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

 

  • T__Bone88

    It depends on the era of hockey that people grew up in that they determine which style of hockey is better. Personally I prefer the back and forth style with lots of chances with skill typed players. A 2-1 game can be exciting if there is good quality chances and lots of shots which makes the goalies stand on their heads. But most times its just perimeter shots and lots of blocked shots in those 2-1 games and each team is just waiting for the other to make a mistake. I enjoyed the memorial cup final more than the LA/San Jose series since it was more skill and good quality scoring chances than just who out muscled the other team.

  • Rocket

    The issue of developing youth sports is a real concern across Canada and in most disciplines. As a culture, we tend to be very passionate when our athletes are on the world stage but would never consider applying tax dollars to developmental programs. Most ‘developed’ countries have much greater dedication to engaging kids in bona fide sport programs. Many schools offer advanced training, community based programs are top notch etc. In Canada, we just don’t have the infrastructure, coaching , programs in place to generate world class athletes. Clearly, there are exceptions – e.g. hockey has some really good districts – but on the whole we don’t have the necessary systems in place. It would take a few generations to see a significant change in this respect.

  • Ducey

    DSF, how much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?

    If Chuck is an Oiler, he cannot chuck much wood, never could, never will, and everyone on the world knows this except the Oilers.

    If he plays for the “DSF Flavour of the Month Team”, then a lot.

    • Big Perm

      @Spurzey

      There is really no reply to a baseless echo.I refuse to trade words with an inferior opponent they dont deserve it.

      Just for spits and jiggles,
      Serdachny needs to reboot his hardhead drive and take a look at history,the way I see it a Canadian team named the Edmonton Oilers not only scalped the best european players but also scalped the best european hockey innovations,and but they also made both of those assets exponentially better and of higher value than could have ever been done in their Homeland or anywhere else,I in fact am thankfull that Canada was able to reach down and lend a hand to its fellow hockey brethren from around the world and bring those small semmingly insignificant assets into the light of the real Hockey World and not allow them to remain hidden and underutilised in Europe.Thats what proactive charity and adoption and betterment,integration and possesion are all about afer all,right??Man,that was fun.

      There was so much good stuff in this article and so many excellent balanced posts discussing it I didnt see much I could add without disrupting the dynamic.I am reading things I have waited years to hear from some of the smartest fans in the NHL,it is satisfying to say the least.mac-T rung my bell earlier by committing to a systematic mission statement when he boldly went where no Oiler manager has gone before,”we are a skill driven possesion team” was the first step in the right direction from the right place the foundation,exactly where he needs to start.This aint no makeover kids this is surgery,buckle up.

      Mac-T is very cerebral and he knows what he is doing.This franchise has turned a very important corner in a short time,the Edmonton Oilers have officially entered into a new era of integrity and accountability.

      [Edited at 300 words. Let’s keep the comments to a manageable length, please.]

        • No pal,people other than you and I are because dynamic communication templates use less words that Tweeters do,I have been purposefully expanding and aiming for a generic presentation to hit a larger number of perspectives effectively,this means with less words I simply focus to fewer perspectives being included.All you do by insisting on brevity is create a dynamic that hinders others learning abilities by limiting the scope of presentation,I hope you arent going down the less is more road,because there is a really funny catalyst behind the origin of that mindset.

          A double standard defined and supported by a protectionist input focusing an elitist attitude is not exactly something new.

          I dont mind if my posts are edited ,I cut and paste all posts and put them on another site before posting to the site I am on,look for Moma2s NewAge Hockey System.I try to show a clear path of posting in a specific site prior to posting the exact data on a hockey site for dynamic reasons.No I dont Blog,why when these guys are so good at it?I couldnt manifest their wide range of ideas and their writing ability,I am to ultra-focused and task orientated.

          Its not really that big of a deal.Ideas are free,its not like I have overhead.If the owners of this Blog feel they want shorter posts thats fine with me,and if on occasion a good post comes along and they let it slide,thats ok as well,this isnt a battle.You dont hear me saying the word censorship do you?If my posts are deleted or edited,no harm no foul there is a functional catalyst,the Blog owner and I lose nothing,if you want to look at it that way.According to the status quo more is gained by other visitors if posts are kept shorter and this Blog is someones office so to speak.

          If I had issues with editing I would be complaining,I dont have any issues,I dont ever feel censored here ,there is a free and creative exchange of ideas here,thats why i visit.Suppressionist actions arent censorship actions in my books.If I was told “what” to say in any way I wouldnt bother coming back here.As you know if you are a regular,I dont waste a lot of time on skirmishes and argueing,I post my hockey stuff and move along.

          In my opinion the Status Quo is acceptable.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    What a foolish article. If the Oilers were winning Stanley Cups in a tonne of 2-1 games, I’d be at the front of the riot cheering them on and braking whisky bottles.
    Criticize development and coaches neglecting basic skills but at the current NHL level, there is no lack of skill on the Kings squad. I had much enjoyment watching the game last night where a bounce could change nearly the entire outcome of a close 2-1 game.
    Simply because you aren’t engaged in watching two teams of whom you aren’t a fan, don’t cry about the way they play. Let their fans do that.

  • Big Perm

    Bigger ice-surface would solve more of the game’s current downfalls than most people think.

    Imagine the young Oilers on a larger surface. Get the NHL to approve this if any team wishes to play on an Olympic, or at least a larger ice-surface.

    Baseball has different sized fields everywhere. Adds to home field advantages…

    Main obstacle, of course, is Owners unwilling to sacrifice seats.

    Mr. katz, maybe it would be worth it for a shot at a few cups before other teams adapt.

  • 106 and 106

    Hey Gregor,

    Good food for thought – If the goal is a Stanley Cup, the Kings have got a recipe for success. Just because they’ve adapted to zone play doesn’t mean they don’t know hot to take or give passes – the correlation seems pretty weak. And if your wanting to win as a coach, the best way to win minor hockey is to coach with a system. Teaching it later would be better, true, but implementation a “no-zone” style of hockey is ridic.

    • Jason Gregor

      Your first goal as a minor hockey coach shouldn’t be to win, it should be to develop players. The fact you mentioning winning illustrates the major problem in minor hockey. Coaches coach to win, even in novice, and some do it without worrying about development. That is wrong.

      Who said the Kings can’t pass? You did. I sure didn’t.

      They are the best of the best, but in minor hockey the average player’s skills are eroding according to Serdachny. And considering he coaches kids all over the world, I think he sees first hand how young Canadians compare.

  • 106 and 106

    I would not be surprised if there was a shake up in the coaches assistant coaches this summer.

    It was all of them that could not pull the trigger n trades . I think this summer there are going to be a lot of changes.

    They are not firing Lowe so the next in line are the coaches , would not be surprised to see Krueger in a lessor role ie assistant coach.

    All this to win.

  • Truth

    Way back I was in Serdachny’s power skating classes twice a week. Hated every minute of every one for the simple reason that he really made you work, except the camp he put on for first year peewee players. He taught how to hit, how to take a hit, and how to play with contact in the game. Lots of drills in which a pass would be made with pressure of being hit and receiving passes with a player bearing down for a hit. It was heavy contact. My favourite was the horseshoe drill with a puck placed directly at center ice on the blue line. Players would go after eachother full speed for an open ice hit. You learned to give and take a hit pretty fast or else. You could tell who the scared kids were as they’d be permanently at the back of the line.

    I wasn’t a big kid by any stretch, but the most valuable lesson I learned is that for the great majority when you got hit hard it didn’t hurt. You just pick yourself up off the ground, get in line and try to be on the right side of the next one. Funny how things have changed.

  • Truth

    Back on topic, I don’t see how the “boring” defensive brand of hockey is going to be phased out. Unless teams have the guns to play high skill puck possession hockey they will resort to whatever style wins them the most games. Tippet and Lemaire have made a living off of it. There is no way Phoenix gets away with playing Pittsburgh’s style of play.

    I fully agree that skill needs to be emphasized at all levels of coaching. Systems play is great and necessary, but individual ability is paramount in becoming a good hockey player. I think there is external factors playing into it as well. When I was young I would be out playing street hockey practically every evening in the summer and out on the outdoor rink in the winter. I make myself sound like an old man, but nowadays kids are in the basement playing video games or on their ipods/ipads all the time. Get outside!

  • Truth

    Playoffs are as they should be , and basically always have been – A Battle Royale “! Regular season not near as intense as most would like it to be . Hockey hasn’t changed that much over the last few decades in that regard . Why would the NHL change a winning formula ? Bigger ice surface not going to help other than probably make it more boring . I don’t see a massive outcry to watch international ice hockey here in N.America .

  • wiseguy

    What separates Canadians from most other countries is are emphasis on physical play . Not many if any countries could beat Canada in a seven game series , only in tournaments where they only have to face us once or twice on bigger ice surfaces so they don’t want to play our game . That’s why the Stanley Cup is the ultimate . You earn it the hard way .

  • wiseguy

    If Wanye ever does a “Best of Oilersnation Comments” article, I would submit this one;

    Chuck had one good year, but his wood to wood chucked ratio was unsustainable. Not to mention he was chucking softer wood than most other woodchucks. Finally, other bigger woodchucks were able to push him around and keep him from the highest percentage wood-chucking conversion spots. I don’t think Chuck is fit to even chuck garbage into a truck, and if he was playing for any other organization, he’d be a call up chucking option at best.

    classic