Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 10/16/14
Coaching strategy isn't talked about much in the hockey world, but with the recent buzz surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning, I thought it would be nice to dig into the situation. Its called a 1-3-1 forecheck, an ultra defensive system utilized by Coach Boucher for Tampa Bay Lightning. And it's creating a stir around the league. In inner NHL circles, it's just a part of the game, but should the league ban these playing styles that slow down the game and go against everything the new NHL is trying to do? When you play a defensive style like this, trying to slow the game down and breaking up attacks by sticking back, it's generally not that great to watch. You'd think with the likes of Stamkos and a team full of attacking prowess, the Lightning would be a fantastic team to watch. This isn't the case. They are boring. And it might just be an issue, as nationally televised hockey needs to be exciting to continue its growth into the American sports scene. Watching a game of tactical chess isn't going to do this. The recent game between Philly and Tampa Bay was a clear display of two teams who refused to abandon their tactics. Philly waits for defensive pressure before moving forward, and Tampa waits for attacking pressure to come to them. So, they just never met. The refs weren't pleased, the Lightning fans erupted and the game took a stall. Per NHL.com, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had his own thoughts on what transpired. He thought the refs were appropriate in blowing down the play and treating it as unsportsmanlike behaviour. But is that justifiable? Is there anything wrong with what took place? Should Tampa Bay not be allowed to employ this system? "Coaches are starting to figure it out -- that's what we do. We dissect things, we figure it out. We played Tampa once, I think we did a really good job of dissecting what they do. Every system has a weakness. Every system has a strength. I think as coaches you have to accept what the other tactic is in terms of their system and then you have to try to exploit their weakness." Barry Trotz says it best, as detailed in the NHL.com article. So, if you can't figure out how to beat it, that's on you. Maybe, get a better coach? Look at other sports like soccer and football. Formations play a key role in the game and coaching. I do not think it's a bad thing for strategy to be a part of hockey. Its a part of sports. Both sides of the debate bring up solid points. Should the games be all just about winning, or does the excitement factor matter? Isn't a coach's job to just win games? Worrying about the excitement factor of your team might not be in the job description.
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