Thursday, March 26, 2015

The 2010 NHL Draft (from a Coach’s Perspective)

The following is a reprint of a blog post I did in the summer of 2010, shortly after the NHL Draft.  I've resurrected it for good cause, to support a new article in my site.

Jane put it straight to the old coach, “Be sure to mention the California Wave! Young West Coast talent is taking the entry draft by storm! That’s what I am talking about!”

Okay, so I want to offer some of my thoughts on the just completed NHL Draft.  However, I’m sure your local newspapers and other news outlets have given you your fill of how each team did according to their needs.  And, frankly, there’s no way I could even get into that argument.  (My mind no longer travels in that realm.)

As an aside here, I mentioned earlier today — on Twitter and Facebook — that I planned to do an article on this subject.  And, don’t you know, two Twitter friends, Mike M and Jane Mc, both contacted me almost immediately.

And, my buddy, Mike — forever giving me a hard time, asked, “Coach, you finally figured out that this side of the country is good for hockey?”

Aaaaaah, the abuse I put-up with in cyber space.  :)

Anyway, although Mike said that I seldom surprise him, I think both he and Jane were taken aback — at least a little — when I suggested that the so-called “California Wave” is exactly what I want to talk about.

So, with that, allow me to take you back to a couple of events from very long ago that are still very fresh in my mind.  And, with all due regards for the ways others will comment on the recent draft, please allow me to approach things from the perspective of a “teaching coaching”, or a guy who mostly cares about the development of ice hockey players…

1)  Back when I was coaching in college, I mentioned to my Athletic Director that I would probably have to soon change my recruiting focus.  Yes, for sure, Massachusetts and the surrounding New England states have always produced their share of hockey players.  However, I could see some things changing…  You see, with the NHL’s expansion to places like Pittsburgh and Long Island and Dallas and even Tampa and Miami, I knew something was going to happen that I’d seen happen before.  I mean, little kids were going to see the likes of a Mario Lemieux, and they were all going to want to be him.  And, with the rise in popularity of the sport in those new areas, rinks were going to be built — and filled, meaning it was only a matter of time before the new hockey hotbed produced quite a few talented young hockey players.  (As it so happened, I made a point of mentioning Long Island to my AD, and darned if players didn’t start pouring out of that area within a few years — as in carbon copies of Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and others.)

2) I can’t put my finger on the year, but it was a pretty long time ago when I was asked to speak at an advanced hockey coaching symposium down in New Jersey.  What the organizers wanted me to talk about to their audience was ways the coaches could train their players without costly ice.  (Ha!  Ha!)  Understand that there were several hundred coaches in attendance.  But, what really got my interest was that they were from all over the eastern seaboard — including Florida, and from as far west as Texas.  Hmmmmm…  Florida?  Texas?  Anyway, once I knew that, I set things straight with my audience….  As I suggested to them, “Ice is nice, but my money is ultimately on those guys with the good weather!”  In other words, while some youth teams might get three or four “skates” per week, the guys in the warm climes could train just about any time they wanted.  (But, more on that a little later.)

3) I think Anthony Chic was 9-years old (so it was about 12-years ago) when I offered to coach his Squirt A team.  During that season, we did pretty well, and we reached the finals in a tournament I’m now recalling, whereby a team from outside New York City took us to the cleaners.  Actually, we’d managed to tie them in a preliminary game, but we just couldn’t do it a second time.  So again, they killed us in the finals.  An interesting thing happened right after the game, though…  The NYC-area coach came over to shake my hand, and he thanked me (huh?).  Ya, he said, “I’ve been reading your magazine column for years, and my team trains twice per week extra, using all of your off-ice training ideas!”  (Holy mackerel!  The guy beat my pants off with all my stuff.  :)  And, why?  Because it just so happened that MY team parents really didn’t want to spend the extra time I’d offered to do some off-ice training.  Oh, well…)

Okay, that brings me to Jane’s “California Wave” of players who just suddenly burst into the major hockey spotlight.  Yup, Jane’s Cali-kids were drafted by the boat loads over the past weekend.  Of course, if you didn’t get to catch the live broadcasts and all the commentary surrounding those surprising (to some) explanations, I’ll tell you that quite a lot was made about the West Coast kids’ opportunities to train with in-line (or roller) skates.  In fact, one analyst attributed a top draft choice’s speed to his upbringing on wheels.

Okay, so by now my buddy, Mike M, has to be shaking his head and thinking, “Son of a gun, Dennis knew it was coming all along!”  Well, not really, Mike.  Or, should I say, not specifically — as in my knowing that it would be California’s time this year.

I did kinda predict it long ago, however…

I mean, I knew my college recruiting had to be re-focused, because there were new hockey hotbeds springing-up all over the country, and it was just a matter of time before some of those were going to start producing good players in pretty good numbers.

Better yet, I’d suggested at that New Jersey coaching seminar that it was just a matter of time before the warmer climate hockey folks were going to take advantage of in-lining and other off-ice training methods to bypass those who still had their minds stuck on ice-time, ice-time, ice-time.  (Ya, I sometimes feel badly for those who are still stuck in the 1970’s.  However, they are going to keep paying a price until they realize 30-years have passed, and that some of us are taking advantage of the sciences.)

Speaking of the 1970’s…  I’m guessing that’s the best way to describe the parents I had involved with my long ago Squirt team — or the team that got squashed by the off-ice training New York kids
Anyway, I will continue to do tons of off-ice training with my New England Hockey Institute players, in a school I’ll be running next month, and I plan to also try to sell the extra off-ice training concept to my new Mite AAA families.  (I don’t care if I am 105-years old; I keep on changing with the times.)

Then, if you want my further impressions…  California only caught me by surprise because it’s hard for this East Coast guy to keep close tabs on them.  I can tell you, though, that it’s just a matter of time before (at least) Texas and Florida start pouring-out their own versions of Jane’s Wave.

What I have been talking about all along are the developmental age groups.  In other words, 10- to 13-year old Cali-kids — and those all around the South — have the chance to twirl around and fiddle with balls nearly every waking hour if they so choose.  And those years — as well as the earlier ones — are when all the fine motor skills are developed.  Or, should I say, those early years are the times when future draft choices are likely made.

Finally, if you think I’m unaware of older players and older teams — from all over North America — undertaking rigorous off-ice training, you’re wrong.  I know exactly what the pro, college and junior teams are doing, and they’re all doing it right.  That stuff, to me, is a given.  (Actually, those stuck in the 70’s have no say at those levels, so everything is done according to the very latest known to science.)
Checkout my recent article on in-lines, entitled "Will In-lining Help or Hurt Our Ice Hockey Skills?"