November 13, 2011
Trapping the way it is in NHL
By Eric Francis, QMI Agency
One month into the season, no one was complaining about goal scoring in the NHL.
Nor was there any whining about the sort of age-old traps designed to stifle offence.
Up until Wednesday, that is.
Enter Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, who instructed his players to do the hockey equivalent of taking their ball and going home.
In grade school, we called it “sucking out.”
The more polite term suggests it was a protest against a defence-first system that has been in place for decades.
In response to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s system that had no forwards in Philadelphia’s zone to pressure a breakout, the defencemen simply waited. And waited. And waited.
The game came to a comical standstill.
It happened several times thereafter, with officials unsure what to do.
It was bad for the game, and no one wanted to see it.
And because of it, endless number of critics suggest the league needs to do something to prevent it from happening again.
That’s one of the problems with society today – everybody throws up knee-jerk reactions, and now, there are endless critics who want rules changed.
It isn’t going to happen.
Nor should it.
Yes, the league has looked at it closely and had discussions that will continue on into Tuesday’s GM meetings. Waste of time.
Colin Campbell, who has looked into trying to limit the trap before, cautioned against the type of over-the-top reactions written across the continent and said he’s hesitant to try telling coaches how to coach.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you put one rule in, it affects seven others,” he said, pointing out implementing new rules is a big decision not taken lightly. (It also requires approval from the Competition Committee.)
Brian Burke said that when he was with the league, he and a screening committee comprised of Lou Lamoriello, Glen Sather, Harry Sinden, Craig Patrick and David Poile tried to do something about the trap in 1995, but after exhaustive efforts, determined it could not be done.
Sadly, he’s right.
Instituting a rule demanding teams send in a certain number of forecheckers or pressuring teams to clear the zone via a clock of some sort is ridiculous.
The game doesn’t need or want it.
As much as fans have every reason to despise any system that limits scoring, we need to stop trying to address every little issue with rash responses.
It’s worth noting Laviolette was not contacted by the league or asked to stop his stance, although obviously, everyone is hoping his notable protest won’t be repeated
After all, in more than two decades of trap-like tactics, this is the first such mockery made of it.
The worst thing about the whole story is that the Lightning won the game, proving once again the trap is an effective way for coaches to mask their teams’ lack of talent and preserve their jobs.
Lindy Ruff suggested probably half the teams in the league employ some sort of trap, so as one GM said, “just get the lead and then you don’t have to deal with it.”
Ironically, it was Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues who played Tampa Saturday night. When reached before the game he told me he had no plans to pull the same stunt Philly did against Tampa.
“Saw that movie once – it was a flop. Let’s move on.”