I’m going to do things a little differently in this post. To be honest, this topic — about modern hockey player usage — is an exciting one for this old coach, which is why I’m choosing to handle it as I will.
— Dennis Chighisola
A Case Study in Modern Hockey Player Usage
The article that stirred this line of discussion was about the Columbus Blue Jackets, or about their 2016-17 turnaround. The article’s and my focus on modern hockey player usage will follow soon, but not until we’ve had some fun watching the Blue Jackets at work…
Actually — perhaps because I live in the east, and also because I live in less than a hockey hotbed now, the Jackets’ change took place without me even knowing. Moreover, I had to rely on that article to get a handle on that thing about modern hockey player usage, or the way Columbus has been using their players.
As SportsNet put it, “They’ve done what every team should be striving to do with their players: find a happy marriage between the skills the player does possess and the requirements of the role they’re asking him to play.”
It goes on to say that, “It seems like a simple enough concept, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. Smart, well-run organizations are taking advantage of every possible edge they can to improve their team and get a leg up on the competition. That can manifest itself in a number of different ways and various magnitudes.” (Oh, man, I can’t wait to get into my own hockey player usage, modern and even a lot of years ago.)
The article continues, “Columbus is an easy target as a team because of how much losing they’ve done over the years and how many head-scratching things John Tortorella has said to stir the pot — but actions speak louder than words. Whether they know it or will publicly admit it, the Columbus Blue Jackets are now doing their part to contribute to the widespread changing of the guard when it comes to roster construction, player deployment, and general hockey convention.”
Then, as I’m going to suggest to member coaches in a minute or two, author Dimitri Filipovic says,”They’re doing it by optimizing their lineup and putting their players in a position to succeed.”
Ya, about optimizing a lineup, and turning towards modern hockey player usage…
Really, that term “modern” is relative. In other words, maybe the tricks played by an astute coach in the 1950’s would have been referred to as modern, and so would the clever player usage by coaches in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or whenever. So, it just so happens that the lineup John Tortorella and his GM have put together in 2016-17 is considered “modern” hockey player usage. Said yet another, I’ll suggest that those lineup tricks just happen to be the player usage tricks of the day.
Now, there seems to be some argument over who is responsible for a really new and unique deployment of five players — to include two forwards, one stopper defensemen, and two halfbacks. Ya, I read Anatoli Tarasov’s view on that in his very old book, describing how his players of the 1970’s and 80’s deployed that system, but I’ve also been told by a Swedish friend that a coach from his country had actually devised it. Wikipedia puts it quite differently, suggesting that, “The system was originated by the Boston Bruins of the late 1950s; it was later adopted by the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1960s. The torpedo mode could not be completely implemented in the National Hockey League until 2005 when the red line was eliminated, allowing for two-line passes to spring the torpedoes (or the two forwards).”
I actually installed my own version of “The Torpedo Playing System” with my high school team back in the late 1970’s, and I used yet a different version a few years later with my college team. In each case, it was far beyond modern hockey player usage — ’cause it was considered “out there” by many observers. Still, a lot like the Blue Jackets, my system was put together to make better use of the players I had (and sometimes our lack of players).
Far before even NHL coaches, I believe, I put into play what I’d call “A Flexible Hockey Forecheck“. The gist of it, way back in the mid-80’s, was to send my forecheckers in aggressively when they read certain conditions, or have them hold back and be more conservative when reading yet other circumstances.
With all that, I’m going to suggest that CoachChic.com member coaches implement their own modern hockey player usage, either a little or a lot…
That article I’ve linked to (below) does you a huge favor, in that it provides some great examples of players you might be familiar with.
What I especially like, is that Columbus attempts to give every player a chance to succeed, playing each more or less, or playing each more in certain situations and far less in situations where their shortcomings can be limited.
Members wouldn’t know my old high school or college players, but I think my reasoning in the above two articles should at least explain my thinking in putting a system together.
Do read this article… “Why the Columbus Blue Jackets are a case study in modern player usage“