April 21 2014 09:27AM
Dave Tippett played 721 NHL games, 483 of them with the Hartford Whalers, and despite what this card insinuates he never won a Cup with the Penguins. Tippett signed with the Penguins in the summer of 1992 after they had won consecutive Stanley Cups.
Tippett was a solid NHL player, mainly a checker, but he's become one of the most respected coaches in the NHL. He's led his team to the playoffs in 8 of this 11 seasons, and he'll guide Canada at the upcoming World Championships.
Tippett and I spoke about his coaching philosophies, communication, advanced stats and more.
Gregor: Much of your success as a coach has to do with your communications skills, when did you realize that would be the most important factor in your success?
Tippett: You’ve got to get a rapport with all of your players. Basically, players all want to be the best that they can be. You’ve just got to find ways to facilitate that for them. If they feel like they are getting a chance and they have an honest assessment of how they are doing and how things are going, I think that players react well to that.
You know the old days of you can really squash players, and rant and rave, I think that those days are by us. For me, with a player whether it is the team aspect or individual aspect; I’m trying to help them, trying to make them succeed. A lot of players they recognize that, and they’ll try to give you everything that they’ve got. So, just an honest approach and make sure that they know exactly what is expected of them and it seems to have worked well.
**Brian Sutherby has tsaid many times that Tippett is an outstanding communicator. He was the best coach Sutherby ever had and he had a great ability to make every player feel important regardless of their role on the team.**
Gregor: Dave, you haven’t had the most skilled teams over the years, but you’ve always found a way to get the most out of your players. What do you attribute that to?
Tippett: Well, you know what, my philosophy is that first off all you look at the players you have and you try to formulate a plan on how you’re going to win. Ultimately, it’s all about winning. Whoever you’re coaching, whatever team, or organization you want to try to win. You look at your players, you formulate a game plan, you get those players to recognize that they can be a part of that formula and you move ahead with it.
We put a lot of onus on not letting each other down. You’ve got players that are in certain roles, they know that they have to do their job and that’s just part of the puzzle. So really I believe in a strong team effort.
That’s what I believe in the World Championships is going to be very important to get everybody on the same page and into their roles as quickly as we can. I think that’s how teams have success.
Gregor: Do you find when you make it very clear to a player what his role is, they’re more willing to accept it, rather than switching them from different roles from game to game?
Tippett: I learned a long time ago from my old Olympic coach, Dave King, who works down here (KHL), he said, "have you ever heard of the three Ts?" I said, "no I haven’t heard of the three Ts." He says, "First you train them to a role and if they can do that great, if they can’t do it, then you transfer them into a different role and try that. If that doesn’t work then you terminate them." [Laughs]
So I’ve had pretty good luck in training and transferring, I haven’t had any terminations yet, but that’s what players want. They want to know where they sit, and certain players have certain skills sets. Some roles are easier than others, but if players accept that and know that that’s a big part of what they do, they help the team win. That’s half of the battle, having players to play well. The other half is you need good players.
**The three T's makes a lot of sense, and you wonder if Eakins or other had thought about that regarding Sam Gagner moving to the wing. Andrew Cogliano admitted he always felt he was better as a centre, but after Bruce Boudreau moved him to the wing he's had more success. Gagner doesn't skate like Cogliano, so he won't get in on the forecheck as quickly, but you do wonder if it is time to contemplate moving Gagner to the wing. Keep in mind that during the most productive stretch of his career, final 25 games of his rookie season he played the wing with Cogliano in the middle and Robert Nilsson on the other wing. I wonder if it is time to try "transferring" Gagner to the wing?**
Gregor: From teaching to transferring, how long does it take to recognize a player that you’re teaching isn’t working in one role and you’ve got to transfer him into another role?
Tippett: [Laughs] Well, I mean it can vary; you get a young player that comes out pegged as a real high scorer and stuff. You’ve got to get him comfortable and see if he can do his job. Often, it takes longer than a young checker that you peg as a penalty killer and you can tell pretty quickly if he’s got the instincts to be a penalty killer. So it varies for different roles for different situations for all different kinds of players.
Gregor: In Phoenix this year you were a lot more of an offensive team while your goals against was up. Did you change how you tried to play this year compared to last year and if so, why?
Tippett: No, I don’t think that we changed. When the ownership finally got settled here, we signed a couple of guys, specifically [Mike] Ribeiro. We knew that we had to try and take a step forward and be a better offensive team if we were going to get to the next level. We pushed that aspect of it, and we tried to be a better offensive team. I think that that led to a bit of our defending issues. But when we played the best in the season, when we went on a good runs of games, we were a solid defending team that could chip in enough goals to win.
Early in the year, for whatever reason, we were scoring
goals in bunches that our coaching staff would look at each other after and
say, ‘I can’t believe we scored that many.’ We only had 20 shots and scored six
goals or something. You get in stages like that where the puck goes in the net
for you, but we didn’t think it was sustainable.
Gregor: Are you big into analytics, do you follow all of that?
Tippett: I’ve done a lot of real different behind the scene stats ever since my first couple of years in Houston in the mid ‘90s. So I have a, I would have a very extensive, a very extensive stat package that’s all done. Less on NHL stats, very few that rely on NHL stats and more on our own stats that we do off of video and stuff.
Gregor: Ok, now could you share what those stats are ?
Tippet: Would I share?
Tippett: Then I’d have to kill the person. [Laughs]
Naw, a lot of it’s similar. We do a different plus minus
system on scoring chances, a bunch of different things like that. But I’ve been
a part of a lot of different analytics. In Dallas we had the Coleman analytics that
again, were based off of all NHL stats and the shots for, shots against,
blocked shots, those things. When you’re in the league
and you see the variance from building to building, the validity of those stats
sometimes comes into question.
And a lot of it, the big analytics right now, is strictly off of computer stats generated from the NHL, and I’m a big believer in stats, but they have to be valid and that’s why everything that we do, or the majority of what we do comes from watching the tape and actually analysing each individual play and scoring chance and figuring out what happened rather than just taking for granted the shots for and against.
**We've all been frustrated with how the data from building to building varies. Hits are marked very differently, and I've seen games where certain shots weren't recorded, but I never thought it was that much of a variance from rink to rink. It is interesting to hear Tippett's criticism on basic shots for/against. Hits, shots and even scoring chances will always be marked somewhat different from person to person, but as long as they are close the NHL stats page should still give us a good foundation, but when an NHL coach and self-proclaimed stats guy questions their validity then maybe the NHL should look at improving their consistency.**
- Mr. Willis wrote a solid piece wondering what type of player Nail Yakupov would become. At this point it is safe to say none of us know, but it was interesting to see the wide range of possibilities, both positive and negative. No one will argue the 2012 first overall pick has a lot of skill, but how productive can he be? Much of that will depend on him, as is the case with the majority of players.
My concern with Yakupov is how many have over hyped his shooting and scoring ability thus far, because I think it is setting up unrealistic expectations. He has yet to prove he is a bonafide NHL scorer, and while he has a heavy one-timer he hasn't transferred that into goals. Having a hard shot means little if you don't score.
I won't be surprised if Yakupov become a 30-goal scorer, but the suggestions that he is a great shooter right now is premature. He has a hard one-timer, but he'll need to master the ability to get it off regularly or with accuracy before we can correctly call him a sniper. He has the potential, but the biggest,and most common mistake I've seen from the organization and certain fans and media over the past five years is assuming that potential automatically turns into production.
I love goal scoring, and I'd love nothing more if Yakupov becomes a feared sniper. The league needs more of them and so do the Oilers, but people need to have realistic expectations. The list of players who were feared one-timers is short, mainly because it is the most difficult skill to master.
The player needs more than a great shot. He has to know how to get open, and have an eye for the soft spots in the defence, then he needs to have a large "sweet spot" so he can connect regardless of where the pass comes from, and finally he needs accuracy and velocity. Very few have mastered this, and people need to stop assuming that putting Yakupov on the right point on the PP will mean equate to a surge in goals. It isn't that simple.
Take a deep breath before you claim this is some sort of bias against Russians (incredibly dumb argument, considering Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin are two of my favourite players), or that I'm being hard on Yakupov. I'm trying to protect him from being another Oiler who is labelled with unrealistic expectations and then ripped for not achieving them.
Expecting 25 goals from him next season would be realistic, and also a great accomplishment since only 51 players reached that mark this past year, but let's calm down the claims that he is a proven scorer or shooter. He might become one, but he isn't there yet.
- I'm always leery of comparisons based on projections. For example in Yakupov's rookie season, If you prorated him after 45 games (11-14-25) he'd be a 20-25-45 over 82 games. But, he finished the season with a flurry and after 48 games he had 17-14-31 and was projected for 29-24-53. It really changes the numbers because people saw him as a 29-goal scorer instead of a 20-goal man. I believe those final three games gave some people an unfair, inflated sense of his production. Many expected him to pick up where he left off, and rarely is that the case.
- Nathan MacKinnon tied the NHL for most points, 7, in his first two NHL games and he's already tied for 8th most points by an 18 year old in one playoff season. Jaromir Jagr holds the record with 13 points set in 1991.
- It is amazing to watch the different development curves of recent top draft picks. Erik Johnson, 1st overall in 2006, took eight years to become a dominant #1 D-man. Drew Doughty, 2nd pick in 2008, was an elite defender in his 2nd season.
MacKinnon's has been incredible this season. RNH had an oustanding rookie year until he got injured. He played hurt the following season, finally had surgery and this past year he was okay, meanwhile Gabriel Landeskog has had a few solid campaigns. The great part is that even after two, three or four years it is hard to say with certainty who will be better over the next four or five years.
Will Yakupov take a big step next season or will he need a few more years before he becomes a 30-goal scorer, similar to how James Van Riemsdyk has developed. JVR was the 2nd pick in 2007 and he didn't score 30 until his 5th NHL season at the age of 24.
Some players can excel right away, while others, even top picks, take a few years before they are comfortable in the NHL.
- According to Russian reporter Pavel Lysenkov Anton Belov didn't like Dallas Eakins.
- The LA Kings are getting mauled by the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks top lines are crushing the Kings, and when your 4th line scores three goals in two games you know things are going well. The Sharks have been able to attack with speed all over the ice and the Kings' forwards and defence aren't nearly as quick.
- Colorado's top line has been outstanding, but I don't see them going very far in the playoffs playing only three lines. Their fourth line of Patrick Bordeleau (4:55/game), Brad Malone (4:01) and Paul Carey (3:15) have barely played. Teams that win get at least 8 minutes/game out of their fourth line and often will have at least one guy with 10+ minutes. When Matt Duchene returns that will move someone down the lineup and give Roy a better option on the 4th line, but if he doesn't use that line to give his top lines some rest they will get fatigued. The wear and tear will become too much.
- Paul Stastny's UFA stock keeps rising. If he tests the market he'll be the most sought after forward, and someone the Oilers would seriously look at. He's exactly what they need down the middle.
- The Gregor Foundation will be taking suit donations up until this Friday. You can drop them off at Page The Cleaner (11416-142 street) and they will dry clean for free. Or you can drop off your suit (dry cleaned) at Derks (Whyte ave location) or the TSN studio (18520 Stony Plain road). Thanks for all your support.
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