All coaches have players on their team who they trust above others. Part of that trust comes from the coaches pouring over stats. Which center wins the highest percentage of draws? Which defencemen has the least number of turnovers a game? Which forward hits the net with a shot most often?
The Little Things
Those are all some of the stats that can be tracked, recorded and reviewed. However a coach’s trust is earned in many more ways then from just a stat sheet he can review while riding on the team plane to the next city. It is the little plays made during the game that are not tracked by stats that really influence a coach’s trust or lack thereof in a player.
Can a winger get the puck out on the wall in his own zone when it is rimmed to him? This is a huge play that directly impacts a game. The ability to perform this task properly, as in getting it out, immediately takes the pressure off in the defensive zone. How many times do we see a winger fail to get it out because of the pressure applied by a pinching defenceman and it result in a goal?
Can a defenceman retrieve a puck in his own zone and under pressure make a quick breakout pass? So important! This is one of the most difficult plays in hockey to do but when done properly it literally stalls the offensive teams forecheck. With the all out jail break forecheck many teams use now, with a sharply passed puck, an odd man rush going the other way is possible.
How likely is a player to make the correct decision with the puck? There are times in the game when there isn’t a great play to be made. A one on three rush though the neutral zone is one of those times. Will the player try to beat all three while his team mates change and possibly turn it over which will result in a mess? Or will he dump it in the short side corner which will allow his line mates to change?
The new coach of the Oilers, Ralph Krueger knows the players on his team. He has been with them for a while so I would expect he knows who he has trust in and who he does. Of course his opinion can change with a players improved attention to detail.
He is fortunate to have many offensive weapons in his top six forwards. I think scoring goals and a high power play efficiency won’t be an issue for the Oilers. My concern is who will protect the leads?
It is game eighty two. The Oilers need two points in this game to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Wild are in town, it is the third period, one minute to go and the Oilers are winning by one. The face off is in the Oilers defensive zone. The Wild throw Koivu, Parise, Heatley, Suter and Spurgeon on the ice.
Ralph Krueger will put together a group of five players he has trust in to protect that lead and to do the little plays I outlined above with a minute to go. My question to the Oilersnation is…Who do you love? Who do you trust to be out there and protect that lead? Tell me your five players that you think will get the job done. Don’t just tell me your favorite players, put yourself in Ralphs shoes.