Observations From the Rink: So You Want To Be An Offensive Defencemen!

Let’s get something straight there’s only one Bobby Orr!

So what you want to be an offensive defencemen?

What the hell does that even mean in this day and age?

Isn’t every defencemen nowadays considered an offensive?

Isn’t that just the norm in the new era of the game?

Where has the solid stay at home two-way offensively opportunistic mobile defender gone?

Is that type of player becoming extinct or obsolete?

I don’t think so they are as valuable as ever!

You see the game may have changed, but there will always be a need for defencemen who take pride in playing a solid two-way game chipping from time to time offensively rather than trying to do way too much for the sake of generating offence.

Torey Krug, Samuel Girard, Erik Karlasson, John Carlson, Morgan Rielly, Roman Josi and Charlie McAvoy.

The list goes on and on if you are looking at the NHL’s elite offensively gifted rear guards.

Obviously they are all outstanding defencemen in their own right, but they all have to defend, every single one of them have to defend and aren’t purely one-dimensional.

Those outstanding defenders play both sides of the puck or they simply don’t play.

That’s life in the NHL.

It’s unfortunate that the hockey world starts typecasting players at such an early age.

That’s the real problem.

Around this neck of the woods, young players are growing up wanting to be like Phillipe Myers, Noah Dobson, Lukas Cormier, Charlie DesRoches, Jordan Spence, or Justin Barron which is awesome really, however there’s a big difference between emulation, admiration and reality.

What about trying emulate Adam McQuaid?

He’s a Stanley Cup Champion!

You need that type of defencemen to win to.

You see maybe Quaider wasn’t flashy enough for this generation to take notice?

You see Cormier, Spence, Dobson, Barron, DesRoches and Myers are forging their own unique paths in the game.

Sure they had their idols, that they emulated growing up, but all those players quickly found out that you better play both sides puck.

A matter of fact every offensive minded or gifted defencemen that I have had the privilege of interviewing or talking with over the past five years covering the QMJHL have all said that they have to concentrate on the defensive side of the game and playing without the puck to get to the next level.

If that’s the case why the hell are minor hockey coaches and parents alike putting so much emphasis or pressure on the offensive side of the game when it comes to defencemen.

Comparisons and projections are part of the game, I get that, but I think many coaches are doing players an injustice by not teaching both sides of the puck.

Forcing the issue or letting things happen naturally when it comes to a skilled offensive minded d man are two completely different things.

Coaches at every level these days understand the importance of having mobile defencemen and generating offence from the backend especially off the rush, but are they willing to sacrifice that for sound defensive play?

Rushing the puck constantly, not moving the puck, cheating on the offensive side and getting caught up ice, over-handling the puck and committing grave mistakes at the most inappropriate times, do you really think any coach would be willing to put up with that for the sake of a few points?

Is that going to win you hockey games?

Is that development?

Is that preparing the player for the next level?

Giving free reign to one or two offensively gifted defencemen just doesn’t work.

In my opinion its a formula for failure.

Failing the player, failing the team and failing the game, that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you create a culture of promoting one dimensional offensively minded defencemen.

Mistakes and turnovers are going to happen, risks will be taken and poor decisions will be made.

As a coach you can live with all that if there’s a commitment to playing the game the right way. In this day and age we should be more concerned with a defencemen’s instinct, intuition and processing.

We all know if you want to play at the next level you have to be able to skate, but it’s the instincts the player possesses that truly separates them.

That’s where their true identity lies.

Listen there’s only one Bobby Orr.

Just like there’s only one Noah Dobson or Phil Myers or Lukas Cormier etc.

Sure they all have similarities or common traits, but they are all unique.

I’ve compared Lukas Cormier to Kevin Gagne.

That’s right I compared their skating abilities, I compared that skill.

Is Zdeno Chara an offensively minded defencemen?

Where would you categorize the big man?

What about Seth Jones or Tyler Myers or Johnny Boychuck?

You see when we start making comparisons and type casting players it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Earlier this season I had an opportunity to talk with someone that spent time with Buffalo Sabres star defencemen Rasmus Dahlin’s father. The question quickly came up about being offensive and decision making. Dahlin’s father told my friend that Rasmus usually picks one to three times a game where the timing is right to take the puck and go.

One to three times a game, at the highest level.

Not all game long, not forcing the issue, not lugging the puck through traffic when it’s unnecessary.

Two to three times a game.

You might ask what does he do for the rest of the game?

Well that’s a pretty easy question to answer, he moves the puck and plays defence.

One of the best young offensively gifted defencemen to burst on the scene in quite some time uses his instincts and his skill to chose when to be dynamic.

What a concept!

What’s your definition of an offensive defencemen?

Why aren’t we comparing young offensively gifted defencemen to Bobby Orr?

Hello there was only one Bobby Orr

So you want to be an offensive defencemen?

Let’s just try to move the puck, skate well, defend and see where your instincts will take you.

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