Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Reluctant Checkers

"I'm just trying to do exactly what they want. I'm becoming a checker," he said with obvious displeasure after Monday's practice. "We're just doing what we have to do to win games. I'm not complaining. It's important to win the games. I just don't feel as important as I did before when they were riding me. I don't feel they use me as much as they did before. If they don't give me the confidence or trust me, I will never be playing the way I was before, the way they want.

Who said it?

Could have been anyone.

Could have been Andrei Kostitsyn after Bob Gainey decided that 7 games without a goal (for a guy whose career best pace gives him a average of 3 games drought between goals) means he must transform from poacher to digger.

Could have been Sidney Crosby as he tried to play the trap Michel Therrien so cleverly decided upon the trap as his strategy (probably since he didn't have any supremely talented scorers on his squad).

Could have Alexei Kovalev as he turned in some of the best defensive efforts for a forward under Guy Carbonneau.

Could have been anyone to play for Jacques Lemaire (even Guy Guy Guy Lafleur). Marian Gaborik?

It is an insight into how some players' views on hockey (particularly those that feel what they can offer does not originate from a dump and chase) can differ drastically from coaches' views.

Hockey is a team game, yes. But not all components of a team have been selected and brought in to get the job of winning done in the same way. When a GM signs a scoring winger for $6 million a year, it is understandable that said GM would be upset if coach X uses the winger like he would use, say, Trent Klatt. It is understandable that said winger might be a bit perplexed too. When a team is evaluated on the eve of the playoffs and the overriding concern is lack of scoring, does it then seem to make sense to turn the only players who might score into third line troopers?

The key phrase from the quote for me comes at the end (when he clearly starts complaining, a mere two sentences after saying he wasn't complaining):
"I will never be playing the way I was before, the way they want"

Good coaches understand this. Good coaches understand the value of playing a player the way they like to play and the way they were expected to play in October. Good coaches try to maximise their assets. Ultimately, you can win a Stanley Cup when you convert your Steve Yzerman into a shadow, but not if you don't have a Sergei Fedorov.

As it happens, the quote comes from Ales Hemsky, not one of ours. Ales, who some guy in the video below once said some nice things about:

What does he know?

And will the Oilers make the playoffs? Not sure. But take Hemsky out of the scoring equation, and I don't think San Jose will be upset about it.

Just a reflection. Let's see how this Kostitsyn thing goes...

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