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Individuals or System ?

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12-19-2007, 01:51 PM
TK 421
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Individuals or System ?

A. Are the D-men playing tentative because they don't want to make a mistake and get pulled from the lineup?
B. Is it that we just have several D-men not playing well?
C. Is it that the personnel we have on D don't match up well with AMs system?
D. Are the D not confident in AMs system?
E. Is AMs defensive scheme flawed?

Need your input guys, the more the better. Anything you've noticed that may seem minor could be the insight I need so please don't hesitate to throw your two cents in.
I have my own theories but would like to hear yours.

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12-19-2007, 02:08 PM
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My answer is B. Every year, for a team to have success, they have to have multiple players have "career years". This includes D-men. I truly feel Wags was on his way to a great season, but other than that, EVERY single D-man is having a sub-par year. If we could temper that with a monster season from say, Backs or Brew, the bad play of say, Jacks and Salvy, would not stand out so much. What's sad is, you can switch the last names in my previous sentence to any D-man and it still works. A D-corps full of less than average play is ALWAYS less successful than a mixture of guys playing lights-out and guys playing like junk.

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12-19-2007, 03:23 PM
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I felt from the begining of the season we lacked a true #1 center, and a true point man on the PP. The team addressed the center in McDonald (I hope), now we need a PP QB. I don't think there is a problem with the system, imagine how the D would play if they were confident that they would get a few PP goals in a game, especially early. Without PP goals, we are forced to try and win 2-1, 3-2 type games, and some of our D is just not suited/ready for that.

So.... I guess my answer would be both C and D.

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12-19-2007, 08:06 PM
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This is one of the best threads I've seen on this board in a long time.

Great questions TK?!!

I think it is a mix of 'B' and 'F' None of the Above.

Clearly, Backman (one of my past faves), Brewer and Jackman and to lesser extent Salvador, have not played well at all at certain times.

But we are still 4th in the league in goals against. Only 79 goals against.

Which brings me to the None of the Above part. We have only 79 goals scored.
If we had 90-95 goals scored, then we would not be railing against our d-men as much as we are.

But still, a great thread and great question TK!!!

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12-19-2007, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by StLooFrenchy View Post
I felt from the begining of the season we lacked a true #1 center, and a true point man on the PP. The team addressed the center in McDonald (I hope), now we need a PP QB. I don't think there is a problem with the system, imagine how the D would play if they were confident that they would get a few PP goals in a game, especially early. Without PP goals, we are forced to try and win 2-1, 3-2 type games, and some of our D is just not suited/ready for that.

So.... I guess my answer would be both C and D.
I agree with you 110%. The Blues could really use a true #1 D-man. A McCabe type of guy. That would take the pressure off of Brewer, Backman, Jackman, and Johnson to be that offensive catalyst that we lack on defense. None of them have that 10 goal 40 assist potential or better. I really thought Backman may have it in him, but I think he and the rest except Johnson are 5-7 goal 15-25 assist guys. We need the catalyst that you mentioned Frenchy. It seems to be messing with their heads to try to do too much.

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12-19-2007, 09:20 PM
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Very interesting post. I'll do my best to contribute.

I would imagine for every defenseman who doesn't wear #4, Option 'A' has some merit. It might be less of a concern now that Wagner is down with Peoria and we're back to 14F / 7D on the active roster.

I would suggest that 'B' is the biggest contributor. Despite our scoring struggles (which I think we all expected coming into the season), we can legitimately point at each defenseman (save perhaps Wagner, given low expectations) and identify a number of poor games they've played.

I don't feel comfortable voicing an opinion on 'C', 'D', or 'E'. Although I played the game competitively (no higher than Midget A), I was never exposed to anything beyond rudimentary, man-on-man types of team defensive "systems."

Thus, at the risk of creating a new thread within this thread (but hoping to generate additional compelling discussion)...perhaps my fellow posters who are knowledgeable of the "X's and O's" could give us a quick rundown of Coach Murray's defensive "system"?

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12-19-2007, 09:47 PM
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Sure, some players are playing poorly at times. Almost every team has that. Sometimes it's multiple guys at once, which magnifies the problem. So B is certainly true.

More than that, I think the biggest issue is a poor transition game. Most of the Blues defense is solid or good at making an outlet pass. However, only EJ and Backman are any good at skating the puck over their own blueline (Brewer can be okay at this, but he's actually better at skating it over the opposing blueline). Jackman is a good skater, but not gifted in this area. I'm not sure if the Blues don't utilize neutral-zone mobility from defensemen because of the system or what, but it's probably fair to say that Murray's system doesn't make upward-moving defense a consistent tactic. I suppose there could be other reasons.

Anyway, one forward (often the center) has to come back deep in his own zone on defense. Which means that either that forward carries the puck out of the offensive zone, or it's going to be an outlet pass to the other two guys. An outlet pass to one of two players is fairly easy to cover, especially for fast teams who have good neutral-zone posture. And if it's always that backchecking forward carrying the puck out, that's fairly easy to cover as well. If they stall and juggle the puck until the center gets up ice, the other team has plenty of time to forecheck harder or set up the ideal trap. It's easy for teams to predict how the puck is going to move through the neutral zone when playing the Blues.

Watch how often a Blues forward gets the blueline and turns to move the puck across ice, but there's literally no one to receive the pass. So the puck just comes right back. When that keeps happening, dumping the puck along the boards out of the defensive zone, into the offensive zone, and then dumping it behind the net when you're pressured is actually one of the more efficient strategies. When the other team can predict your moves and the safest play is dumping the puck to a location, you're inevitably going to get burned - making guys who are solid players look really bad from time to time.

That's why a puck-moving defense and/or forwards who can make lower percentage passes are necessary to a varied attack, sustained pressure, and preventing your team from having to dump the puck over and over (especially your defense). Better puck movement is necessary to keeping your whole team from getting into tricky situations that lead to turnovers and bad luck.

That's why I'd rather see guys like Woywitka and Wagner playing. With both of those guys and EJ playing on the same lineup, that provides enough movement from the back end that the entire team will look better. It's not that Murray's defensive scheme is flawed, it's that any scheme which doesn't better implement puck movement starting from the back end is going to put more pressure on your defense due to turnovers and quick counter-strikes.

Don't get me wrong. I love big hitters and physical play is one of the key things to a successful hockey team, particularly in the playoffs. So I'm not advocating a team that's pure finesse. But you can only base your team around so many shot-blockers who ring the puck around the boards and dump it from zone to zone the majority of the time. So, in a way, it's a combination of individuals and system. The system is based around hard work, which is necessary when the other team can read you so easily. But such a system often relies on consistency to generate luck, and therefore, goals. Actually, if the Blues had a strong powerplay, this wouldn't be much of an issue. That requires a pp quarterback and coaching. Again, a combination.

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12-19-2007, 10:41 PM
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I am not going to go into great detail right now, no time.
But, her are my quick thoughts.

We do not have a true #1 dman. Brewer is best served as a #2 or possibly 3. You need a top guy to be the leader. This player can both shut you down and create offense. We have some guys who can do this, but not to the necessary level. Also, this guy get the top minutes, not like we are seeing now with Brewer and Jax. This is not to insult them, just they can not honestly fill this role.

Another problem I see is the d getting the puck in the d zone and just sending it around the boards blindly(sometimes this is the only option, but not as much as we see it). This creates so many chances for the other team, it is redicilous. Plus, that wears down the forwards and does not allow them to properly break out. I think we need d that are more comfortable with the puck.

The next issue we have has to do with the offensive zone. Most off our offensive preasure seems to come of rushes down the ice. Where this can make for interesting hockey, it is not smart. Our team needs to keep the puck in the o zone for a sustained amount of time, so rushes are not going back and forth. That is really hard on the d. Also, I think we would get some more offense from the d if we could move the puck around in the o zone. This would allow them to take more shots. Whether the go in or not atleast some more garbage goals could be scored.

The last problem I have is that we do not play physical enough. The front of the net has to be cleared out more. I have been pretty hacked about our reluctance to do this all year. and yes I understand that the rules make this harder. In addition, we need to hit a bit more. Hitting does wonders! Many finess players can easily be thrown off of their game by some tight checking. If players know they are not going to be hit then they loose a little fear, which may give you a split second more time that could be in your favor.

Anyway, sweet topic and I have liked reading everyones posts!

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12-19-2007, 10:44 PM
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I agree 100%. The Blues need to carry the puck out of the defensive zone more, with authority by more confident stickhandlers who also are capable of quicker breakouts and recognising when to and making sharper passes. I too like Woywitka and Wagner for those reasons. That is a big difference between The Blues now, and when they had Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger.

The next trade should bring in a defenceman of that sort, or one should be picked up as a free agent during the offseason.

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12-21-2007, 03:28 PM
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Thanks guys, appreciate the feedback!
I started thinking about this a couple of weeks back, how could it be that we had so many D-men not playing well at the same time. The Weight situation got me to thinking about AMs system and how it related to the D-men. The one guy that stood out as a good example was Jackman. How could a guy that has been, for the most part, a reliable vet be so terrible for such an extended period. Then it dawned on me that most of our D was playing tentatively as well. The word lost comes to mind when reflecting on some of the gaffes that have led directly to goals against. I think the guys either don't have confidence in AMs system OR the personnel we have don't fit the system. More the latter than the former. Case in point Wagner, he was a standout early in the season before being benched. He made mistakes like everyone else but he stood out amongst a veteran D. Why? Because he fits what AMs system requires the D-men to do. This is the same reason EJ stands out despite making mistakes. They move the puck well and jump start the transition game. I'm still in favor of moving a guy or two that doesn't fit this system for a guy or two who does.

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12-21-2007, 06:50 PM
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I think its a combination of A, B, and C. Andy Murray seems to expect all the defensemen to "generate" offense. A good way to illustrate would be to imagine how B. Jackman played his rookie season. He played a strictly defense first style. He would only take chances that came to to him, and wouldn't take them if it was iffy, he would just make a safe. easy play. Playing like that is apparently no longer allowed.

Now Brewer, Jackman, and Backman have been called upon to carry the offensive load, and Murray gives them a free pass to make mistakes as long as they are following his system. Problem is they are not up to snuff offensively, and they are making mistakes that hurt the team in the defensive end. Especially Brewer, since he is the most exposed defenseman. I believe that the breakdowns that have carried over (thankfully a lot less often) from the Kitchen era are pretty much a result of these guys not getting back good enough when they are trying to generate offense. Seriously, the whole league must know by now to try to go outside on Brewer when he's backing into his own zone.

I believe this leads to a hesitance for Mckee, who you can't realistically ask to generate offense. He's caught between playing his style, and Murray's system. He's also not equipped physically to play Murray's system.

Salvador I can't say much about, he seems to have found a nice middle ground. He gets the puck out of our own zone, a lot faster then the other d-men, and that allows him to play his defensive game for the most part. To me he's our best defenseman so far this year, especially considering him covering for his partners and playing so many minutes.

For Eric Johnson, the kid gloves need to come off, the kid is money. I would like to see him play a faster paced game but that will come with time. He's clearly our most talented defenseman physically
he's not gonna have anyone come in and show him how to run a PP, so I think he should start now. Is he gonna play 16 minutes a game all year? I know blah blah blah, we have to ease him in, he's a defenseman his game takes a while to develop at this level, but it's apparent he's got the role he's been given down. Why not give him a bigger one?

Wagner, well, TK 421 just covered that. Wagner is a defenseman that fits into Andy Murray's scheme of a team that is a five man offensive unit in the other team's zone. He just fits into it naturally playing a simplified game reminiscent of Jackman's rookie season with some offensive flair.

I don't even count Walker anymore... He played horrible in his last game, and hasn't played enough to be expected to play well in any system, especially one that he is not equipped for physically.

It would really help a lot if Murray would
A) Balance out the minutes on defense. Brewer shouldn't be playing 24 minutes when EJ is playing 14.
B) Put guys in better roles. Jackman on the PP is a failed experiment. Roles should be observed in the pairings.
Group 1) Brewer, Backman, Johnson, Wagner
Group 2) Jackman, Mckee, Salvador. Walker
A pair should consist of one guy from each group, so everyone is doing the job they are best at.

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