Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking outside the box: Strategic shifts from the NHL's opening weekend

At first they thought the coach was crazy,
but eventually they had to admit that the
defensive zone did look like a surprised bear.
The NHL regular season has arrived, withal 30 teams having seen action by the weekend. And if you settled in to watch your favourite team's opening games and felt like something seemed different, you may be right.

After a long off-season of planning and an exhibition schedule for fine-tuning, the opening of the regular season is the time for teams to unveil the new systems and strategies that they hope will translate into improved results. Whether it's a change in coaching, new personnel or just a different approach to certain game situations, most teams have tweaked something.

These changes are often subtle and can be difficult for the casual fan to notice. To help, I've spoken to several scouts and front office executives and they outlined some of the most important strategic shifts to watch for early in the season.

Philadelphia Flyers - Are trying a bold new strategy where the on-the-fly line changes executed by the team every minute or so will no longer include the goaltender.

Los Angeles - Are working hard in practice on improving Drew Doughty's accuracy from the point, since this year every single one of his slap shots seems to be heading directly for the front office's private suite for some reason.

Montreal Canadiens - Are apparently playing under the new slogan "Let's go on out there and be part of a moment that thousands of people have been waiting 15 years for and completely ruin it".

Vancouver Canucks - While it's still in the experimental phase, are considering trying a brand new strategy called "If some guy is punching our best player in the face over and over again, maybe think about doing something about that."

Detroit Red Wings - Due to the retirement of Chris Osgood, the coaching staff no longer has to spend hours executing complex calculations before each game to determine whether the matchup is important enough for him to activate his magical powers of clutchiness.

Toronto Maple Leafs - Given recent events, are currently rethinking their long-standing gameplan of "If Colton Orr scores a goal, everyone else immediately stop playing for the rest of the game since we know that the End Times are upon us".

Edmonton Oilers - Tom Renney concludes each fiery pre-game speech by saying "Now go on out there and compete hard for the team, just like AC Slater at Bayside High!", before looking around the room and adding "Wow, really? Not one of the good players is old enough to get that reference? Oh man, I am screwed."

Atlanta Thrashers - Have decided to take a break from that whole "existing" strategy that hadn't really been working for them in years.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Unlike the previous eight seasons, will no longer employ a simplistic offensive strategy called "As soon as you get the puck, immediately pass it to Rick Nash"; will now be switching to the more complex "As soon as you get the puck, immediately pass it to Jeff Carter who then immediately passes it to Rick Nash".

Washington Capitals - Coach Bruce Boudreau has decided to get the completely unnecessary goaltending controversy out of the way on opening night, rather than waiting for the first bad period of the playoffs like every other year.

Dallas Stars - Management will no longer assume that a star player is harbouring childhood dreams of trying out for the local baseball team if he spends the entire season muttering "Man, I cannot wait until I get to sign with the Rangers".

Ottawa Senators - New head coach Paul MacLean has reassured his players that, if he learned one thing while coaching in the Western Conference with the Red Wings for six years, it's that road games never actually get started until around 9:00 or 9:15 Eastern.


  1. It really does look like a surprised bear! Thanks, now I'll never get that out of my head.

  2. So what you are saying is the Canadians are trying not to win the cup this year? Good on them for sticking to their guns.

  3. The picture caption is the best thing you've ever written

  4. Took me a while to read this... had to wait for my eyes to stop watering after reading the photo caption....

  5. Jeff Carter is like Sutton on Youngblood's first shift, doesn't pass the puck.

  6. Star's one is hilarious

  7. Man, and here I thought you couldn't improve on the Pronger moustache advice joke. Well done.

    Also: "Due to the retirement of Chris Osgood, the coaching staff no longer has to spend hours executing complex calculations before each game to determine whether the matchup is important enough for him to activate his magical powers of clutchiness."

    Gold. Solid. Gold.

  8. I'm so glad that I started reading these articles because HECK they are funny!

  9. DGB this is excellent as usual. The Leafs and the Blue Jackets were the funniest in my opinion. But the caps comes close!

  10. The photo caption is an absolute gem!

  11. LOL. Jeff Carter passing. Think you meant immediately pass the puck to Jeff Carter who inadvertently passes it to Rick Nash off the glass high and wide of the net.

  12. It's gonna be extremely hard to top that caption this season.

  13. Goddamn, that jab at the Thrashers was brutal. Good job.

  14. so glad I saved didn't read the photo caption til the very end. lmao! kudos!

  15. The Sens won was great, I guess Maclean figured they were playing on the west coast last night since, they didn't start playing until 10pm eastern time.