IS WINNING ALL THAT MATTERS?

We’ve heard the phrase, "It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win," for years. It makes sense in pro sports, where it is your job to win, but if you win by playing boring, non-creative hockey is it still worth it?

If you ask fans of the LA Kings they will surely say they love Kings’ hockey, and it is easy to see why since they’ve won six straight playoff series. However, I find myself turning off the TV and tuning out of their games on a nightly basis this year.

In 13 playoff games this year the Kings have scored a paltry 26 goals, two goals/game and they’ve had 29+ shots only five times. Last year, enroute to their first Stanley Cup the Kings scored 57 goals in 20 games, 2.85 goals/game and in 10 of their 20 games they had 28+ shots and in six of those games they fired 37+ shots.

The Kings weren’t nearly as offensively challenged/boring last year. This year the Kings have decided to win with boring, uncreative hockey. It works for them, but don’t confuse that with exciting or entertaining. Don’t let close games fool you into believing they are entertaining. Just because every game is a one goal game shouldn’t mean it is exciting.

The Penguins are exciting. The Bruins are exciting, the Hawks/Wings are exciting but the 2013 LA Kings are not.

I wonder if fans have been duped into believing this style of play is actually entertaining? Do you watch games to see guys be smart away from the puck, make no mistakes, pack five guys in front of the net and skate fast with little creative flair? 

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you should pay players four, five or six million dollars because they chip and chase, dump it out of their zone and create little to no offence. The game has much more potential than that, but I feel the culture of hockey has started to brainwash people into believing that defensive hockey is the way to go. Many coaches use it because it is easier to play and easier to control, rather than asking players to be creative and allowing them to make mistakes.

You can find many players who can skate fast, dump and chase the puck, and never try anything creative. Those types of players are a dime a dozen, and it seems the NHL would rather groom that type of player than allow those with skill to flourish.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a rarity in today’s NHL. They encourage creativity, and they are proving you can win with it.

The Penguins have scored 4+ goals in 9 of 11 playoff games. They’ve had 30+ shots in 8 of their games, and they’ve given up 30+ shots eight times as well. That is entertaining hockey.

They attack, and in doing so they do expose themselves to allowing the other team some scoring opportunities. Is Dan Bylsma a bad coach because he doesn’t preach defence every second of every shift? I don’t think so.

I don’t buy the argument that the Kings can’t play more offensive. They have plenty of skilled players in Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, yet they rarely attack.

The biggest fallacy in the game is that you can’t play offensive hockey and keep your goals against down at the same time. The Penguins are proving that you can.

Marc-Andre Fleury was brutal in three games, but since he was replaced by Tomas Vokoun the Penguins have still been able to produce numerous goals without surrendering many.

In his seven starts, Vokoun has faced 239 shots (34.1/game) and he’s allowed 14 goals, .941SV%.
In 13 starts, Quick has faced 382 shots (29.3/game) and he’s allowed 20 goals, .948SV%.

Are the Kings really benefiting that much more than the Penguins by playing such an atrociously boring style of game? Are the enticing more fans to want to watch? No chance.

Is winning so important that you have to make the game almost unwatchable? I hope most fans realize that the Kings’ style of play is not exciting or entertaining. They win, but unless you are diehard Kings’ fan I’d hope you don’t appreciate it or enjoy their games.

IT IMPACTS LOWER LEVELS

The way the Kings play the game does impact amateur hockey. A lot of the talk surrounding minor hockey in Canada today is focused on the decision by Hockey Canada to ban body checking until bantam. This decision was based solely on player safety, and it is hard to argue with that when you realize that 95% of the kids playing won’t play in the CHL, NCAA or NHL.

However, according to Steve Serdachny the skating and skills coach of the Edmonton Oilers and the owner of Serdachny Powerskating and Hockey body checking isn’t the major issue within hockey right now.

"The biggest epidemic we have in amateur hockey in Canada is the inability of young players to give and receive passes," Serdachny said on my radio show yesterday.

Serdachny teaches hockey camps around the world, and when he compares the average Canadian youth to kids in Europe our skill development is much lower. We aren’t teaching the basic skills often enough.

Too many coaches focus on system play, and that is a major problem. It is easier to teach kids where to stand on the ice than it is to teach them how to accept passes from different angles and different body positions. The LA Kings have some elite level players, but the style of game they play doesn’t allow those skills to flourish.

It is all about system play. Stay in your lane, pressure the puck carrier and think defence first.

I’d love to see Hockey Canada implement a limit on the amount of time coaches spend on system play until kids are in peewee. Most of practice time should be spent on improving kid’s skating and puckhandling skills. What is the point of learning a system, if the kids don’t have the skills to make a play when the get the puck?

It is ridiculous to watch kids in novice learning what their coach deems a "system." Teaching kids basic positioning and the rules of the game like icing and offside are imperative, but we are not spending enough time helping the average player improve their passing skills. When a coach like Serdachny, who teaches hockey camps around the world, recognizes that the skill of the average young Canadian hockey player is significantly less than kids in other countries we should take notice.

COLD HARD CASH…

We have finalized our Ultimate Sports Fan Package, and our final prize is $1,000 in cash. AWESOME.

For the third consecutive year we are doing our Ultimate Sports Fan package for charity. On June 8th I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan. Click here and donate $100 and you will get one entry into the draw. If you donate $200 you get two entries and so on.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $10,000 for MS. We have 72 entries left and the draw is next Thursday, June 6th.

This year’s winner will get the following: Valued at over $5,000.00

  1. A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets.
  3. A beer fridge and beer for a year from Big Rock Brewery.
  4. A signed Jeremy Roenick stick. It is a brand new, he only used it twice.
  5. $500 at vivo ristorante. Every good sports fan needs a good pregame meal.
  6. 20 tickets to Oil Kings opening night game, and you will get an Oil King of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Player on the roster on November 1st).
  7. A pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets.
  8. You and five of your friends will tee it up at The Ranch Golf and County Club with Meg Storms and Mark Spector and you’ll go in style in a Blue Sky Limo.
  9. $1,000 in cash from The Jason Gregor Show.

Keep in mind this sold out in two weeks last year, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

 

  • BRHLBryce

    I don’t know if you watched the Kings-Blues series, but that was probably the best series of hockey I’ve watched that I didn’t have a rooting interest in.

  • John Chambers

    Well, it is exciting for fans when your team is still in the playoffs. The Oilers in ’06 didn’t play a scintillating brand of hockey, and yet I would be elated if a playoff run like that occured once a decade.

  • Ducey

    Comical, lots of fans here complaing it’s boring, but who probably were the same fans who watched the 06 team play a 1-2-2 or trap their way to a cup final. We liked it then. If you are a fan of the team you won’t complain at the time.

    • Jason Gregor

      The Oilers had 4+ goals 9 times that playoffs, and had 3+ 14 times out of 24 games.

      They scored 70 goals that year. The Oilers generated chances and gave up chances.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Regarding the reffing, I agree that it is frustrating how much the rules change from the regular season to the playoffs. The calls are ticky-tack in the extreme at the beginning of the season, and obstruction rules are out the window in the playoffs.

    If they could fall somewhere in the middle and do it consistently, I think it would be a big help.

    I think the Bruins-Leafs series may have some effect on this. Nobody cared when the Bruins mauled the Nucks. When the Bruins mauled the leafs, media in the east cried bloddy murder. For the record, can’t stand the nucks (mainly because of their fans) or the leafs (mainly because eastern media shoves them down my throat). However, my sense is that the leafs nation feel wronged by the officiating in that series, and the league might actually pay attention to them.

  • John Chambers

    I agree with Gregor. I can see how the hitting/grinding aspect to the kings style can be appealing to some (Strudwick said on the radio that he finds the kings exciting becuase of all of the battles). However, for my entertainment dollar, I want creative playmaking and lots of scoring chances – the kings have little of either. They are like a ream of robots who work hard and skate fast. The hard work entertains some fans, and I do not pass judgment on that.

    I just find creative playmaking and 5-3 scores a lot more entertaining than unrelenting defensive systems play and 1-0 or 2-1 scores.

    I am definitely cheering for a Chi-Pit final. As recently discussed on this site, other teams copy the styles of winners. I don’t want an era of NHL where everyone is copying the Kings.

  • I know it wasnt popular at the time, but I was a huge fan of those Devils teams in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Most cried about the trap but I loved watching those guys play. Lots of odd man rushes for the Devils back then, the best goalie in the world, and Scott Stevens was playing a brand of hockey that would make Shanahan crap his pants. It was spectacular.

    It’s not like the Kings are running out a no name team of misfits like the Wild used to do. They have some world class players.

  • Hambone

    I think LA hockey in the playoffs is very exciting, LA vs. STL was great hockey. If I had to choose a series to watch LA would be in it.

    I respectfully disagree with you Jason

  • Ducey

    Winning is everything. I’m so sick of seeing the lowly Oilers in the bottom of the standings. If you watched game 7 last night the Kings defense were able to gain the neutral zone after a turn over, with patience and make a solid pass that lead to a zone entry. If the Oilers are ever going to make the playoffs we need a #1 defense man that can log huge minutes and get the puck to our forwards in the neutral zone.

    However I have a funny feeling that if Nichushkin, and Monahan are off the board, the Oilers #7 (Lindholm) will be traded for a defense man.

    Does Hemksy and the 7th overall + get you a legitimate franchise defense-man?

  • Ducey

    They can easily open up the game by calling the freakin’ rules that are already in place.

    They call everything in September (remember the Oilers getting a penalty for jumping into the faceoff circle too fast?) including one handed hooking, one handed holding, intereference, etc.

    By May, you can pretty much impede anyone all the time. The front of the net is a rugby scrum.

    Teams like LA and even Detroit are holding and hooking and slowing down the game all over the place. Detroit seems to be experts at holding the stick. The only goals seem to come off lucky deflections or rebounds.

    The reffing is frankly a farce. No other sport changes the rules 3 times a year.

    I can’t watch it. I can’t wait until the playoffs are over.

    • DSF

      This is bang on. There’s no question that the LA SJ series had some great intensity, spectacular goaltending and some big hits….but the league has let things go back to a clutch fest.

      Frankly the turning point seems to be the Van. Bos. final where the refs ate their whistles and ever since the holding and grabbing has been on the rise. The NHL officiating these playoffs is embarrassing. It’s so inconsistent from game to game and series to series.

      The NFL seems to be pretty popular and they don’t adjust the officiating at all for the playoffs. You don’t suddenly need to haul a guy down completely for a pass interference in the Super Bowl

    • Hambone

      I’d personally rather watch back-and-forth 5-on-5 hockey than a penalty every 5 seconds. Regular season NHL reffing is a joke…you get a penalty for breathing on a guy these days.

      Those games in September are hard to watch with all the joke calls…absolutely no flow and games decided by special teams and referees. That is not exciting hockey.

      I’d rather see a 1-0 game with hardly any calls then a 4-3 game with 30 minutes in powerplay….

  • Hambone

    I disagree and don’t understand why all the media is all over this series, calling it boring and hard to watch. It’s awesome playoff hockey!

    Maybe the media just watches too much hockey/sports all year long and are spoiled rotten by it. I thought it was a great series despite low scoring.

    • John Chambers

      So having Kopitar, Carter, Brown, Richards, and Doughty isn’t enough to play an up tempo attacking system? I think it’s coaching that’s killing the excitement level. A coaches job is to win or he won’t have a job, since defense is easier to teach and play that’s what we get. Sutter is the most boring person in hockey, and his team plays just like it. I wish if teams scored 4 or more goals in a game, they get an extra point in the standings. It would encourage offense. Although in the playoffs it obviously wouldn’t work.

      • I’m saying there are very few teams that can just run horses all game long and no matter what they do or what system they play they’ll win. I don’t believe LA is one of them. This year Pittsburgh and Chicago where two… doubt anyone else would fit.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Huh,

    This just couldn’t be further from what I’ve been watching. The LA St. Louis series was war. The San Jose series went to game seven, with Quick and Niemmi making spectacular saves. That’s why it was a low scoring series. Punishing hits on every play, constant pressure. If that is boring hockey then what on earth is exciting hockey? The 9 – 5 Pens Philly games form last year? Please. Why not just go watch a game of shinny.

    LA has had some of the most complete hockey series I’ve seen with amazing offence, defence, and incredible gaol tending. What are you asking the coach to do? Open up his seems for the sake of making the game more exciting?

    Don’t get me wrong Gregor I love the way the Oilers play and an Oilers Hawks game is about as good as it gets for my money, but I have to disagree that the LA playoffs have been boring hockey. Nashville, Detroit last year was boring hockey.

    • Big Perm

      I agree with Will 100%!

      JG what are you talking about? You’ve got to be kidding me! I love the Oilers as much as any but, you can’t tell if the Oilers were as good as LA and in headed into the 3rd rd. Like LA is you wouldn’t even think of writing this crazy post.

      • Jason Gregor

        The Oilers will never play like the Kings. They aren’t built for it. And I’m not a fan of the Oilers, so if they did play that way I would mention it.

        You proved my point, which I stated in the article, fans of the team that win don’t seem to care how they win as long as they win, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean it is entertaining hockey.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Isn’t skill development a big component of the overall LTPD (long term player development) model?

    At any rate, I completely agree that the two LAK series this playoffs so far has bored me to tears.

  • “The biggest epidemic we have in amateur hockey in Canada is the inability of young players to give and receive passes,” Serdachny said on my radio show yesterday.”

    This has been a huge problem for the Oilers too.

    • DSF

      YES. Pucks bouncing off sticks. Passes to wrong side of the body. Not getting open. Not passing to openings. This has been frustrating to watch for a few years. Particularly since the Oilers have had problems just getting possession of puck only to quickly turn it over again.

      I think since the original CANADA/USSR series, the superior puck handling ability of Europeans has been obvious. The gap is closing but it’s still there.

      Perhaps Hockey Canada could look at getting rid of offsides and icings in the younger age groups. Make it more like pond hockey, or some sort of hybrid.
      I’m sure the kids would have fun. I’m sure their puck handling skills would improve and the pressure would be off the coaches to teach systems. Especially at U10 levels.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    How much of this type of play could be blamed on systems play? Gone are the days of a player just being better/more talented than his opponent.

    Kids make it to the NHL on their raw talent and abilities, and then once they arrive, they’re trained to do something different. Looks a lot like dead puck era hockey again, especially after the first round. Be great to see the Kings get blown out of the water by the Blackhawks.

    A Pitts/Chicago final should atleast be entertaining.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    End to end action where plays get broken up by smart defensive plays. Physical play and good goaltending.

    Yep that’s sure boring hockey.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    The LA KIngs are taking a page out of the “Rangers’s” playbook……….dump and chase, and crash the net.

    As boring as this is ……..it seems to be working for the Kings. I doubt anyone will remember how boring they were to watch when the rise the cup. I for one will continue to watch Chicago…….I hope when the Oilers grow up they play just like them.