Observations From the Rink: Processing, Positioning, Systems and Hockey Playing Robots

Every scout is looking for players that can think the game. These days if you can skate and process the game you’re going places. Nevertheless, what about positional play?

Is playing your position a lost art?

Obviously, every young player is taught their position, it’s essentially engrained into their hockey playing DNA. You would be surprised to see how many players really don’t understand the other positions on the ice, including their own. Clearly the game is quicker than ever before, which is great to see, but do players really understand their position?

Here’s a thought, if young players understand their position and the others on the ice, will they process the game better? Of course!

You show me a strong two way positional player and I’ll show you a player that’s going places in the game today.

Processing the game and playing your position is critical, it’s not reinventing the game or innovative, it’s how the game is supposed to be played. Nevertheless, where players these days are struggling the most is with the systematic approach. We can all agree that systems are in fact robbing a player’s creativity.

A matter of fact showing creativity will get you benched on most teams these days.

Creativity doesn’t mean being a puck hog or showing off your individual skill set and over-handling the puck. That’s not being creative, that’s being selfish. Creativity these days has to fall with the team systems and if it doesn’t fit then it’s eradicated.

You see when players are stripped of their creativity they become robots. Just the other night I watched a young defender who was being pressured from behind his own net essentially pass the puck to no one on the half boards. He had some delayed pressure coming from the middle of the ice, but all he had to do was skate, all he had to do in that moment was skate five or six feet and reassess on the fly, all he had to do was showcase his puck and skating skills, but instead he passed the puck indirectly to no one. This is a D-man that is highly rated on this year’s draft list and rightfully so, but that shows me that the creativity of that player is slowly being beaten or trained out of him due to the almighty system.

Systematic play ruins processing it ruins positioning.

Now there’s probably people out there saying and thinking that last line is total bull shit and that playing your position is a system, but I always thought playing your position was just what you were supposed to do.

Obviously, we had systems and my long time coach and mentor Dale Turner put systems in, but he never stifled creativity. He never robbed us of that. If anything he promoted it within the framework of our positioning and processing of the game.

He always wanted us to think the game, always wanted us to be one step ahead of our opposition.

That’s how you teach the game to young kids, you teach them their position and everyone else position in an effort to better understand the entire game. Dale was a master of that. Don’t get me wrong, he preached execution when it came to our systems which wasn’t all that complex.

Nowadays, coaches seem to be over teaching systems thus creating hockey playing robots, that don’t know their position or the game, they just skate really fast and seem to not accomplish very much.

Call me old school, but when I see a player that can process the game and is positional sound in all three zones and is creative I celebrate that shit. That kind of player jumps off the page.

That’s the type of player that I want to draft. Nowadays, those players are considered role players and our assigned to checking duties because they are “responsible”.

That’s such horses shit, but trust me it’s happening and the saddest aspect of all of it is that the coach doesn’t even know what type of player the player could be because they aren’t getting an opportunity to showcase their real creativity, their real skill set.

Processing and positioning not systems, let’s get away from systematic play and dial in on processing with and without the puck within playing a position and I think we would no doubt see better players coming up through the ranks rather than hockey playing systematic robots.

Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing.

Those are my observations from the rink.

What are you seeing?

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