into perspective.
No, it’s not a question of who is the best. It really doesn’t matter.
Rather, we are dealing with a sporting analogy that defines greatness. Best of all, it covers all professional sports endeavours. Moreover, it is equivalent to one even pair of the world of baseball.
What Connor and Leon did really equals a duet and it has to be Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
The New York Yankees of the “Murderer’s Row” of the 1920s were a pair that dominated the opposition like no other in major league baseball.
The Bambino was the consistent home run king while The iron horse proved to be not only baseball’s iron man, but also an offensive and defensive threat like no one before or since.
It’s now apparent that McDavid-Draisaitil combined that kind of constant threat. Although their styles differ, they blend together in such a way that they’re virtually unstoppable in any particular game.
Like Ruth and Gehrig, the Edmonton pair occasionally suffer nights, but – as this season indicates – their dual production is stunning in its overall consistency.
There is a difference, however, and it will remain so until the Oilers prove there is more to their game than regular-season dominance.
Babe and The Iron Horse have been regular World Series winners.
On that score – so far, at least – Alberta’s Gold Dust Twins have struck!
SENATORS ARE AT A CROSSROADS
Ottawa hockey has suffered a big blow at the major league level with the death of the owner
Eugene Melnyk. Outside of his team funding, he was an owner who put his heart and soul into every colon.
What now remains to be seen is if there is another Melnyk in a town with a long and storied hockey history, although such assets are small potatoes among today’s financial priorities. .
Financial magazine Forbes, in a recent issue of NHL Team Valuations, placed Ottawa second to last — $750 million — of the existing 32 teams. Certainly, Ottawa has political value for Bettman, Inc., because it is the capital of Canada and this factor
should not be dismissed out of hand.
Then again, if another Melnyk-type sugar daddy fails to emerge, the commissioner and his board of governors must – as they no doubt are doing right now – consider alternatives.
The obvious – but not necessarily the best – choice would be Quebec City, which has always been dismissed as geographically too small and fiscally inadequate for lack of the necessary corporate sponsorship. This factor is a major drawback.
Unsurprisingly, Uncle Sam has a few cities with necessary NHL-sized arenas that would host an NHL franchise. But that’s easier said than done. Commissioner Bettman has been adamantly opposed to franchise transfers and his support for the Arizona Coyotes is Exhibit A.
The first priority will be to keep the Senators in Ottawa; no questions about it. Quebec interests are pushing for another NHL team. For now, it’s a long way off, but it’s not inconceivable that some Senators games will be played in Quebec.
If nothing else, we have a compelling franchise melodrama ahead of us; a potential tale of two cities.
I’M JUST SAYING:
* I find it appalling when a player is knocked down with a perfectly clean miss and the batter is forced into a fight for doing the right thing.
* If ever the bromide, “The NHL season is a marathon, not a sprint” needed an example, it would be the Anaheim Ducks.
* An “Oldie But Goldie”, which best fits the Buffalo Sabers would be “I’m Beginning Tio See The Light”.
* I recently heard about Jakob Chychrun’s dad, Jeff, who paid his own NHL dues. Much of Jake’s success is due to his father’s tutoring.
* Good for Andy Brunette. The Panthers coach should be proud that his club is the first in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth. But there is an asterisk involved:
* Brunette adds, “We have our sights set on bigger prizes.” And we all know what they are; the kind that ends in Cup.
* If someone asked me which American city would be a great place for another NHL team, it would be located in the state of Oregon; and the city of Portland.
* A Seattle-Portland rivalry would be one of the best in the sport.
* I like Ron Hextall’s explanation of the success of his Penguins: “We play by things. Fight!” (He might have added that his captain is Sidney Crosby.)
* Hextall and Brian Burke didn’t go crazy at the trade deadline. Still, the acquisitions of sniper Rickard Rakell and tough guy Nathan Beaulieu were sensible additions.
* “Minnesota is my dark horse of the west.” Not just mine, but also my buddy, Sean Mccaffrey, who originally whispered it in my left ear.
* Two thoughts on Ryan Getzlaf’s retirement announcement: 1. Sorry to see the warrior leave the NHL. 2. This is the perfect time for her Goodbye.
* Amazing how Rangers’ Chris Kreider keeps scoring, but we hear so little about this ace compared to the McDavids, Matthews and Marners of the elite hockey world.
ANALYTICAL – GOOD OR INDIFFERENT?
One of the best things about Analytics is that it provided employment for many people who were unfamiliar with gin rummy hockey. Every NHL team has an Expert A, and some clubs have a team.
A fascinating article by Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News-Observer revealed cynical comments about A-Business. In fact, Canes captain Jordan Staal admits he “rarely watches Analytics. The players understand the game”.
Staal’s trainer, Rod Brind’Amour, has a delightful quote: “Analytics has been around for about 100 years; only now have they put it on paper.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has revealed that his Analytics employees “keep adding lines” to their data collection. “It’s good,” Cassidy added, “because it keeps them ‘up’ and not down.”
When can someone prove to me how Analytics helped the Bolts win twice in a row
Stanley Cups, I’ll be more impressed with the A-Game than I am right now.
WHO SAYS THAT? “It’s not how much you earn that’s important, it’s how
many that you show up for.” (Answer below.)
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER A BAD GAME WITH MIKE KEENAN COACHING
Solid and longtime veteran NHL forward Steve Larmer recently appeared on the “Squid And The Ultimate Leaf Fan” podcast. Via guest Steve Larmer, ace producer Glenn Dreyfuss passed on some insight into Mike Keenan as a trainer. Larmer was among Keenan’s victims. Here is Steve:
“Mike’s practices were intense. In fact, I would describe my first two years under him with the Blackhawks as ‘Living Hell’. An example was the morning after we got blasted by Detroit. Keenan made us practice the next morning before our flight back to Chicago.
“We had 60 minutes without pucks; just stockings, backs and planks. When he was done, Mike then said, ‘You had your chance to work 60 minutes last night. You didn’t so you work 60 minutes today. Then he skated. And, by the way, we’ve had a lot.”
PS Larmer has a Stanley Cup rink courtesy of the 1994 champions Rangers. The coach, in case you haven’t read your history books, was none other than Mike Keenan!
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Barclay Plager, when he was captain of the St. Louis Blues.