Friday Mashup: The Swarm & Coaching Duties

1629
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

In our interview with Steve Spott yesterday, we found out what the individual assignments of the new assistants on the coaching staff will be — Spott will be running the powerplay, Peter Horachek the penalty kill and defence pairings.

Steve Spott is unlikely to change anything drastic on the powerplay in terms of system (1-3-1) or personnel — Kessel on the half wall, JvR in front, Bozak roving the slot on PP1 — but it will be interesting to see if Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf remain paired together or if the Leafs accompany each of those shooters with puck rushers and handlers in Rielly and Gardiner, who can provide a strong skating and puck carrying presence to help gain the zone effectively — despite its sixth overall finish in terms of overall conversion efficiency, the late season struggles did not exclude the powerplay, which slowed down and began conceding an alarming number of scoring chances against. There’s also a question of who plays with Kadri and Lupul on unit two, where there are some options, but the coaching staff will probably — understandably – give Clarkson every chance to get his ‘rebound’ season started on the right foot with some PP time as the net presence on that unit.

Horachek has the two most interesting assignments going into the year, running the Leafs’ moribund penalty kill as well as deciding on what will likely be three all new pairings come opening night, with an emphasis on having the Leaf defencemen play their natural side of the ice.  While in Nashville, Horachek ran the defence; you could argue Nashville’s ability to draft and develop defencemen with success was the backbone of their team during his years there. Horacheck would have worked with Dan Hamhuis, Marek Zidlicky,  Ryan Suter, Shea Weber,  Cody Franson, Kevin Klein, more recently Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis in their path to becoming full time NHL professionals.  Seems logical he’d take on that assignment here.

The penalty kill is obviously going to be crucial if the Leafs are to shore up their goal against next season — there’s a whole new set of personnel available between Winnick (led the 13th-ranked Ducks in SHTOI/game with 2:31), Komarov, Robidas and Polak, along with a new coach in charge and what will likely be a systems alteration from what the Leafs were using last season. Other options here will be Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, and newcomer Mike Santorelli, who played around 1:28 for the Canucks on the penalty kill last season. Implementing a neutral zone system that helps prevent such easy zone entries and set ups is going to be crucial here.

We also learned the defensive zone swarm is staying, with some modifications. The thing with the swarm is that it is so easily turned into a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off exercise once one thing goes wrong. Hopefully the modifications Spott is speaking of include not reflexively collapsing so low in the defensive zone down by the goalline. If teams are putting pucks behind and testing the Leafs defence — as they made a point of last season — and the Leafs aren’t coming out on the right end of those battles often enough, the opposition works the puck low to high and creates the shooting gallery while the Leafs scramble around the defensive zone. The elimination of so many point shots was something Spott explicitly mentioned in yesterday’s interview. We’ll know pretty quick if the modifications are working for the better, as we became all too familiar with the frustrating sights of what the swarm looks like when battles are being lost and the swarm is not being executed at the right times in the right areas of the dzone — it ain’t pretty.

 

Friday Morning Links:

SHARE
Previous articleAn interview with Maple Leafs assistant coach Steve Spott
Next articleUpdated WOWY analysis of Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak
Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • Tommy Cat

    Really good stuff.  Seriously.  Both the actual interview and the following analysis.  

    Didn’t B.S. say the swarm was dead?  Maybe that was BS.  But in any event he should be forming the general direction for the club and its up to the coaches to coach.  If you don’t like it fire them.  Don’t meddle.

  • Burtonboy

    Looking forward to seeing Morgan Reilly play more on his natural side (left) this coming season. If my memory is correct he played an awful lot on the right side in the second half of the season . Pretty remarkable for a rookie to do that and still play as well as he did .

  • WendelGilmour

    I won’t argue fixing the PK isn’t the priority this year, but we can do better on the PP too. After David Johnson’s analytics introduction I did some digging, and it confirmed what I saw. “PP2″ was more effective than “PP1″, and Kadri is far and away the most dangerous PP producer in on 94% of PP goals while he was on the ice. The numbers support what I’ve said for over a year. PP1 should be Kadri, Kessel, Lupul, Reilly, Franson, and Kadri sets the plays from the wall.
    I like much of what the Leafs have done, but I will be very disappointed if Dubas, Spott, anyone don’t tap RC on the shoulder and call him out when falls into his pattern of stubbornness and just sticks with PP1, or Bozak’s line regardless of how they are playing. Ice time must be allotted based on how a unit, line, or individual are playing on any given night, not determined beforehand with no accounting for performance. 
    With regards to the swarm, it sounds like the adjustments are more geared toward proper execution than the system itself.
    As much as many dismiss compete level and being easy to play against as factors in the failure last year we can now add Spott and Horachek to the chorus of experienced hockey people who have identified these issues as areas that must improve. Hopefully they can get the players to up these levels and getting winning results gets them on a roll.

  • Yaknowwhat

    WendelGilmour  Dismissing compete and effort level is fool hardy….all things being equal…these can be the very factors that tip the balance in your favour…

    As for the PP1…I would go with Kadri,Kessel,JVR,Reilly and Phaneuf….but we really need to see more point shots…..the play to Phil on the half wall is fine…but is getting predictable…

  • Burtonboy

    WendelGilmour This might interest you WG
    http://blueandwhitebrotherhood.blogspot.com/2014/07/why-nazem-kadri-deserves-respect.html
    http://blueandwhitebrotherhood.blogspot.ca/2014/07/why-nazem-kadri-deserves-respect.html

  • Yaknowwhat

    How did Team Canada make out last night vs the Russians?

  • Komas Taberle

    Yaknowwhat 5-2 Canada i believe.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Komas Taberle Yaknowwhat  Friggin Jays spit the bit again I see..

  • Komas Taberle

    Yaknowwhat Komas Taberle
    Yep, was at a bar and saw Melke take a pitch to the elbow, big bump on it too.

  • Komas Taberle

    WendelGilmour
    Mike Babcock uses the swarm & everyone and his brother wants him here.

  • WendelGilmour

    Yaknowwhat WendelGilmour The number of folks who simply refuse to believe some players try harder than others baffles me and yes, this certainly can tip the balance in your favour.
    IMO the shorties we gave up last season were a direct result of the predictability and some poor decisions setting plays. Kadri’s 94% just confirms my belief he should have the puck and Kessel should be the shooter not the playmaker.

  • Burtonboy

    WendelGilmour This were the rubber meets road ,at least for now . Do the traditionalist take the numbers seriously or do they simple say ” I don’t need numbers to tell me what I can see with my own eyes “. Frankly I put myself in the traditionalist group until recently . There are things being identified with these stats that simply shouldn’t be ignored . I’m not saying base all your decisions solely on numbers but its foolish to ignore it completely.

  • Burtonboy

    Komas Taberle WendelGilmour Mike Babcock’s swarm worked , ours didn’t . Its no small wonder fans react negatively to that word after watching what we watched last yr.

  • WendelGilmour

    Burtonboy WendelGilmour Thanks, Bboy. Good stuff and reflects what I saw on the hocketstats site, along with some other interesting facts regarding Naz’s effectiveness in different situations (down by 1, down by 2, etc). Perfect support for someone like Dubas to highlight to Shanny and RC some of his player deployment must change. 
    BTW, I’m a bigger fan of pts/60 than pts/game because it actually accounts for ice-time, and if the charts in this article were reflected that way Naz’s performance vs his peers is even better than shown.
    Thanks for the link.

  • WendelGilmour

    Burtonboy WendelGilmour I’m in exactly the same place, Bboy. Put what you see and numbers together as pieces of the puzzle.

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto He’s not going to sustain that crazy 21 % he put up last yr. but his career avg. is 16 % which is extremely high. Bozie is a lot better player then he’s given credit for. Is he a # 1 C ? No he isn’t but the line does play well with him at the 1C spot .

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/rwesthead https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/497715543299084288
    NHL owner convicted. directed staff to toss pc in a lake! Could be fined, jailed. No word from NHL about sanctions http://t.co/Y7XVIxfbrY

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/rwesthead https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/497719344781361153
    Wrote in 2012 “Disgruntled fans sue NHL over broadcast access.” http://t.co/GHAJ8ohPk5 Lawyers expect decision today on NHL dismissal motion

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/rwesthead https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/497719545940172800
    The broadcast case, much less covered than concussions, could have dramatic implications for NHL TV picture.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/rwesthead https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/497719786332520448
    The NHL divides North America into exclusive TV territories. Owners don’t have to compete on price and quality. Plaintiffs want it wide open

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/rwesthead https://twitter.com/rwesthead/status/497720349631725569
    Key to plaintiff case are docs from former NHL pres John Ziegler, showing NHL changed policy re local tv rights b/c of pressure from ESPN

  • Cameron19

    WendelGilmour How do you use the numbers to determine Franson should still make unit 1? He’s the weakest link by a country mile.

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Komas Taberle WendelGilmour Also, while other teams do use the swarm, it’s not an exclusive measure of defense. They have other tactics. Using it is situational. And yea, like you said, most importantly, they used a version of it that worked, obviously

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy WendelGilmour With certain things you have to use your eyes still. I cannot believe that anyone who watches him could possibly want Franson on the top PP unit. I’m not even sure I would have him on the second unit. Tired of the nonsense about his shot getting through. Enough. Other teams figured out when to get over and block him now, and his only purpose after that has been to turn the puck over, and get in Phaneuf’s way.

  • hometeem

    Cameron19 Burtonboy Komas Taberle WendelGilmour it doesnt matter what system you use if the players arent on board, blame goes all around imo

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Some interesting stories about one dipshit owner, and tv rights.

    Cable, NHL, Owners better become aware of how wide spread the internet reach is.  They are going to lose money if they dont start thinking big picture.  Fuckwads.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy WendelGilmour Our PP got way too predictable in lots of way toward the end of the season . Having Phaneuf as the QB  is nuts IMO

  • peterbleafs

    Well the retention of the swarm defensive system is really disconcerting to me.  That means we will leave the points unattended again….bad sign.

  • Cameron19

    peterbleafs Spott should take one last piece of advice from Eakins, who decided to scrap the swarm halfway through the season, citing it as a morale lowering tactic.

  • Jordan29

    peterbleafs you should be coach

  • peterbleafs

    Cameron19 peterbleafs To me it just smacks of stupidity.  With our fast forwards pressuring the points will be the most effective defensive system.  By doing that, their points will not be able to pinch near as much, they will be forced out quicker and their center will have to play up higher to help on the counter attack.

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Cameron19 WendelGilmour Especially if he has to do it on the same side that Kessel is already on. You want Phaneuf as the trigger man. Yes, Franson may appear to get it to the net more often, but the fact is, if the puck comes to Dion he can also elude checkers and make a play – Franson can’t. It should be him and either Gardiner or Rielly on the top unit.

  • peterbleafs

    Jordan29 peterbleafs Almost all of us here would provide a better defensive system.  And with Gardiner and Rielly who can move the puck fast it puts even more onus on us to have our wingers up a bit higher.

  • Cameron19

    peterbleafs Cameron19 It worked for him in the AHL, which I’m sure is why it was easy for Randy to convince him they could still make it work. In the AHL he had a top 5 roster in the league though…

  • Jordan29

    peterbleafs Jordan29 lol

  • Cameron19

    hometeem Cameron19 Burtonboy Komas Taberle WendelGilmour Players grow to dislike or not believe in a system over time though. After continued failure, obviously they weren’t on board anymore.

  • Cameron19

    Jordan29 peterbleafs I don’t think you have to be an NHL coach to be concerned about our “new and improved” coaching staff wanting to go back to a tactic that failed so unbelievably miserably, that we actually set records.

  • peterbleafs

    Jordan29 peterbleafs Another day of going to work and not wanting to be here.  I wonder how long I can stay here today…pity I despise golf.

  • peterbleafs

    Cameron19 Jordan29 peterbleafs Its incredible to read that today.  Spott just went down several notches..

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    peterbleafs Jordan29 Embrace it.

  • Jordan29

    peterbleafs Jordan29 im on day 20 of 30 of my vacation. The home stretch is giving me anxiety

  • WendelGilmour

    Cameron19 Burtonboy WendelGilmour Other teams figuring out when to get over and block him is not on Franson, it’s on the predictability of the PP. Which is why Kadri should run it, he won’t make the same play every time. Watching Kessel and Phaneuf play catch always leading to the same one or two plays led to the turnovers and shorties.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Jordan29 peterbleafs The worst is going back to work after a stretch like that.  I love my job and dread returning.  Wonder what its like for people who HATE their jobs?///

  • Cameron19

    peterbleafs Cameron19 Jordan29 Well, he did say they planned to make some adjustments, and he did say that he made adjustments to it with his own squad last year (which went against his previous comment that they used the same systems at 5 on 5). So at the end of the day, there was still some Randy ass covering going on in that interview.

  • peterbleafs

    Im gone most of September, but not on vacation

  • Cameron19

    WendelGilmour Cameron19 Burtonboy It is on Franson if he’s incapable of handing the puck or making a pass – which he is. Kessel and Phaneuf have no choice but to play catch because they certainly can’t give it to Franson.

  • Jordan29

    TheCanucksnaphook Jordan29 peterbleafs i may not go back. Im serious too. I need something else. I loved working while i was off. I built a shed and tore down one and took stuff to the dump (5.5 trailer and truck loads, yes my dad was a hoarder). Funnest work i did in my life. Now i get to go back to hating life………..guns may be drawn

  • vinoa

    TheCanucksnaphook I wish there was a Netflix type service to stream all sports. I have no problem paying for choice and convenience.

  • Jordan29

    peterbleafs new coaching job? lucky!

  • peterbleafs

    Jordan29 peterbleafs I wish