How to bury the boring Tampa trap? Beat it

Tampa Bay Lightning teammates (from left) Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Bruno Gervais and Matt...

Tampa Bay Lightning teammates (from left) Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Bruno Gervais and Matt Gilroy celebrate a goal. The Lightning can put the puck in the net, but it's been accused of playing a boring version of the trap lately. (Martin Chevalier/QMI Agency file photo)

Jason York, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

OTTAWA - The trap, the 1-3-1, the 1-4 — whatever you want to call it — they’re all about as exciting to watch as a four-hour game of Scrabble with your family.

And on Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers had enough of the Scrabble game the Tampa Bay Lightning was trying to play. The Flyers tried to make a statement to the Lightning and the NHL by refusing to skate into the 1-3-1 trap the Lightning were trying to deploy.

I have to admit I have never seen anything like that in my entire life of watching NHL hockey. I played on teams that trapped and I played in a lot of games where our game plan was to break the trap that we knew we would be up against.

But I have to say the Flyers took trap-busting to a whole new level when their defencemen actually stopped skating and just stood there in open ice waiting for the Tampa players to forecheck. I think even the the referees were caught off-guard, but did the right thing eventually by blowing the play dead — much the same as they do when a player does not play a highsticked puck — forcing a faceoff in the Flyers’ zone.

The big question now around the NHL is, should the league discourage the trap by punishing its use with a minor penalty or faceoff in the team’s own zone in an effort to deter teams from playing boring rope-a-dope hockey? My answer is an emphatic NO.

The NHL is a results-oriented league, where wins and losses are the bottom line. Teams should be free to do whatever they want — traps and all — if they think it’s going to increase their chances of winning. The entertainment factor is important, but last time I checked, winning ranked a little higher on the depth chart. When you don’t win, coaches and GMs get fired, players get traded and fans go away.

Look at the Washington Capitals — one of the most entertaining teams in the league — and pose the question: Would you rather entertain the fans like the Caps do or have a few Stanley Cup banners like, say, the New Jersey Devils have, in large part thanks to the trap?

If teams want to trap and play boring hockey, that is their business. If their fans stop showing up, that’s their problem, but the NHL can’t tell teams how to play or change the rules again for the umpteenth time.

People just need to leave the game alone. It’s great the way it is. The Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t the first team to trap and won’t be the last. Philadelphia did the wrong thing Wednesday night by stopping the flow of the game.

From a young age, I was always taught that if you don’t like what the other team is doing, don’t quit — quitting is the worst thing you can do. If you want to stop the trap, figure out a way to beat it.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, their tactics didn’t work. They lost Wednesday night anyway.

 


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