When Jim Lites embarrassed the Dallas Stars organization at the behest of owner Tom Gaglardi he mentioned that he’s tired of “bloggers talking about Honka” among other players. The Dallas Stars organization should go full earmuffs for the rest of this post.
I could sit here and bitch about the nuance of developing people for another 1000 words easily. I almost did it. I deleted about 100 words when I started once I realized most of what I was saying was already written here. I’m not sure if that makes me a blowhard or redundant or some combination thereof, or if it even matters. The points still remain the same, and the ideas as they relate to the development of Julius Honka remain the same.
In the Stars 5-4 win over the New Jersey Devils Honka made a couple of plays that ended up with poor results. This play in particular, and the response to it, bothered me.
The general consensus has been to blame Honka for the goal against for a turnover in traffic. Full bias disclaimer, I still very much believe in Honka. What I see is Honka reading that Radek Faksa was going to take the puck to the blueline so he jumped into the play with the intent of going to the boards to give Faksa puck support.
Four Devils skaters are right there squeezing Faksa off. He got himself completely isolated, and from my view Faksa’s only play with the puck is to put it in deep where Tyler Pitlick could have engaged in a one on one puck battle if Honka himself didn’t retrieve it. Instead, Faksa tried a suicide pass into Honka’s skates with no defensive support behind him.
The only other thing Honka could have reasonably done here is to back out of the zone as Faksa skated towards him with virtually all of the Devils giving pressure. From my view this is exactly the type of play the Stars have been saying they want from Honka. They want aggressive in the name of creating offense. This was it. He didn’t make the bad pass. Faksa did.
On day one of training camp, the first under Jim Montgomery, Mark Stepneski had a bunch of quotes from players and coaches that dealt with being aggressive.
Let’s start with Montgomery:
“Be aggressive, make mistakes out of being aggressive,” Montgomery told the first group of players as they practiced. “Attack pucks in your area.”
“We were given the green light to be aggressive as long as you are working hard back over the puck. That’s the way the game is played now. Mistakes are going to happen, but make sure they are hard mistakes, that way you can recover.
A soft mistake definitely happened here on this play. Again though, I think it was Faksa.
“Every team wants to pressure, but the reads are going to be a little different as to when we want to go or when we don’t want to go. And when the defensemen are breaking out, they are expected to be really jumping and be up on the attack.”
Attack. Be Aggressive. This is exactly what Honka did here. The reaction to immediately blame him for this play is somewhat understandable if you buy into the idea that Honka is constantly making egregious mistakes that are detrimental to the team. He isn’t, though he is far from perfect.
The message here to Honka should be an acknowledgement that this was good aggressiveness. This is what they need from Honka even if ultimately the play ended poorly. When Honka is making these reads he’s playing the game that is going to keep him in the NHL for years to come.
Most of the time he isn’t going to get a pass into the skates with four opposing players around. Take your pitchforks to Faksa and save your ire for the next turnover credited to Honka.