Author Topic: The Defensive Logjam  (Read 18983 times)

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Offline Nik the Trik

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Re: Learning Defense
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2016, 06:36:15 PM »
The narrative that is playing in my head is that offense requires creativity; there is structure and formation (ha) that can breakdown defenses, but ultimately, there is a lot of individual skill and talent required to put the puck into the net.

Defense, on the other hand, while requiring tremendous physical skills to pivot and skate backwards and spatial awareness to not get clobbered on retrievals, is like playing Not It in a game of Tag: there are a lot more win conditions and they're generally easier to achieve, largely by being in the right place a the right time, which, to my mind is the realm of coaching, (easily refined by experience).

I guess what I'd say to that is that I guess that there are elements of defense that can be improved upon through coaching that coachability, for lack of a better term, is itself a skill that isn't equally shared. There have been too many good coaches in history coaching too many one dimensional(albeit very competitive) players for me to believe that the sorts of gains we've seen some players make as defensive players could have happened to anyone with the proper coaching.

I also think there are things that are essentially physical attributes that are harder to gauge but are still skills in the way of "creativity" or what have you like hand/eye coordination that contribute greatly to a player's ability to read and react to plays in the defensive end.

The story that really prompted me to think that was when Holland talked about his initial struggles on the Penalty Kill, and how he admired Winnik being able to basically play all 2 minutes routinely. Winnik showed him how he positioned himself on the PK more efficiently and that was all Holland needed. Of course that is only one anecdote (that I can't find the source of) from a team with terrible special teams.

That's sort of what I mean though. Being a NHL player is so lucrative that I really can't believe that there aren't more guys who would just become really effective defensive forwards if all it required was the right coaching, a certain willingness to do it and a baseline set of physical attributes. Holland is just hanging on to a roster spot at this point and if he could become a Winnik-like PKer it'd virtually guarantee his employment in the league for another 5-6 years. To put it plainly, I don't think we've seen that from him.
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Offline herman

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Re: Learning Defense
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2016, 08:59:28 AM »
I guess what I'd say to that is that I guess that there are elements of defense that can be improved upon through coaching that coachability, for lack of a better term, is itself a skill that isn't equally shared. There have been too many good coaches in history coaching too many one dimensional(albeit very competitive) players for me to believe that the sorts of gains we've seen some players make as defensive players could have happened to anyone with the proper coaching.

I also think there are things that are essentially physical attributes that are harder to gauge but are still skills in the way of "creativity" or what have you like hand/eye coordination that contribute greatly to a player's ability to read and react to plays in the defensive end.

That's a good point about coachability. I should clarify that I wasn't promoting coaching over innate ability + experience as the primary determinant, rather coaching can more easily overcome a defensive deficiency than an offensive one for defensemen -- i.e. it is easier to fix Carrick's defensive flaws than to get Marincin's shot generation level up.

This is not to say Marincin is a lost cause either. I believe he has the mental and physical tools to eventually get there, and his Junior history shows a head for the offensive game as well. Rielly noted that when playing him in junior, Marincin had a "greasy pair of hands" that could make really good passes. To WIGWAL's post about 2/300 games being the usual amount of time it takes for defensemen to adjust to NHL speeds, I hope we get a chance to see him turn that corner, rather than lose him on waivers.

That's sort of what I mean though. Being a NHL player is so lucrative that I really can't believe that there aren't more guys who would just become really effective defensive forwards if all it required was the right coaching, a certain willingness to do it and a baseline set of physical attributes. Holland is just hanging on to a roster spot at this point and if he could become a Winnik-like PKer it'd virtually guarantee his employment in the league for another 5-6 years. To put it plainly, I don't think we've seen that from him.

I believe part of why we aren't seeing that sort of immediate stratification is because NHLers are, by and large, the best players on every team they've played for up until they make it, so they have expectations of themselves to  play similar roles and produce at similar rates. The cream still floats to the top, but due to the way the game was coached for so long, only the obvious top and the very obvious bottom sixers got roles. Players like Holland used to get benched for players like FML. I see the shift happening though, with the league getting younger and more talented up and down the lineup, and I can see Holland leaning towards playing a more Winniky game to avoid extinction.

Offline herman

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Re: Learning Defense
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2016, 09:12:55 AM »
On the other hand, what tends to separate the truly exceptional defencemen from the rest is (to my mind) not as coachable:

- ability to read and anticipate plays developing: positioning can be taught to give you a better chance of breaking up a play, but you still need to evaluate the situation to gauge the most likely passing lane to be ready for, etc...over time that will improve naturally with situational experience, but some people just seem to be innately better at it than other (that "hockey IQ" that scouts rave about in certain prospects)

- speed/coordination/reflexes/strength/endurance: all of which can be developed or enhanced via training programs, nutrition, repetition (specialized coaching) but all of which still seem to have underlying genetic attributes

I expect that players with exceptional abilities in most of the above are going to see those advantages reflected at both ends of the ice, though. Very hard to know where they'd be more visible, although I remember commentators constantly marveling at Lidstrom's ability to tip/deflect pucks that people tried to chip past him, or always being in just the right spot to break up a play in front of the net.

I agree that coaching can only expose and release the player's potential.

Where I was going with my (potentially wrong) point, was that coaching can boost a defenseman's baseline defensive game more readily than it can unleash offensive prowess in a defensive defenseman's play.

I found this article while reading up on how defensemen play the game, and what makes one player more effective than others: https://www.mckeenshockey.com/nhl-blog/evaluating-defensemen/

There's a tremendous amount of decision making involved in playing defense. Older methods of defense (shot block, chip out) seemed to be designed to reduce decision making overhead down to those coachable reactions/positions I was thinking about.

Offline hockeyfan1

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2016, 02:31:52 PM »
Re: from the article

It's pretty obvious that defensive and offensive skills in a defenceman all require some forms of creativity, be it physically, mentally and skillfully.

The article (in which Herman posted the link to) takes into account the necessities of each type of defenceman, whether it be a defensively-oriented type or an offensively-oriented type.  However, both comprise certain skill sets that can either stand out or continue in development.  By that, I mean a d-man with a high IQ quotient in development (which as the Leafs' Reilly), or, a veteran or stand out (such as the Predators' Subban).

Here are some points emphasized in the article that seek to define and differentiate (to a certain degree) the role of a defenceman in either capacity (defensive/offensive):

Defensive d-man:
-  Skating/Transitioning/Pivoting -- all these embody the ability and agility to shift according to play and to be able to read the oncoming offence and adapt accoedingly

-  Closing the Gap/Gap Control -- all this embodies visual skills and the ability to read the play, such as how much room will a d-man give an opposing offensive skater in play with puck in possession; how to contain the opposing players rushing speed/etc.   In other words, cutting off the angle, blocking a shot, utilizing some form of physicality (body check/hit) to attempt to stymie or break up play, while not being liable to get caught out of position, etc.

-  Support and Engage -- Does a d-man engage the (puck) carrier to begin the defensive process (and attempt to get the puck back) or does he give support?  Again, this involves the ability to 'read' the play and making a decision depending on the situation that he finds himself in.

Quick decision-making, good visuals, agility, skating, transitioning, size (may be an added plus), speed, etc. all add up to the mix to create a mobile, agile, smart defenceman who hones his craft well.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 02:33:32 PM by hockeyfan1 »

Offline hockeyfan1

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2016, 03:24:32 PM »
Re: from the article (continuing from my previous posting):

Here are some points emphasized in the article that seek to define and differentiate (to a certain degree) the role of a defenceman in either capacity (defensive/offensive).

Offensive d-man:
-  Passing/Rushing -- this comprises the ability of puck movement which also takes into account the placement /movement of hands & feet.  Knowing when to pass or rush the puck (advancing in-play or possession of play); maneuverability of player (stick-handling, skating speed, etc.).  Passing skills that encapsulate all of the above including balance & of course, creativity.  What to when not in possession and how to both assess,  create and gain opportunity in the play at hand.  A stray pass can lead to an opposing goal one way or another or give the opposing team plenty of room and time to forge a goal.  Same with dropping or having the puck taken away from you.
How well one strays from the action and their capabilities to bounce back from that position can often be the determining factor between loss or gain (be it by want of an opposing goal scored or prevented).

-  Zone/Point Skills -- this basically shows how well a point man a defenceman can be -- shooting from the point as well as shooting past obstacles, be it in the opposing player's shot blocking attempt, gettingpast traffic out front; etc.

-  Distributory/Assessment Skills -- effectively comprises the ability and or abilities to 'read' play and make decisions based on play situation, to follow the structural play of the team (risk assessment) during a breakout in the defensive zone, or to lead a regroup?  Joining the rush -- when to join or to support?  These all involve some form of "risk assessment" and once again, a defenceman's smart skills come into vogue here.

As we can see, there are inherent differences and/or expected skills between a defensively-oriented defenceman and an offensively-oriented one.

They all require the proper set of movement, speed, agility, and visuals to get the job done.  However, a defensive defenceman, due to his moreso defensive-oriented skills than an offensive-oriented defenceman, is called upon to be even more precise in his defensive abilities, and his liabilities will showcase themselves more glaringly in this regard.

Some may disagree on the above point alone, but an offensively-oriented defenceman is really seen as more of a two-way player, and even though he carries just as much of a basic skillet defensively-speaking, he may not be seen as more liable than one who's basic job is to defend more than go on the offensive.  Of course, this all depends on what teams expect from their d-corps.  It is believed that  a defensive defenceman has to stand out in his  position and be capable of contributing to the rush in a way that will not hamper his team's situation in play, while an offensive defenceman has to stand out in his ability to be the two-way player he is without being a liability in that regard.

Either way, these aren't easy skills which goes to show how difficult it is for just anyone to assume the mantle of a great d-man.  Those players that we've seen that encapsulate all of these skills one way or another, have gone on to greatness.  It takes time and patience especially for today's young prospects breaking into a professional league, oftentimes overwhelmed by the sheer aspect of it all.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 03:27:19 PM by hockeyfan1 »

Offline Nik the Trik

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Re: Learning Defense
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2016, 09:47:47 PM »
That's a good point about coachability. I should clarify that I wasn't promoting coaching over innate ability + experience as the primary determinant, rather coaching can more easily overcome a defensive deficiency than an offensive one for defensemen -- i.e. it is easier to fix Carrick's defensive flaws than to get Marincin's shot generation level up.

Fair enough. While I agree that improving a player's defensive game might be a different sort of coaching than improving their offensive game I don't think we know enough to say that one is easier than the other. I get where you're coming from though.

I believe part of why we aren't seeing that sort of immediate stratification is because NHLers are, by and large, the best players on every team they've played for up until they make it, so they have expectations of themselves to  play similar roles and produce at similar rates.

I wonder how true that is. Maybe in the case of a guy like Holland, sure, he was probably the best player wherever he went and in the rare instance where he wasn't like in his draft -1 year it was more a case of inexperience/age rather than a lack of talent.

But in the case of a guy like Winnik? I don't know if he always saw himself as the best guy on his college team or in the AHL. I don't have an answer for this but I think it'd be interesting to look at the junior careers of grinder-types to see how many of them played a similar role then.
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Offline sickbeast

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2016, 12:46:44 PM »
How on earth can you say that the Leafs have a defensive logjam when they probably have the worst defense in the entire NHL?

What is it, a logjam of really bad players?  How is that a logjam?

Offline Highlander

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2016, 01:19:08 PM »
Reilly and Gardiner would be prizes on any other squad, they are coveted. Zaitzev is unknown but all indicators is he could be a great player, the others all have a very good upside and we have some very good defensive prospects in the pipeline, Neilson, Dermott to mention 2.  Loov and Valiev is also  guys who may develop. Yes its not the greatest but let see where Babs/Smith take them.
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Offline McGarnagle

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2016, 02:37:20 PM »
How on earth can you say that the Leafs have a defensive logjam when they probably have the worst defense in the entire NHL?

What is it, a logjam of really bad players?  How is that a logjam?

[IM] You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means[/IM]

Offline Nik the Trik

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2016, 07:56:59 PM »

Regardless of quality right now the Leafs have Rielly, Gardiner, Zaitsev, Hunwick, Marincin, Polak, Corrado and Carrick who all have probably graduated from the AHL and have NHL contracts(and Robidas but he's probably not in the picture).

So even if Loov and Valiev aren't given a shot to make the team you still have to take 8 guys and cut it down to a regular 6 with a press box 7th. Again, that they're not great players for the most part(although most teams don't have great players on their bottom pairing) doesn't change the fact that it's more players than spots available.
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Offline Nik the Trik

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2016, 08:11:36 PM »

Also, while there's no doubt the Leafs defense is pretty bad I'd definitely take it over Edmonton's, New Jersey's and Vancouver's. Columbus and, delightfully, Montreal also have iffy groups.
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Offline sickbeast

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2016, 11:16:22 PM »
I'm finding it hard to be excited about this team.  Last year was interesting because they tanked, came in dead last, and got the #1 overall pick.  This year they are going to do better than that but they are not going to make the playoffs, not by any means.  So it's going to be very frustrating to watch the team play poorly with very little to show for it at the end of the season.  Yes, they will flip some players for picks at the trade deadline but that's only going to help so much.

I will say that the Leafs have some of the best young forwards in the league, only rivaled by perhaps Edmonton.  I am really looking forward to Mitch Marner and everyone in their group of forwards.  It's just their defense.  It's going to be brutally bad unless Babcock can really work his magic.

The goaltending is also a question mark and I don't see it being significantly better than what they had last season (aside from Bernier, he was brutal).

Offline herman

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2016, 09:14:09 AM »
How on earth can you say that the Leafs have a defensive logjam when they probably have the worst defense in the entire NHL?

What is it, a logjam of really bad players?  How is that a logjam?

A logjam refers to quantity, rather than quality, as you actually noticed yourself in the second sentence by qualifying the logjam.

Conversely, if you are saying there is no logjam because our defensemen are bad and the deployment of the pairings is largely irrelevant, then you have a right to that opinion.

Like Nik said, right now, we have defensemen with potential that need development runway (Marincin, Carrick, Corrado) that are not waiver exempt and are too good to pass through into the AHL. On the one hand, that will promote internal competition at Training Camp; on the other we run the risk of losing assets for nothing, either one of the three mentioned above, or a forward because Babcock wants to carry 8 defenders.

Online CarltonTheBear

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2016, 09:20:19 AM »

Also, while there's no doubt the Leafs defense is pretty bad I'd definitely take it over Edmonton's, New Jersey's and Vancouver's. Columbus and, delightfully, Montreal also have iffy groups.

On the topic of bad defences I wonder how Dallas' holds up this season. It was obviously never really a strong point of their team and they lost their #2 and #3 defencemen from this past season (Goligoski and Demers) plus their big trade deadline acquisition (Russell). They signed Hamhuis, but at 33 years old his best days are behind him so at best he probably replaces Russell meaning their bigger holes still weren't plugged.

Offline Nik the Trik

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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2016, 09:31:08 AM »
On the topic of bad defences I wonder how Dallas' holds up this season. It was obviously never really a strong point of their team and they lost their #2 and #3 defencemen from this past season (Goligoski and Demers) plus their big trade deadline acquisition (Russell). They signed Hamhuis, but at 33 years old his best days are behind him so at best he probably replaces Russell meaning their bigger holes still weren't plugged.

Yeah, I thought about them when I was writing that. I think they'd probably qualify as the team I watched the least of last year so I don't have much of an opinion on, say, whether Klingberg is a really good two way guy or just a point producer or how Oduya looked when counted on for a larger role or whether or not you can take a 29 year old who goes by "Jordie" seriously.

Their defense will probably depend on their young guys stepping up. If Oleksiak ever lives up to his potential or if Julius Honka makes the team(who, again, I've never seen but had some pretty impressive numbers for a 20 year old in the AHL).
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Re: The Defensive Logjam
« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2016, 09:31:08 AM »