Monday, January 19, 2009

If I Were The Coach

If I were the coach about the last thing I'd want to see is some loudmouth fan second guessing me on the Internet. So apologies first to Coach Shyiak for doing this. I suppose in a lot of ways this whole exercise of blogging can turn into an exercise of second guessing. I mostly try to avoid anything along those lines that is obvious to me; but I've no doubt that plenty of that sort of thing ends up here. Today though, I'm going to try to specifically be a second guesser.

Before I get into it all though let's look at some truth's about the season so far. The Seawolves have greatly improved since last season. Scoring is up. Scoring against is down. The team has individuals placed amongst the league leaders stastistically. There are 14 games remaining to play and the guys have exceeded last years win total both overall and in conference play. Most of all, we can ALL see that the product on the ice is improved. Nothing is ruled out mathematically at this point probably other than getting an at-large invitation to the NCAA's.

Yet with all that; there are things that we can ALL see that could or should be improved. A series of comments over the weekend spurred me to write this presumptuous post.

If I were the coach I'd:
Name a starting goaltender for the rest of the season. The rotation of Jonny O and Bryce hasn't produced a clear #1. Coach Shyiak has given both of these fine kids a chance to step up and claim the spot. Neither has owned it though and one could point to any number of reasons why. Some inconsistent play by the team in front has left both guys in tough spots at one time or another. I think it is important though at this point in the season for the team (and more importantly the goaltender himself) to know in advance who is the final line of defense for the rest of the way. And for the guy with the glove and blocker there isn't anything better than knowing your coach has the confidence in you.

Jonny and Bryce play the game differently enough to effect the way the team in front of them plays. So with all that said ... I think Bryce should get the nod. He is clearly more athletic than Jon. That's no put down to Olthuis. There is much to be said for his consistency and ability to never be rattled. But I believe that Jonny's low level of excitability (if that's a good description) also makes him the netminder less likely to stand on his head. Bryce's athleticism and his clear superiority in handling the puck are the difference in my mind. Bryce will be here after Jonny is gone. Giving him the nod should make him more confident.

If I were the coach I'd:
Sit the team down in the film room and show them examples of power plays that work. Right now I believe that the biggest problem with the power play isn't puck movement. It is foot movement. Forget about any issues with gaining the zone (those are relatively simple to correct) but once in the zone I don't think the Seawolves aren't showing much (if any) positional flexability. It is true in this sport that a pass advances play more than skating. But on the power play, passing has to be combined with smart player movement to create scoring chances.

One good example is a play that UAA already tries to utilize on the power play. The point men move the puck horizontally and switch sides. This sort of thing is useful in creating a open seam for the puck to get through. But there is little (if any) rotation of players vertically. In the simplest sense five guys circling the 4 penalty killers. Thinking in terms of who is on the left and who is on the right can be limiting. Moving the puck and players around (and through) the defenders would be the best way to find that crucial back door. Props to working on and finding better ways to get shots through from the point. That's an important aspect for the power play to be successful as well. But player movement seems to be lacking.

If I were the coach I'd:
Recreate a pure energy line. As I see the lines right now there simply isn't an energy line. Talented players are spread through lineup. There is much good that can come from such a strategy. But the team seems to be missing an element. My example here is a line like Tuton, Tassone and Corrin was in the past. Here's my lines:
Lunden, Clark, Bales
Grant, Crowder, Aiken/Selby
Moir, Parkinson, Portwood
Wiles, Haddad, Selby/Tuton
It isn't that I don't like Shane Lovdahl at forward. I do. He's got great hands. It isn't that I don't like Tuton on D. He's responsible wherever he plays. But I think Wiles, Haddad and Selby/Tuton all have the size and speed to make a pretty scary line going forward and the strength to backcheck effectively. Both Bales and Clark are playmakers. But Kevin is a goal scorer as well and I think he is a natural centerman; he and Lunden also have chemistry. Free him from having to make plays and he'll bury more pucks. Aiken showed me enough this past weekend to see that he has stick skills and that he knows where the net is. Crowder makes anyone he plays with better and he and Grant have shown a lot of chemistry. Moir and Portwood are both strong along the walls and strong on the puck and in my mind the third line would be great in terms of the cycle/possession game. Parkinson is excellent on face-offs and we already know he knows where the front of the net is and how to score from there.

If I were the coach I'd:
Designate the puck carrying defensemen. In other words, I'd turn off the green light on some blueliners. It isn't that every single one of them isn't capable of doing something positive going forward. The problem is that they ALL are. I don't know that even a team with 8 Bobby Orrs on the blueline would be successful. Don't get me wrong. I love offense generated from the backline. I don't think the team has been burned by our blueliners carrying the puck. So why stop some guys from going forward? To solidify the defensive effort. To make sure there is always somebody in position.

Keep Backstrom at home. He's already filling that role this year and it should continue. Put Lovdahl back on the blueline and get his buy-in to how important the defensive effort is to the overall gameplan. I like seeing Trevor Hunt go forward; he has really shown smarts in doing so. But unfortunately, I haven't seen anything come from it. Add Luka Vidmar to the stay at home list. That leaves you with Robbie, Lafranchise and Leinweber as puck movers. I don't know why Carlson never plays but will assume there is some reason. If he does crack the lineup then I'd look at him as being another stay at home guy. None of this says that if there's a clear opening that a defenseman shouldn't take it. It is just that at least one blueliner on every shift ought to have the primary responsibility of staying at home. My suggestion as to which players fill which role are essentially meaningless but I'm throwing them out there anyway.

If I were the coach I'd:
Show more emotion. Dave Shyiak is not the most animated coach behind the bench. Every coach has their own style which is a product of their personality. Dave is a steady steady guy. I believe though that at the college level a team looks to their coach to set the tone. I think the team has been a reflection of that with Dave behind the bench. They play emotionally in some situations but I don't see those situations as having come from the boss. It's really my only criticism. I guess I just think that sometimes a little bit of Bobby Knight can be a useful thing. It's important to note here that my impressions here with regard to Dave's style are completely and totally from afar. Maybe he's Knute Rockne in locker room?

If I were the coach I'd:
Tell loudmouth bloggers to shut the fuck up and focus on decent recaps for his readers and on disrespecting opponents in previews.


Jimjamesak said...

Seeing as you left yourself open for a perfect Big Lebowski reference: "Shut the **** up Donny, you're out yyour element!"


Suze said...

If I were the coach I'd: tell the players to play like it's play off hockey this weekend. Tech is the ONLY team to beat UAA this season, and they are really playing better and are going to be hungry for some points. UAA better be hungrier!!

Anonymous said...

Tech did beat the Soo in a rare non-conference game this year. But so did we.

Twister said...


Just a quick note to you--your blog is fantastic. Love the passion! You do a great job covering UAA and college hockey. The Wolves will be in Denver next weekend. Looking forward to seeing your team.

Donald Dunlop said...

Not to look past Michigan Tech but I'm really looking forward to the DU series as well. For one thing ... the broadcast out of Denver is miles and miles ahead of the rest of the WCHA (Minny and Bucky are good too). So there's no frustration listening to boobs like we had from Mankato.

But I also look forward to the challenge that our boys will face.

I definitely think that DU isn't as good as it's record or hype.

And ... thanks for the props.

thecollegehockeyblog said...

Denver is only 35th nationally on the power play, I found that interesting. I think they'll miss Bozak but I really like Maiani and Rakhshani. And Luke Salazar is having a pretty damn good Freshman year for a guy no one had really talked about.

Anonymous said...

We recruited Salazar heavily. He turned down a full ride at 3 or 4 schools to go to DU. He is paying 100% of his tuition.

Anonymous said...

if i were the coach i would: well there is a lot to do but i would shake up the lines-2 scoring lines-2 physical lines, actually keep the goalie rotation going, and do all i could to encourage more enthusiasm, creativity on the PP and PK.

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