Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I Have Given Up Understanding Coaches, But Still Enjoy Trying

I was going to post this all in the comments at We Bleed Teal, to supplement my original reaction, but then I realized it worked better as a post and not a long rambling comment in a tiny box. You can find the We Bleed Teal post here.

Last night the Sharks former head coach, Ron Wilson, tried a new trick and pulled Vesa Toskala after 65 minutes and stuck Cujo in for a shootout against Anaheim. Ignoring the fact that a)I like Vesa Toskala and b) I would have preferred to see the Ducks lose, I think this is a bizarre strategy.

According to TSN, RW claims he was playing the odds. It's a helluva gamble, even if the numbers appear to work in your favor. I doubt Cujo was cold for all of the shootouts he won so you have some uncertainty involved. Unless you have made him sit for 65 minutes in practice, and then put him on the ice to face a few shots, you can't be certain his performance will be the same or even similar to how it's been when he's played all 65 minutes. I trust this crossed RW's mind and he figured he knew his goaltenders well enough to make it worth the risk.

You could argue that, in some ways, it's a good move. It potentially throws off the opposing team causing them to lose focus. I'm honestly not sure how much of a factor who is in net is for players at the NHL level, so it's not something you can count on to affect their play.

The other issue is, how does a strategy like this change your relationship with your players? Publicly, everyone will say they're fine, but I wonder if a move like this shifts locker room dynamics. Maybe not after the first time you try it, but if this becomes a regular thing, it could signal a lack of trust in your players. That assumes many things though, such as more failures than successes with the strategy, locker room stability before the attempt, and whether or not a coach has successfully sold his guys on the idea.

In the end, it doesn't really matter (unless you're a Leafs or Ducks fan.) Coaches are always going to try wacky things if they think it will help their team get the W. This move might be a tad wacky, but it is no exception.


Earl Sleek said...

The other issue is, how does a strategy like this change your relationship with your players?

That's where the move baffles me, I don't know how Toskala is supposed to take that shootout benching.

Or even the next shootout, if RW doesn't switch goalies, is that because he now believes in Toskala, or because Cujo didn't stop a single shot last time? It's tough, I'd think, to re-establish that whole "You're our guy, we believe in you" mentality.

Now, it's kind of "You're our guy, now that we've explored and exhausted our other alternatives."

Gray said...

I don't know.

It's one thing to pull a goalie midway through a game due to a poor preformance. That doesn't make a guy question his place. He knows he's out because he was having a bad night but he's not in danger of losing his position.

It's another to take out a goalie who's done a (presumably) decent job through 65 minutes and replace with someone else because you don't trust him to preform in a high pressure situtation.

I don't know how anyone is supposed to take that.

Angie said...

I'm with you on a) and b). Toskala so could have made me a very happy person last night.