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New coaches don’t necessarily mean “dominant” puck possession

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Over the past few days, Dave Maloney’s quotes on Hockey Night Live have made the rounds around the interwebs. Maloney stated that in the view of upper management, the Rangers were “unwatchable” by upper management because they never had the puck. They were blocking shots and limiting their offensive players, which led to a lot of time in the defensive zone.

This was the reason why John Tortorella was fired. There are other quotes about players taking a lot of abuse, but in hockey it’s about results. Management wasn’t happy about the on-ice product, so they let Torts go.

The interesting thing here is that over the course of last season, the Rangers were one of the better puck possession teams in hockey. During the regular season, the Rangers were 9th in the league in CF% (52.0%), and 6th in the league in FF% (53.5%).

Things took a big turn for the worse in the playoffs though. Despite the general success in the regular season at maintaining puck possession, the Rangers were absolutely dominated by the Caps (Caps had a +94 shot attempt differential in 7 games) and Bruins (Bruins had a +51 shot attempt differential in 5 games). This was a club that was lucky to sneak by the Caps, and then got thoroughly thrashed by the much better Bruins club.

The biggest factor in this quick turn of events was the defensive zone style of play for the Rangers. Throughout last season, the Rangers were a hybrid overload/low zone collapse team. However in the playoffs, the Rangers were much more conservative, relying almost entirely on the low zone collapse, which caused the extreme shot attempt differential noted above.

This is where AV’s new style of coaching should have an impact. Suit will get into more details about AV’s systems as the season progresses, but one of the things we have seen in the preseason is less of an emphasis on collapsing and shot blocking in the defensive zone, and more of an emphasis on pressure and causing turnovers. This will lead to less time blocking shots in their own end.

That said, less time  blocking shots doesn’t necessarily mean the Rangers will be winning the puck possession battle. We’ve noted a few times that AV uses a 1-2-2 forecheck (as opposed to Torts’ more aggressive 2-1-2). Both systems are fine, and both can be used to control puck possession. The leaders in CF% and FF% varied in their forechecking systems. If the Rangers continue to generate shot attempts at the same rate as last year, the improved defensive zone pressure should steadily sway the puck possession scale more to the Rangers favor.

Of course, that last sentence has a very big “if” and an even bigger “should.”

17 Responses to “New coaches don’t necessarily mean “dominant” puck possession”

  1. Jeff says:

    I feel like they had to fire Torts for reasons deeper than shot blocking. Boston plays the same style, as does St Louis, the Caps and many others. I feel like management used this as an excuse to cover up the fact that they butted heads with Torts over players, or maybe because of Hank complaining.

    • Dave says:

      None of those teams played the same systems as the Rangers.

      Boston: 1-4/overload
      St Louis: 1-2-2/overload
      Caps: 1-2-2, 2-1-2 hybrid, low zone/overload hybrid

      • Jeff says:

        What were the shot block counts for those teams?

        • Jeff says:

          Pittsburgh, Caps, SJ, Philly were all up in the top 10 in blocked shots. Point is, clearly this strategy isnt rare and offense inhibiting. Just have a hard time buying he was fired for one of the most utilized strategies in hockey.

    • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

      I don’t think that had anything to do with Torts being fired. I think Sather and Torts got along fine except for a few things maybe. Hard to know although Sather said players did not come to him. The young players coming up along with current core players could not be left to take that kind of abuse.

    • Ren says:

      Personally I think that the team was developing a mentality that they where a “low scoring team” despite having several decent scorers. They fired him to change that mentality in my opinion, he is still a great coach.

  2. Mikeyyy says:

    With the tools at his disposal torts should have been more successful. Not saying wasn’t successful. Just not as much as mgmt required. Thus he had to go.

    • Dave says:

      He only really had the required skill/depth to make a run once: 2012. Other than that they were either missing skill (2011) or missing depth (2013). I think he did fine with what he had.

  3. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    The lack of adjustments made last year in the playoffs, specifically with the dzone collapse was maddening. Tory Krug was the MVP of that series last year because the dmen never contested point shots.

    The adjustment AV makes with the dzone style may or may not drive puck possession, but at least a different approach is a step in the right direction.

  4. Walt says:

    I don’t care what reason Slats had for getting rid of Torts, but I for one am glad he is history!

  5. Brendan says:

    Not sure if already mentioned… 1 small positive of starting first 5 games in the west is AV familiar with the competition.

  6. AD says:

    The Rangers over-achieved during Tortorella’s coaching regime. We should be thankful he orchestrated a nice, positive winning atmosphere, where players by and large gave 100% all the time.

    I’ve followed too many seasons where this was not the case.

    History will show, in my view, it was Sather whose shelf life was reached; not Tortorella.

    AV will make changes; some personnel will change — at the end of the day, the team will have less success.

    • Mikeyyy says:

      Haha. If you can line up staal girardi Richards, nash and gaborik and not win. It’s the coaches fault. Let’s not forget hank. They were projected to be tops in the div last year AND were a favorite to win the cup. On paper. Glen did his job. Time for coaches to do theirs. Win.