6/8/18 – I think I know why I like Phil Kessel

I vividly remember all of the events that have triggered the most severe bouts of depression I’ve ever gone through.

I dealt with depression to a minor degree growing up, but the most traumatic events I dealt with as a kid didn’t hit me much until I was an adult. My parents divorce, my hospital stay, the indifference of my family to me after I left young childhood, and even the financially crippling events I dealt with as a new college graduate made little visible impact on me.

When my wife left me with very little morning at 11:30 pm on a week night late in May of 2016 I broke. I’m still broken, and honestly I know I’ll never be fixed. Every triggering event I vividly remember stems from that.

I remember her telling me then I remember going into convulsions and throwing up in the bathroom because I cried so hard every fiber of my body hurt.

I remember walking into the bedroom a few days later and seeing her looking at iTunes on this very computer listening to a song I would have never expected her to listen to. These are the lyrics:

DPlaces

They aren’t complex or even necessarily good, but they stuck with me. I think I had listened to it once or twice before that. Now? Number two.

iTunes

I remember going into HEB and losing my composure the weekend after she moved out. I went to buy shampoo, and it occurred to me that I had never purchased shampoo on my own before. I wandered around the aisle aimlessly looking. The makeup lady asked if I needed help and I told her that story for some reason.

The most recent one might be the worst, but it could be recency bias. Facebook decided I should see her latest post, a list of ten things she reminds herself. It isn’t her fault I saw it, but I read it.

KillMe

I’ve been in a very bad place since.

I saw the news about Anthony Bourdain, and I felt so bad for him. This was a man trying to do his best to cope, survive, and thrive. His passing and the responses to his passing on Twitter made an impact on me.

I see people trying to be understanding tweeting messages of support and I’m torn. They’re trying to be supportive, but I don’t think many know what it’s like to truly battle depression. The equating of being sad with the overwhelming feelings of depression is tough to read. Many times battling depression isn’t even a battle. Often, at least in my case, I simply don’t give a shit.

I know for myself that I do try my best, even if most of the time it isn’t close to good enough. When I see Phil Kessel I see a man doing his best to function in a culture not made for his personality. I see a cancer survivor putting points on the board while coaches have dick measuring contests with him despite the fact that he’s going to win the battle every time.

Phil isn’t right every time. He does things to ruffle feathers, but he’s doing his best. His best results in high quality production. I see a man fighting off bullshit to live to the best of his abilities in a culture where sexual predators and racists keep getting promotions and raises.

I think I like Phil Kessel for being himself despite everything. I probably always will.

6/3/18 – Dragging Steve Ott

I thought this might happen, but then it occured to me that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I like Steve Ott, even if he wasn’t particularly good. He’s been retired for a year now. Why do that to him? You can probably search through the archives I’m putting together if you really want to find that info.

No, I wanted to say something about the state of this website. I’ve been asked to write things for Sports Day DFW, the Dallas Morning News’ online wing. It will inevitably make an impact on this place. Mooterati isn’t going anywhere though.

The reality is I’m going to make just as much money from the Morning News as I am from here, but the Morning News gives the prospect of a more immediate wider audience. I don’t expect them to be into me for the long haul either way, so for now I’m going to put my best foot forward and try to give the most interesting coverage of the Stars I can there. Maybe something good will come of it.

I appreciate the Pateron contributions. I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking the WordPress Business package is a guaranteed item at this point. I don’t really know. If you would like any money you’ve contributed back let me know and I will make every effort to get it back to you. Otherwise I’ll plan on sending all of it to the Dallas Stars Foundation down the road.

With all of that being said, here’s a roundup of everything I posted for the Morning News this week with headlines I would have prefered:

Bird Dogging Phil Kessel

Miro Heiskanen is Jesus Christ in the flesh

Seriously though, he’s really good.

Recap of game one of the Calder Cup Final

Brooks Orpik stole Craig Ludwig’s bit

Subversively sneaking in Fancy Stats into the MSM

 

 

 

5/21/18 – Finding Offense Within: Valeri Nichushkin

The Dallas Stars need to find some of that sweet offense for 2019. They’re going to have to look under every rock and put on the heavy gloves to dig in every dirty couch they come across looking for spare offensive change. Today we dive into the Soviet Couch and look at old friend Valeri Nichushkin.

The first draft pick of Jim Nill as the Stars General Manager is only two months past his 23rd birthday. He’s coming back from Russia for the 2019 season so he should provide some offense down the lineup. How much he’s going to provide is where the problem comes in.

Val came out of the gates with 34 points as a rookie in 2014 before missing virtually all of 2015 due to injury. In 2016 he had another 29 points. Over his last 86 games in the KHL Nichushkin has 51 points which translates to roughly 30 points in the NHL.

Any number of reasons for this low total can be justified if you are so inclined, but I’m not. If you can score, you can score in the KHL. Ilya Kovalchuk has 285 points in 262 games the last five seasons. Pavel Datsyuk has 69 in 81 over the last two years.

And they’re old.

So if you’re looking for Nichushkin to come back and be a dynamic offensive player you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. He always looks dynamic though which is where the expectations and frustration come from. Look at him dice up the KHL before setting up a tap in goal.

Pass1.gif

Nichushkin has some slick hands. He can stickhandle, he can bulldoze his way to the net, and everything he does looks smooth. The slickness masks a lot of warts. Nichushkin looks the part of a dominant offensive forward, but mostly plays the game of a power forward with limited finishing ability.

Goal1.gif

Razor pointed this out with Nichushkin early on and I’ve never been able to shake it. Val can’t elevate the puck. This is purely anecdotal, but it seems like almost every one of his goals is nearly flat on the ice or a deflection. He can’t, or at least hasn’t been able to, shoot.

As a rookie Nichushkin produced at the rate of a third liner at even strength with third line minutes. The images are from hockeyviz.com.

Val1

After a lost season Val came back for the 2016 season and took a step back to perform at the level of a fourth liner. He was beyond useless on the powerplay in both seasons.

Val2

I pulled a bunch of data from Corsica to further illustrate the point.

Val

I took the even strength data collected for Nichushkin’s two full seasons. 21 forwards got into more than ten games in those two seasons. If you rolled 12 forwards to fill out a lineup from those two years Nichushkin might make the lineup.

Val5.

Maybe.

Those are his rankings in all of the aforementioned stats among the group of forwards.

I ran this poll for a reason.

There likely isn’t much difference production wise between Antoine Roussel and Nichushkin. The difference is in perceived potential or banking on youth. I would bank on youth too if the options are basically split though, honestly, spending legitimate money on either player is probably foolish.

I’m falling into the trap of focusing on what he can’t do. What can Nichushkin do that can help the Stars depth scoring issue? He can crash the hell out of the net and set up his linemates. Nichushkin needs to be on the ice with guys who can follow him to the net and accept passes from him in prime scoring areas. He’s best when the puck is on his stick. Let him have it.

The problem is he’s going to have to earn time with the guys who can do that, and the Stars don’t have many of them. Nichushkin isn’t taking Alexander Radulov‘s place in the lineup, but speaking of Radulov, that’s who Nichushkin needs to study endlessly.

At his absolute best that is who Nichushkin should strive to be: a big playmaking winger with some sand paper. At his worst Nichushkin is a bottom six forward who will drive the play to the other end of the rink which is absolutely valuable. You need guys like that to be successful. You just don’t want to pay them a ton of money when they are apparently relatively easy to acquire (hi Vegas).

5/20/18 – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

An expansion team is going to the Stanley Cup Final. The flaming hot takes have been pretty funny which was to be expected if you could have possibly seen this coming.

I wish I was creative enough to see this coming because the schadenfreude is off the charts. I think once it was pointed out on Twitter that the twelve wins by the Vegas Golden Knights in one playoff run is more than the St Louis Blues have ever had in a single playoffs it hit me how funny this is.

I wrote that prior to the game and edited it to twelve afterwards. The Twitter reaction after the fact is even funnier. The revisionist history being thrown around is something to behold.

If I linked all the salty Tweets out there this would take all night. The number of people who genuinely believe Vegas drafted a stacked team is stunningly high.

William Karlsson had a 23.4% shooting percentage.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a .927 save percentage after a career .912 save percentage in his Pittsburgh Penguins career.

Erik Haula got power play time and scored with it after not getting any with the Minnesota Wild.

David Perron career’d at age 29 after not topping 50 points since 2014.

Dale Tallon inexplicably gave up Reilly Smith and Jon Marchessault.

James Neal had a normal James Neal season, and realistically could have been their best forward by a mile. He shouldn’t have even been in Vegas if the Nashville Predators had the good sense to trade him for anything rather than let him go for free.

Most of the salt is jealousy, but there will be many lessons taken from what Vegas has done when they inevitably walk to winning the Stanley Cup in the next two weeks. The most prevalent lesson going around Twitter now is that NHL General Managers are stupid. They aren’t, though some definitely are bad at their jobs (Tallon).

Two lessons that the Dallas Stars need to take away from this are to play fast (hello Jim Montgomery) and to trust the players you have identified as talented. This came into my timeline yesterday and stuck with me as I watched the Jets get eliminated earlier.

Too often the idea of developing players, employees, or anyone really is to punish for a mistake rather than emphasize the success. Flawed players only have their flaws pointed out so they work on becoming well-rounded players who fit into the traditional bottom six mold. They get discouraged from taking risks because they know if they take that risk and it fails they’re going to sit in the press box.

You can’t develop talent like that, at least not anymore. I mention teaching a lot, but I’ve seen it firsthand in my classroom. This year I’ve worked with kids who, outside of 16% of them, didn’t pass the 8th grade STAAR exam. Many of them have failed year after year. There are behavior issues, undiagnosed learning disorders, and kids who learned that if they shut up teachers will leave them alone. If I spent time focusing on what they couldn’t do instead of developing new skills we would never get anything done.

I can confidently say that 80% of my students can do actual Algebra now. I can also confidently say that 85% still can’t consistently solve problems with negatives, fractions, decimals, or lengthy word problems by hand. We adapt and work to their strengths to help them get what they need to graduate high school – to find success.

The kids are empowered to ask questions and find solutions. It builds confidence and lets them take ownership so they know it’s ok to take a risk by engaging in the class. If they screw up we learn from it as a group and keep moving. Being afraid to fail adds that extra pressure that doesn’t really help.

Vegas was in a prime position to not worry about that. No one expected them to do anything despite what some corners of Twitter will tell you. With no real expectations it’s easier to sell “make a mistake, it’s ok”, but NHL teams should take notice. Julius Honka, Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, and others like them deserve a shot to show that they really are as talented as the organization believes they are.

Charity Hockey Game to Benefit DPD Officers Wounded in Home Depot Shooting

Tomorrow the Dallas Police Department and Fort Worth Police Department will play a charity hockey game in honor of Rogelio Santander and his partner Crystal Almeida. Both officers were wounded at Home Depot in late April when a gunman opened fired on them as they attempted to arrest him for outstanding theft warrants. Office Santander passed away from his wounds.

This is a little last minute, but someone posted it on Reddit. I don’t know where I’ve been, but I haven’t seen anything about this. I assumed if I hadn’t seen it many of you hadn’t either.

Dallas Police Hockey tweeted out a bunch of information about the game. Tickets are 10 bucks at the door at 7:45 Saturday night at the Plano StarCenter.

The families of the victims will be represented at the game.

DPD will be wearing this decal donated by FastSigns during the game.

These pucks will be sold off for the benefit too.

Many of us have uneasy feelings about the police but then something like this happens and helps remind you that the overwhelming majority of them are just doing their jobs. Help them out if you can make it.

5/9/18 – Miro Heiskanen’s European Fancy Stats

I’ve been doing some digging to get ready for the upcoming NHL Draft. I would like to give as much information as I can reasonably find on each of the players I think would be reasonable targets for the Dallas Stars at the 13th pick so I’m diving deep.

Spoiler alert: very near the top of that list is Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His profile is coming soon. In looking him up I came across something I didn’t realize existed: fancy stats for Liiga, the top league in Finland. Also playing in Liiga is Stars uber prospect Miro Heiskanen. So natural curiosity made me look him up.

Simo Teperi appears to have put the stats together based off of the work of Micah Blake McCurdy. The full list of player cards can be found here. This is how Heiskanen looked last season.

Miro

Let’s look into it piece by piece starting with his scoring rates.

Scoring

We knew Heiskanen got first pairing ice time, but it really sticks out when the visual aspect is added. The fact that his even strength goal scoring and primary assists per hour each individually made him score at the rate of a first pairing defender is something I didn’t realize.

ShootingZone

His point totals could have been even better. Miro’s IFK teammates only shot 4% with him on the ice. Bump that up a little and the assists will be racked up quickly.

Impacts

IFK was solid at generating shots and goals without Heiskanen on the ice. They were dominant with him on the ice though. The goal for these charts is to be in the upper right hand corner as much as possible.

Finnish teams don’t score against him, but they allow goals. The heat map shows how that happens. Remember that Heiskanen plays on the left side. I marked the areas of the ice to take note of on the chart below.

HeatMap

Teams just don’t get shots against IFK with Miro on the ice. The only red that shows up is on the fringes of the left face off circle outside of the prime scoring area. The left wing probably bares more responsibility for that than Heiskanen anyway given how tidy the area in front of the net looks.

Heiskanen puts puck on the net too. In the offensive zone you see an abundance of red at the left point into the face off circle, but also in about the same area on the right. He’s so damn good.

Stats

The rate stats look stupid for an 18 year old playing against grown men. They would look great for anyone, but an 18 year old performing the way he did is simply unfair. This was an NHL talent playing in Europe, and he’s going to look so good in North America in just a few months.

CoastToCoast

The Olympics gif posts are here if you need an adrenaline boost this morning.

 

5/6/18 – Should You Flip Off a Racist or Lick Someone in the Face?

If you ever needed more proof that hockey has work to do with race, I submit Exhibits A & B for the record.

A black man in the OHL has been suspended for flipping off a group of people making racial comments towards him with no corresponding suspensions or punishment of any kind given to the other parties.

A “known pest” white man has licked two people without so much as a penalty, fine, or suspension in the NHL.

Unequal punishment isn’t only an NHL phenomenon. It happens everywhere. Earlier this month a report was released studying punishment in schools.

“The analysis shows that students of color suffer harsher discipline for lesser offenses than their white peers and that racial bias is a driver of discipline disparities,” [Rep Bobby} Scott [D-Va.] said in a statement.

So naturally when Givani Smith, younger brother of Dallas Stars forward Gemel Smith, flipped the bird to the Soo Greyhounds bench strangely ironic hell broke loose against him.

The incident sparked a series of racially charged comments on social media. Some called the Toronto native a “coward” and a “douche bag” while others stooped lower.

One man sent a photo of Smith to his personal Facebook account with “Hockey N—–” in the caption.

He also received a death threat.

“There were threats, physical threats after Game 6,” said Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.

“Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with.”

Things got so bad that the Rangers needed a police escort from the Soo airport to their hotel and from the hotel to the Essar Centre for Game 7. Smith watched the affair from the press box with a security guard posted at the door.

All because he flipped someone off. Sure, civility is important. We don’t need to be flipping people off, but this is absurd. None of these reactions are ever justified, and they look even the more ridiculous when they come in response to a common mildly vulgar gesture.

The sad thing is that this is an unfortunately common situation that black hockey players are forced to confront. Gemel talked about his own experiences in the OHL with Sean Shapiro last year.

“I’ve been through that stuff, even when playing in the OHL. To me I just block it out, none of it really bothers me. I think of it like just words, that stuff doesn’t effect me.”

And,

“Definitely happened more when I was younger and in the OHL, I think it was a maturity thing. The fact that it happens at that age is a good thing, it teaches guys how to cope,” Smith said. “I had some really high-end players say some stuff to me, I’m not going to say any names, and to be honest I just laugh now. None of it really bothers me.”

The fact that at least one black player thinks it’s “a good thing” that they experience racism at an early age in hockey so they learn “how to cope” with it is a telling indictment of where hockey and society still are racially. No one should have to put up with this nonsense anywhere, and sure as hell not at work.

I work at an urban school where 97% of the population is Black or Hispanic. On my first day of school six years ago I was very aware that most people didn’t look like me. I’ve never been treated the way Givani Smith was treated in this one instance, and presumably others, in my entire time there. This isn’t just a race issue. It’s a white society issue and it isn’t ok.

This is why actively working towards inclusion is important. From Sean’s story:

“My first triple-A team when I first started taking hockey serious, my coach was black and there were four other black players on my team. It kind of helped us kind of get through at first,” Smith said. “I know stuff like that is going to come up as long as I live, and the best thing to is don’t break. You can bend, but don’t break.”

I still can’t get over how much the kids in my building flocked to Black Panther. Representation matters.

Remember all of the little girls running around dressed like Wonder Woman? Representation matters.

Hockey can’t show representation the way Black Panther or Wonder Woman did yet because there simply aren’t enough black NHL players to do it on that scale. That’s also why inclusion is important. Every single story like this that happens and spreads limits the potential audience for the sport. How can you expect any of the 42 million black people in the US to feel comfortable coming to an arena seating 17.000 almost exclusively white people when these things keep happening?

This is why Hockey Is For Everyone month is important. It’s easy for members of the majority to say “oh, of course everyone is welcome” because they don’t see or feel the impacts of how much racism is so easily thrown around.

The NHL needs to take a more active role in including everyone.

The NHLPA needs to take a more active role in protecting their members. No union worth anything should ever let a member treat another member like Givani Smith was treated in the OHL.

NHL teams need to take a more active role in the arena to make sure this behavior isn’t tolerated from fans.

It’s 2018 and this garbage keeps happening. Enough is enough. A white man licking people in the face has faced less consequences than a black man justifiably responding with a non-violent gesture to racists. I can’t.

 

 

5/4/18: Monty Effect on NCAA Free Agents and Tanner Jaillet

The Dallas Stars have never been a major player with college free agents. You never really hear their name attached to any of the big ones, and until recently it never seemed like they were very active at all. How much of an impact does the signing of Jim Montgomery to be the Stars next coach have on that going forward?

Montgomery has led the University of Denver Pioneers to be one of the more respected programs in the NCAA since taking over in 2014. His players are starting to make a mark at the NHL level. Will Butcher in New Jersey, Danton Heinen in Boston, and soon Henrik Borgstrom and US Olympian Troy Terry will be in the NHL.

Gavin Bayreuther and now Tony Calderone have joined the Stars as NCAA free agents the past two seasons. If the Stars want to be even more active, having a resource like Montgomery available can only help. He gives them firsthand access to knowledge and sources to help them make more informed decisions about who to pursue.

On the other hand, if you’re a college free agent unsure about heading to a team in Dallas couldn’t seeing Montgomery in place help pacify your worries? He’s a big name in college hockey and surely could be a valuable recruiting chip.

Montgomery should also bring another perspective on the prospects the Stars currently have in the NCAA. This is part of the value of going outside the organization for some fresh blood. He should have some of his own views on players like Riley Tufte, Colton Point, Joe Cecconi, and Jake Oettinger as they try to break into the NHL very soon.

All of that alone is a worthwhile impact, but why not see if that influence can help improve the Stars organization now? Many college free agents are still unsigned. Among those is one of his former key players at Denver: goaltender Tanner Jaillet.

The four year starter at Denver has a career .925 save percentage. That’s pretty salty and has improved the last two years. He was named the 2017 Mike Richter Award recipient as the top goaltender in the NCAA.

Of course, he’s 5’10 so he’s going to get passed over. Why shouldn’t a franchise like the Stars give him a shot? They have Point and Oettinger coming, sure. They aren’t coming next year though. 24 year old Jalliet is going to have to work to be in a position to block either player, but if he made himself that useful is it really a bad thing?

Right now the Texas Stars need goaltending for next season. Landon Bow is the only goalie under contract for 2019. Outside of half of a season in the WHL and half of a season in the ECHL he’s just been ok. They’ll need an emergency NHL option, but why not take a swing at something more with someone who has had as much success as Jalliet in tandem with a veteran?

The beauty of that question is the Stars now have someone who can directly answer it. Getting more involved in the pursuit of college talent makes a ton of sense, and they are now uniquely situated to do it with an extra bounty of information thanks to the hiring of Montgomery.

 

5/3/18 – Process and Puck Posession of Jim Montgomery

Two things should always be kept in mind when it comes to the Dallas Stars.

You never have any reason to trust anything that comes out of Jim Nill’s mouth if it’s about potential moves, and you should never pay much attention to media amplified coachspeak.

Coachspeak is that generic string of words a coach lays out for media or other outsiders that doesn’t really tell anyone much of anything. It isn’t a lie, but it doesn’t enlighten discourse in any way. It isn’t intended to either because it isn’t for anyone outside of the locker room.

Coachspeak doesn’t even tell players much specifically. It’s a series of mantras intended to trigger memories of how a coach wants players to play or specific traits they need to remember to project outwardly. Every coach does it on every level. We call it “their message”.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

You know, the good stuff.

Soon-to-be-named Stars Head Coach Jim Montgomery has his own mantras. We’ll surely get to know them well over time. One aspect of his program is his “process” that we’ve seen discussed often since the news of his imminent hiring started to leak. He detailed it for The Coaches Site.

Monty

Those seven items are…something.

If were four out of seven in a game, were probably going to win that game. And if weve got five or six, the games actually become lopsided in our favour. Like I said, its simple.

Number one, two, and four stick out quite a bit here because Montgomery has been billed as a possession-focused modern coach. His teams racked up the Corsis in the NCAA so a focus on hits and faceoffs and blocked shots seems surprising because of how relatively insignificant they are to winning hockey games.

I settled on these seven because they give the team a clear understanding of what to do when it comes to the small details of the game, and it will lead to big results.

Then it starts to make more sense.

Its about keeping things simple and boring, really. Simple and boring work well in sports. Through my playing career, I noticed that if I thought about simple things, small details about my game, I usually had really good games; when I worried about the big things like results, I played nervous and didnt play well.

Coming up with the process was a way for me to relate to my team about what will give us success. When were playing bigger games, we always come back to the process and it allows us to play consistently in the big moments when the pressure is on. We always say, were about the process because it keeps things simple.

…It helps with the mental component, toowhen moments get big, we talk about staying in the moment and focusing on our process. We should be focusing on our next shift, or the next face off. The simplicity of the process allows our players to mentally lock in.

Breathe out of your eyelids. Don’t think meat, pitch. This process he lays out is much more of a mental trick to help players focus. If you look at each of the seven they’re mostly vague and hard to measure outside of hits, odd man rushes, and the 60% faceoff goal.

So these are small things that help players focus on smaller aspects of the game, but what does the overall picture look like from his mind? Fortunately a video is floating around out there if you want to get a free trial or subscription to The Coaches Site. I did because I was curious after seeing that is was titled “Puck Possession”.

Ok, now we’re speaking language that sounds more like what I’ve seen in Denver video, and that reflects the numbers his teams put up.

The video is 31 minutes long. It contains a brief Q&A after 25 minutes of him speaking about the intricacies of how he coached Denver up. It includes slides stating the principles he follows offensively and in transition plus video clips of his team executing.

I pulled all of the slides and interesting quotes of his from throughout.

He started off with a bang.

If we feel like we possess the puck for 60% of the game we’re going to win at least 80 percent of our games.

And how does he envision doing that in general?
Slide1

What Montgomery did throughout this video is that missing piece that we don’t see as outsiders. He went into detail about how he teaches his team to get and maintain possession. That starts with a strict focus on skaters protecting the puck and winning puck battles.

He then spent time going over faceoffs, but we’re here for the sauce.

Slide3

Penetrating the dots is quite the #HockeyAfterDark way to say generating scoring chances.

And we must end up penetrating inside the dots. It’s great to possess the puck outside the dots, but if you’re not generating scoring chances then that’s the number one telltale sign for us when we do our analytics. We do scoring chances after the game, and we want to know how many we’re generating inside the house compared to our opponents. And usually if we have a big advantage there we win the game quite handily.

If you generate more scoring chances than your opponent you tend to win games. I’ll be damned. This was the first of many instances where Montgomery indicated how important it is to him to create meaningful offense.

Slide4

“If you can breakout through the middle you’re gonna have success.”

The keys to everything he wants his teams to do come from the blueline. It seems like the clear focus for him will be coming up through the middle instead of up the boards constantly like the Stars did under Ken Hitchcock.

We want to preferably break out through the middle because that’s where we feel you gain the most speed at the other team’s blueline.

And oh my sweet lord this quote:

We want players that want the puck, and you gotta demand the puck.

He then illustrated how this looks with several clips, but this one impressed me with how quickly his guys moved the puck.

Breakout 64.png

It’s about making a pass to get to the next layer, and get past the forwards to create odd man rushes and easy entries.

Easy entries? What a nice thing that would be to see.

Now we move to the neutral zone. Montgomery has already mentioned speed a couple times. He does here too.

If you can carry the puck in with speed into the opposition’s end, D-zone breakouts and neutral zone counters are the two that create the best scoring chances.

He has two neutral zone schemes he likes to follow. The first one he took directly from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Slide5.jpg

If you’re looking for more promising signs of his focus on offense, he shared his thoughts about how the forwards should be thinking in the neutral zone.

They have to have some creativity to read open ice and trust their offensive instincts.

The other scheme he calls Climb, but he took this one from the Los Angeles Kings.

Slide6

Taking cues from two of the best possession teams of the decade seems like a splendid idea. This scheme has all players below the blueline with the defenseman bringing the puck forward, or “climbing”.

You really have to teach your defensemen to be patient so you can expose and create open ice.

John Klingberg, Julius Honka, and Miro Heiskanen. Inject all of that into my veins.

We haven’t even gotten into the offensive zone yet. When he finally really started talking about offense he began by referencing Wayne Gretzky.

Sure.

Slide7

For us, we call it the Gretzky cutbacks and delays. The best offensive mind ever, I think he introduced this. I think the Russians were doing it way before Gretzky introduced it to everybody, but I think you’re crazy if you don’t learn and teach what Gretzky did.

He went on to explain what the significance of the cutbacks and delays can be offensively.

The most important thing is when he pulls up or does a cutback, you don’t always have a play to make. When we talk about puck possession at Denver, if we can’t make a play we’re going to put the puck to the goal line. And we always have a middle lane drive that is going to the strong side post…Every defensive team is the most vulnerable when the puck is behind the goalie because all eyes and stick positioning and feet positioning are most vulnerable if you can create puck possession behind the net.

Once they get the puck behind the net the offense kicks in. Montgomery referenced being in a triangle down low, and moving the puck low to high frequently. If they move the puck from low to high then the defensemen are a critical part of the offense.

Slide9.jpg

The defensemen have to be involved to keep the puck moving and create mismatches. The Stars absolutely have the personnel to make this work.

So, that got longer than I expected. In short, I’ll let Montgomery sum up what he has going on.

“We feel that in this day and age to score goals, you have to empower everyone to do it.”

He has his “process”, but make no mistake this is about offense. Denver attacks the net and protects their own so naturally winning net battles will happen. I don’t know how they ever got 50 hits in a game honestly.

When he says that Denver would win four of those pieces of the process, 3-7 are almost certainly the most commonly won pieces, but even then they aren’t the ultimate goal of what Montgomery wants. He wants his teams playing offensive hockey, but he wants them to focus on details so they don’t get lost in the moment.

It probably isn’t worth worrying that he’s out of touch with modern hockey. He pretty clearly gets it, even if the note about hits is a little troubling.

“If you don’t have any questions it looks like we might be able to hit the beer earlier.”

Yeah, he’ll probably fit in here.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s stupid. Let’s calm down.

5/3/18 – Dallas Stars Go Full Monty

I had to get that out of my system early. Apologies.

The Dallas Stars time-consuming exhaustive search for the successor to Ken Hitchcock is finally over…after less than three weeks. Jim Montgomery will be leaving the University of Denver to fill the Stars head coaching vacancy with an official announcement and press conference on Friday. The vague press release was sent within the past hour.

Montgomery was the first head coaching candidate profiled by Mooterati, and apparently the only one needing a profile. I imagine we’ll hear a lot more on Friday, but he must have wowed the Stars to a considerable degree to lock the job down as quickly as he did.

This is an interesting hire for the Stars. They could have gone the conservative route by hiring a coach with NHL experience. Alain Vigneault is sitting out there fresh off of being fired by the New York Rangers, and he was a main contender for the job in Dallas when Lindy Ruff was hired. Instead, they chose to step out of their comfort zone.

Names like Willie Desjardins, a former Stars coach, and Derek Laxdal, current coach of the Texas Stars, were connected to the position through the media. Bill Peters, now of the Calgary Flames and an ex-Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, was an early candidate. All would have been “safe” hires of guys with obvious connections to the team and general manager.

Other candidates existed who wouldn’t have been standard Stars hires, such as Sheldon Keefe, Todd Richards, and Pascal Vincent. The easy route is to hire the guys you know, but it isn’t always the best. Montgomery may not work out, but the fresh blood and different perspective he can bring to what the Stars do is something they can really use.

From the outside looking in there are three keys to this being a successful hiring.

Player Development

Montgomery has a strong record of player development. The Stars have young talent, but all too often the youth hasn’t been able to take that next step. College hockey is largely about development. Montgomery should be more of a development-focused coach than his predecessor.

Organizational Continuity

One aspect that bugged many about the 2018 season was that the organization seemed disjointed. Hitchcock played who he wanted to play. Nill held on to promising young players like Julius Honka and Gemel Smith despite toiling away in the press box or with low minutes. Everyone seemed to have a different goal to the very end.

Montgomery and Nill should be on the same page. Hopefully the system Montgomery wants to play in Dallas is extended to Austin too so young players can easily step in when needed. Continuity is vital.

A Modern Game

Ken Hitchcock talked a good game when he was hired, but it didn’t come together. The Stars spiraled into a team that settled for chipping the puck out of their own zone and dumping the puck in offensively. You never would have guessed that they claimed to want to play with speed by New Years.

Montgomery’s teams focus on moving the puck quickly from the defensive end. Watch Will Butcher of the New Jersey Devils. The Stars have these guys in place already with John Klingberg,  Honka, and soon Miro Heiskanen. Watching them have the freedom to carry the puck up the ice should be treat. Ditto Stephen Johns.

I’m not ignoring the process stuff. We’ll get there.