Alain Vigneault/coaching discussion thread - Part 4
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03-11-2013, 03:07 PM
Join Date: Nov 2011
A topic I found on CDC from last year concerning our team strategy:
I have heard many times that we follow the Detroit's puck possession style and we generate offense from keeping the other team from gaining control of the puck. I have also heard that we are a solid transition team that makes teams pay when they turn the puck over (like Phoenix). I personally believe that we are a solid transition team but I want to know what you think. Here's my reasoning:
I believe that a lot of people think puck possession means maintaining control in the offensive zone (ie the cycle). To me the definition of puck possession is maintaining control in all three zones as often as possible. In my opinion the most important part of keeping the puck controlled throughout the game starts with the breakout. I believe that our breakout has major issues with players not being on the same page. Some lines like to offer puck support some of the time, others not at all and the defence are left playing a guessing game.
When we gain control of the puck in our zone, our forwards have a tendency to blow the zone, giving our defenceman a very risky choice: dump the puck to the neutral zone, or try to connect a long pass. These options are dangerous because the other team has the opportunity to gain possession. IMO this is why Hamhuis and Bieksa struggled down the stretch and why Ballard has more often than not rode the pine: they are defence who need puck support so they can pass to a target or carry the puck with speed. Detroit's defenceman are not hung out to dry like the Canuck's defence and are more likely to keep possession because they have more options to use when breaking the puck out of their zone. When most defenceman are pressured or tired, they are going to ice the puck unless they have outlets!
When puck-possession squads run into teams that utilize defensive strategies like the trap, they change their breakout accordingly. For example: I have seen two answers to the trap: overload one side of the ice and create open space in the neutral zone or force the puck to the red-line to dump and chase. Another difference between us and Detroit: we often dump the puck before reaching the neutral zone, Detroit dumps it in from the red-line (FTR I know every team ices the puck, but most times it's an error on a player's behalf and not a symptom of strategy). If one of our zone clearing attempts turns into an icing, well we have some of the best centers in the league (coincedence - I think not). Our centerman while often on the winning side, aren't infallible and will lose at least one out of every three draws. Again not the actions of a team who likes to maintain control of the puck.
The most notable sign of our non-puck possessiveness is when we take the lead in a game. Even if it is in the first period it seems that we go into trap mode and defend a one goal lead for forty minutes. We do nothing but dump the puck and plug the neutral zone. We differ from Detroit on this strategem as well. While there is no doubt they are more aware of their defensive responsibilities when ahead, they still do not offer up possession without a battle (please keep in mind that I am referring to Detroit's strategy and not their results).
IMO we are not a puck possession team, we are a transition team who relies on special teams. I would prefer we be a puck possession squad because I believe that the transition game can be beaten by a select few teams that have exceptional puck moving skills and an aggressive forecheck (who happen to be the teams we tend to meet in the post-season). AV's strategy wins us a lot of games but let's not call his strategy something it is not.
I look at the differences in AV's strategy (none) compared to the difference in roster from last year. We no longer have solid centers who consistently win faceoffs and our special teams have been stagnant. Combine these factors with AV's strategy outlined above and we have no chance. I also kind of find it funny that he and Gillis call our team a puck possession team when we clearly aren't. Even the poll results from this topic suggests otherwise.
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