Every week, Justin Bourne's column will cover three different topics at different depths. Imagine this as a three-course menu with starter, main course and dessert …
Starter: Players who would "fit" better in other eras may not have been more effective in them.
A popular pastime of long-time ice hockey fans is to look back at a skill-first player from the physical top of hockey and to dream of how that player would have looked in today's skill-first game. To a lesser extent, we do this with other skills and epochs. Sure, you want to see Alexei Kovalev play 2020, but wouldn't it be fun watching Milan Lucic play if toughness was really appreciated?
Thinking is generally pretty from A to B when we think of these things. Using the example of earlier boys playing today: these players were denied countless opportunities they should have tried today, and they would have produced more. This is pretty obvious when you think back to how the game was played for a while. I mean do you remember that Lemieux goal? He was a tugboat for this happy defender's water-skiing adventure, which was provided free of charge.
No amount of hooking and holding could stop Mario Lemieux. by r / hockey
Of course, not everyone was a 6-foot-6 horse, so this result was an outlier. Usually these hooks only negated a chance completely, so yes – it makes sense to believe that the little ones and experts would have been better off today.
I think we misunderstand that the way the game was played in those days has often allowed these smaller, more experienced players to make it and excel. With so many players focused on strength and physicality, those with more pucking skills were special and therefore sought-after goods. They did something that most of the other players on the squad couldn't: create more chances of winning, which made them specialists. If they were playing at a time when almost everyone was playing an offensive creative game, would they still be remarkable players in the league?
I posted a version of this question on Twitter and the answers were interesting and often revealing.
Who are some hockey players who you think are played in the "wrong" era? For example, whose skills would have been better suited to another decade's playing style?
– Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) April 21, 2020
The most common answer was Paul Kariya, a great poll and a guy who could be Patrick Kane-plus if he played in that era. Could be. But for those without his world's best Hall of Fame talent, I'm not sure that logic is always there. Not every skill type from the 90s would be a better version of itself if transported to hockey in 2020 because there are now so many of these skill first types.
Many of them can be seen as superfluous rather than unique. It's more likely that people like Nic Petan or Seth Griffith were unique enough to make it 25 years ago, but aren't special enough in today's game (which I think is the opposite of how logic normally works when we do do it play this game).
There are hundreds of great suggestions in response to this tweet, and some with explanations that make perfect sense. I just think it's worth remembering that for many players it was their uniqueness in the midst of their era that delivered their value.
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Main course: Today's emphasis on skill-first has opened up for thinkers.
In the same direction as the idea that players adjust epochs, an interesting point was raised by Shea Weber at Hockey Central on Monday and worked out by Paul Stastny on Wednesday.
Weber first, which has resulted from the emphasis on hockey skills in the past decade or two.
"… When we were in minor hockey, it was all about systems to get the pre-exam right and play right, and now it is … I don't even think they teach that, everything they do , skill is to be taught. Skate very quickly and have good skills. Children have skills coaches at the age of six or seven. There are all these tools and things that I have never seen. I used to cling to golf balls around hockey gloves in the basement, now there are all these things I've never heard of, it's crazy. However, it turns out that the kids who do this stuff all their lives are just automatic. There may not be that many people who think the game too, but you definitely have a lot more skill and speed and in a different way. "
The point that Weber raised was positive in terms of the speed and skill of today's game and how natural it has become for players to do things that he would not have thought possible at the beginning of his career. Still, I'm drawn to the disposable line that "maybe not that many people think the game too" because I thought it myself. It is at least a point to consider.
Because the league has shifted to such an emphasis on speed and skill, the shape of the game changes faster and more frequently over the course of a certain shift, which has made reading the game situation more difficult. Most of the defense is to find out what situation your team is in (pre-check or pre-check in the neutral zone or return to the D-zone or breakout or cover in the D-zone or or or or) and then your role evaluate in this situation. and act. If you choose the first part incorrectly, you will react incorrectly and be the broken link in the chain of your defense.
But this whole scene – another team that breaks the puck while your team tries to get it back – used to unfold a fraction of the way it used to be. I would compare reading today's hockey game to listening to a podcast at about 1.5 times the speed. You can do this, but you are less sure that you have received all the information correctly. It comes to you pretty quickly. When things were a little slower, teammates were less likely to be burned or torn out of position, which required less reaction in a split second. When things collapse, it becomes really difficult to figure out your role in defense, and players are increasingly asked to do these panic readings as the game's speed increases.
As I mentioned in our opening today, players who don't necessarily have the pure skills that define this era have become extremely valuable with some irony. I'm thinking of a man like Zach Hyman who is loved for his ability to effectively play a structured game. The same applies to the man we will hear from next, Paul Stastny.
For many years, Stastny has made a valued contribution as a thinker in a game that looks more regular than you'd get from Skittles and Mountain Dew. The quote is long, but it explained the point I want to do better than I can here, so let's have it:
"These young people, they are so skillful, so fast that I skate with a lot of young people in the summer. I skate at the University of Denver, so you see a lot of these people. I mean, it's crazy if you see what they can do in 1v1 exercises, 3v3 hockey, and somehow shinny hockey. But at the end of every summer when we play the pros against the college boys and when we start playing the body a little bit, if we start to control the puck a little bit and slow it down, it just seems like they're going to be lost a little bit out there. Like I said, you can teach everyone as soon as possible to be and teach someone to use sticks all day and shoot all day, but you can teach them where to be in the right place or how to react if you don't have the right puck how to Find ways to get the puck how to get the pre-exam and I think that's what smart guys do really well. "
Paul Stastny on statistics, sticks and his HOF father
April 22, 2020
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He added this to the idea of using the puck more thoughtfully rather than just betting on it:
“Where you really see is the ability to play 3-on-3 or shootout. There is so much space out there, so much skill that you can see guys trying to hit everyone. What frustrates me most is when I watch an OT game and there are three minutes left and a young man comes out fresh and tries to hit three men. It drives me crazy because overtime, if you have the puck, you should have the puck the rest of the time. When there is nothing going on, it is also difficult to score if they only play hand-to-hand defense. There are things that are incredible that take fans out of their seats so they can do things, then there are things that can be frustrating, but you know it is our job to teach these guys other things about the game They don’t learn from their skills, or they don’t learn if they only do 1-to-1 things. ”
The focus is on me.
It used to be that you figured out how to play within the team structure, and then hoped your skills would go where you would make a valued contribution. Today, they worry about first improving skills and then teaching structure. I think the latter is the right way to do this (the elite skill part is more difficult to get), but I think we see that players whose structure is cold are rewarded where it used to be a mandatory part was an NHLer.
Dessert: Gary Bettman's conversation with Ron MacLean gives me hope that we will have hockey again this summer.
I promise I have not received any instructions to promote this, but I am because I think it is the most important conversation for ice hockey fans amid this terrible pandemic. More noteworthy information includes the idea that they could choose four locations, divide the teams into their respective divisions, and end one version of the regular season (possibly playing a few games a day on the same ice sheet in front) in July before it's post-season goes.
Of course everything is still waiting at this point, but I still have real hope to this day. And I think it's been a while since the hockey community felt that way.