Wednesday, October 15, 2008

THE TRAP: zzzzzzzzz

After watching the Minnesota Wild and their trapping system last night in Atlanta, one can only hope that the "new order" of coaches around the league will continue the trend of free-wheeling, offensive minded systems.

Tuesday's game between the Thrashers and Wild put the sport back about 10 years as Wild coach Jacques Lemaire locked it up defensively all night long.

Everytime the Thrashers would set up their breakout play, the Wild would robotically set up shop in their patented 1-2-2 or (as was the case later in the game with Minnesota in the lead) 1-4 defensive configuration.

It was the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils fashioned the left wing lock some 10 to 15 seasons ago. Since then, teams have bought into the system as a means of winning games. The strategy was an easy sell for many of the coaches around the league. And considering the shelf life of coaches, many have seen the style of play as a means of prolonging their coaching careers.

But what fans had to sit through at Philips Arena Tuesday night was downright painful. Right up there with a root canal......or having to watch CSPAN-2 for seven straight hours. As a former broadcaster for the Wild, I sat through an entire season of it. I always made sure the coffee pot (fully caffeinated) was ready to go.

Fortunately, there are more and more coaches coming into the league that detest such a style of play. The Thrashers John Anderson wants to play up-tempo and up the ice, engaging his defensemen in the rush. Florida's Peter Duboer is on-board as well. And out west, the Edmonton Oilers have always played wide open.

Unfortunately, for every Anderson and Duboer, there's a Lemaire and a Hitchcock.

Saturday's Thrashers game in Florida was a thing of beauty. Both teams raced up and down the ice, trading scoring chances and combining for 72 shots. The fans loved it and will likely return for more in the future.

Tuesday night, the Wild spread the neutral zone defensively and waited to pounce on turnovers. Sure enough, they got a few and were able to turn them into scoring chances. It had all the excitement of sitting in the duck blind and waiting for a quale to spring from the weeds. The poor fan who just paid $90 to sit in the lower bowl has forever scratched the Wild from his "must see" list of teams.

To borrow a phrase from the late 1980's, here's hoping more and more coaches around the league continue to embrace a "glasnost" policy when it comes to their approach to the game.

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