Thursday, November 10, 2011

Laviolette Follows Killer’s Example

I’m sure most of you have seen the debacle by now. In last night’s Tampa/Philly game, Lightning coach Guy Boucher employed the much-hated neutral zone trap and didn’t allow his forwards to even remotely forecheck the Flyers defenseman coming out of their zone, which prompted Philly coach Peter Laviolette to tell his d-men to stand there with the puck – as long as it took.

It was quite the spectacle. The Lightning forwards seemed embarrassed by the whole thing, in particular Martin St. Louis, who was heard asking Boucher incredulously what they were supposed to do. The Flyers were on their feet just giving it to Tampa, loving every minute of it. Laviolette was clearly trying to prove a point, going to ridiculous extremes to showcase how boring the 1-3-1 system can be to everyone – the players, the fans and I guess some of the coaches. I thought it was a great move by Laviolette and maybe it will spark some kind of change down the road here, either through rule changes, like a ban on zone defences (don’t ask me how the hell they could enforce such a thing) or just in the general culture of the game. Let’s call it a public shaming.

But Laviolette is not the first hockey coach to take a stand against this kind of crap. Ottawa 67’s legend Brian Kilrea pulled a similar stunt in the late 70’s. Here’s a quote from one of Kilrea’s players at that time, Jim Fox, from James Duthie’s great book on Kilrea, “They Call Me Killer”:

“Killer loved offensive hockey. He had no time for boring, sit-back-and-defend hockey. So, we’re playing in Peterborough one night and they play the exact opposite system. They play very defensively. From the first shift, they decided to shadow Smitty’s (Bobby Smith) line. As soon as Killer realizes this, he calls time-out and calls us to the bench. He tells all three guys on that line to stand at the Pete’s blue line and not move.
So they do, and the three Peterborough guys stand right next to them. So the two teams basically played 2-on-2 hockey! There was the odd whistle, but this kept going all period…Killer was fighting for his brand of hockey…It was something to see. I think we lost the game, but he made his point.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I liked what Laviolette did and I hope that the NHL doesn't jump in with a rule change. It'd be neat to see how this plays out via gamesmanship.

It was coaching innovation on Laviolette's part, and now let's see how it evolves, in a natural way, before the NHL gets involved with some kind of rule. If things get out of hand, then obviously the league would have to step in.

But, at this point, it's hard to believe that Tampa fans would be happy about potentially paying to watch 10 minutes a night of players standing still.

I hope other teams follow Laviolette's lead. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching tactics evolve.