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02-24-2009, 07:23 PM
Lion Hound
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Originally Posted by Ola View Post
Around 1993 New Jersey Devils started to play a system that was named "the trap" in the NHL. Later any organized defensive system have been called the trap to, so don't get hanged up on that word.

Their system was created to put players in the best positions to counterattack after you won the puck. Thats important to remeber, its a system created to create offense. And it definitly did! New Jersey Devils scoured the 2nd most amount of goals in the NHL in 1994, more then NYR and less only then the Red Wings. For example. It only became a low scoring system when everyone in the league played it at the same time.

For thoose who don't know what the real NJD trap was about; there was a man in Sweden who studid hockey at University level and wrote a paper about goals scored in hockey. He found out that like 90% of the goals at that time, the late 80's, were scored seconds after giveaways in the neutral zone. He then sat down and thought about it, every team spent all their energy on getting into the attackingzone and try to score from there -- when in reality the goals where scored not after pretty plays and passes, but after the attacking team made misstakes. A team in Sweden started playing that way, and had a ton of success with it. NJD went to Sweden to scout Tommy Albelin and the rest is histrory...

The results of the trap became that the most talented teams didn't win. You basically didn't need the skilled centers for example to win. A Bobby Holik was just as valuble.

But the teams with the Forsberg and Sakics, with the Lecavaliers and co they needed to do something.

Colorado is really the first team in the NHL who I saw play the STLYE JOHN TORTORELLA USED AS A HEAD COACH IN TAMPA in the NHL.

Its a system where you pressure all over the ice, with wingers designed and designated to be able to take away the boards, while you drop back further then the redline, you drop back further then NJD, your D's drop back all the way to their own defensive blueline. With the forwards pressureing all over the ice, you have them come back with speed and therefor you also get allot of support for your D's since your forwards are all skating at the same speed as the attacking team. Your D's then end up in perfect position to make high defensive plays at their own blue. Stand up forwards with good ol'e body checks.

The purpose with the system is that after hits like that from your D's, which results in won pucks at your defensive blueline -- the other team is then stretched out all over the neutralzone basically. That opens up room for skilled centers in the neutral zone. That won Tampa Bay the Cup. That won Colorado 2 Cups.

You don't backdown and trap at the redline like NJD as of mid 90's did. You don't play it safe with 3 guys back all the time like the leftwing lock that Detroit and Dallas used. You stress hard all over the ice, make sure that your D's have a ton of support with people comming back with speed, you have big wingers who you can pass the pcuk to up the boards who then can direct it to a skilled center right away after a won puck at your own blueline.

It sounds great, right? 3 teams have won cups with it.

But what happend after the lockout? What happend to Tortorella's Tampa Bay? What happend to ex Colorado coach Bob Hartleys Atlanta? Detroit lost Hasek but became better after the lockout. Tampa lost Bullinwall and went from the best team in the league to the worst. Why is that?

You stopped winning thoose defensive battles high up ice. Guys like Michael Nylander suddenly could skate 8's around the Sutton's, Exelby's, Vishnevsky's of the league. The Lukowich's, Sarich's and Jassen Cullimores in Tampa wasn't able to hit guys at Tampa's defensive blueline anymore. Even the Nylanders of the league suddenly could skate 8's around them.

John Tortorella never figured that out in Tampa. Bob Hartley never figured that out in Atlanta. Not even after 3 years. They kept building more and more extreme in the same direction. To get better D's, and to provide thoose D's with better support -- so that they could win thoose darn defensive battles at their own defensive bluelien...

This is how Tortorella described it in todays interviews:

The fact that he descibes it as "our D couldn't handle it" really scares me. Because I haven't seen any D in this league who can stand up a Zach Parise, Michael Nylander or any of the talented players in this league at their own blueline on a regular basis. Its just not happening anywhere, by anyone. Phaneuf isn't able to do it, Lidström isn't able to do it, Pronger isn't able to do it. Not on a regular basis. The game have changed.

The reason things turned into a disaster in both Tampa and Atlanta for example for teams with that philopsophy is that they didn't have a ALTERNATIVE "transition mechanism". Pittsburgh have also played somewhat like that, but it haven't hurt them as much because they just give the puck to Malkin or Crosby and asks them to skate with it. But it defeinitly have hurt even Pittsburgh for stretches.

The Bottomline
John Tortorella is obviously aware what got him into trouble in Tampa, but I am not really sure he got the answears to fix it. He obviously still think that philosophy can work with a "D" that can "handle it". Pretty soon he is gooing to figure out that if Tampa's blueline couldn't handle it, neither will ours in NY...

In Tampa Torts didn't have a alternative "transition mechanism". Hopefully he got some kind of plan for that here in NY. In reality, we need to hope for that Tortorella got a backup plan that turns out to be state of the art and can allow us to compete with the best in the league.

I think its pretty likely that we just speed things up and starts playing more like Montreal and Buffalo and less like Detroit basically. I know that sounds a bit nutty, because we haven't even remotely "looked" like Detroit this season. But the philospohys are the same; the standard play is to slow the tempo down and have a controlled transition play. Or to play a controlled transition game, to have it slow is no purpose in itself. There is a major diffrence in X and Os between Detroit and teams like Montreal and Buffalo. Montreal and Buffalos philosphy is not to keep the puck within the team, its about playing really safe hockey but still getting offense from it by dooing it extremely fast. The reason the controlled puckpossesion approch didn't work for us in NY is because we tryed to play a skilled puckpoession game with very little puckskills especially... It worked pretty darn well the first two seasons after the lockout, but then we where far to soft and had too poor D's to go all the way.

(The reason I call it a news article is because there isn't a "expert" in NA who ever covers these aspects -- while they are darn vital. So I tryed to write one myself.)
Bravo Ola! Tremendous effort. It's posts like this that are the main reason I come here.

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