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
- A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets.
- A beer fridge and beer for a year from Big Rock Brewery.
- A signed Jeremy Roenick stick. It is a brand new, he only used it twice.
- $500 at vivo ristorante. Every good sports fan needs a good pregame meal.
- 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).
- A pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets.
- 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.
- $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.
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