The ideal hockey system for the New York RangersJune 4, 2013, by
Since Tortorella’s firing last week, there’s been a lot of different coaches with different systems/philosophies linked to the Rangers head coaching position. As I said last week in my Tortorella obituary post, Sather left it open as far as what he’s looking for in his next coach. Since Glen gave fans the mushroom treatment again, I figured I would at least tell you all what I’m looking for in the next Rangers coach.
To be clear, this post is not about forecasting. I’m not reading into any beat writer rumors or any of the supposed “scoop” that apparently every Canadian insider has on the position. Sather only reveals nuggets to the press when he wants to. In this instance, he isn’t revealing squat. So please spare me the sourced articles. Glen’s table is smaller than Dolan’s moles would like to believe.
I’m going to be very upfront with you when it comes to the x’s and o’s side of hockey. Despite the success trap variations have had, I do not want to see a coach who employs those tactics take over as the Rangers bench boss. Whether it’s Alain’s 1-2-2, Guy’s 1-3-1, or Dave Tippett’s 1-4, I am not interested in watching Rangers players stand around in the neutral zone once they have the lead.
Rangers hockey should always be about getting the puck moving North. You can make an argument for changing other aspects of Tortorella’s hockey system, but not forechecking. The 2-1-2 is always about skating hard, hits for takeaways and all out efforting. Those themes resonate with me and I think resonate with the Garden faithful. Being passive does not entertain me.
Much has been written about the Rangers ability to collapse around the slot and block shots. While I disagree the strategy limits offensive potential, I don’t think the Rangers played the system at the right times. With the evolution the game is making post-lockout, hybrid tactics are the way to go. This means the strategy changes based on puck location.
The low zone collapse should ALWAYS be used when the puck is behind the net, as you can’t score when you’re behind the goal line. However, when the puck is at the points, I prefer the box expanding and pressuring the enemy point players. When the puck is along the wall, the defense should be overloading, meaning we are trying to out-number the enemies between the dots and the boards. Again, the collapse works and has won championships, but aggressiveness in certain situations is my preference.
Playing a hybrid approach increases the likelihood of d-zone break downs. It will also decrease Hank’s save percentage. However, once the team gets it, we should become a better transition team or at least have the puck more.
This section is going to be short as most head coaches leave special team responsibilities to assistant coaches. Right now Sully is still that guy until we hire a new HC. Whoever is hired will evaluate Sully and decide his fate.
Penalty killing is always about switching your tactics around to defend against whatever powerplay you are up against, so changing it up on the PK is a wash for me. As for powerplay strategies, the best teams rotate multiple formations. You shouldn’t just setup in an umbrella and stay stagnant. You shouldn’t setup in an overload and cycle just for the sake of cycling. Rotating strategies makes PK’s switch. Switching leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to offense.
Of course, having a real powerplay quarterback at your disposal helps too.
I have said it many times on this site, but minutes should always be earned, not distributed because of salary or because you’re a rook with potential. This was a philosophy Torts changed when he took over, as Renney, Sather, Trottier, and Lowe all leaned on veterans way too much. I hope whoever Sather hires will continue to play guys who go hard because that’s what I believe it takes to win in this town.
As f0r how a coach is in the locker room, I just can’t speak to it. No one can. I can’t tell you how Alain, Guy, Messier, or Jeff Beukeboom will be in the locker room. I can’t tell you if Torts was different this season from last season or if players really were “gripping their sticks tight.” This is where my analysis goes dark. All I can say is, I’d rather have a coach who commands respect and holds every player accountable rather than someone who is thoughtful and willing to fill reporters pads.