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Bowman on defensive trend: “There’s nothing anybody can do about it”

May 15, 2012, 1:12 PM EDT

Scotty Bowman Getty Images

If Scotty Bowman can’t figure a way to make a team pay for collapsing around its goalie and blocking shots all day, what hope do the rest of the coaches have?

Bowman, arguably the greatest coach in NHL history, spoke to the Globe and Mail about the style of hockey we’ve seen during the playoffs that’s caused so much consternation, particularly in media circles.

“They don’t cover the points like they used to,” said Bowman.

“The term they use is ‘cover the house,’ the house being the net. We’ll have guys cover the slot area and help the defensemen in the corners and around the net.”

And, of course, block shots.

One potential solution that’s been floated is to make the defensive zone smaller. In theory, this could reduce the necessity for defending forwards to drop down low and help out their defensemen, since the attacking team wouldn’t have so much room to work with and defensemen could handle the job more easily themselves. The defending forwards could then turn their focus more to counter-attacking.

But Bowman’s not so sure.

“I don’t know if that would make the forwards cover the points or what,” he said. “It may be worse if [the defensive zone] was smaller because the defensemen wouldn’t be as far out.

“There’s nothing anybody can do about it.”

  1. ballistictrajectory - May 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Make the nets biggger, take away the ice, replace the puck with a ball, and call it full contact arena soccer.

    Recall the Flyers refusing to rush the puck because the Lighning were in their 1-3-1 formation? Recall the disdain for the Flyers at that point for not doing what every other team did?

    Figure it out and start scoring some goals. You want to force the forwards to pressure the points? Make the points move around instead of firing the puck into someone’s shinpads (or face) and the forwards will have to come out to pressure them.

    Improve your team’s passing skills so they can get the puck through to the far side of the rink.

    Quit hoping for ping-pong deflections and use the “blocking D” as a screen. Relearn the wrist shot so the D has no time to react.

    A lot of people can do plenty. They just don’t want to.

  2. rpiotr01 - May 15, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    I actually think making the nets bigger is a good idea. I can’t find any data on the historical size of goal nets, other than that they were standardized in the late 20’s. Players are bigger, faster and more athletic now, and technique-wise they can cover far more net than they used to. A goalie covering a 6 foot wide net in 2012 is simply not the same as a goalie doing it 20 years ago, let alone further back. Increase the size of the nets by 4-6 inches on either side, plus 2-4 inches high. make these guys work as hard to cover the net as they used to.

    • miketoasty - May 15, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      I agree making it wider would be okay, but not taller. Goalies may be able to get side to side easier but I don’t think the average height has gone up enough that I think it would be too hard for the shorter goalies to cover the upstairs.

      • themohel - May 15, 2012 at 2:00 PM

        Just thinking out loud here – wouldn’t enlarging the net just continue the trend of bigger goalies? Or would the need to move side-to-side mean smaller, quicker goalies? What about limiting the size of the ironing boards they wear these days? If they could not go so far above the knee the goalie could not simply erase the bottom of the net by going down.

  3. jimw81 - May 15, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Bigger nets would to bigger goalie equipment. What u seen last night was dead puck era hockey. I guess only solution is refs calling more power plays to try open the ice.

  4. heyzeus143 - May 15, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    obstruction?

  5. jimw81 - May 15, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    True, Obstruction has been all over the place since January but does a ref know the definition of obstruction?

  6. flyeredup - May 15, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    In the 80s, Tim Kerr would clean house!

  7. selldannysell - May 15, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Mr. Bowman, can you come to Washington to coach, please?

  8. comeonnowguys - May 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Leave the nets alone.

    -Olympic-sized ice or play 4 on 4.
    -3-2-1 point system to better encourage teams to play to win games, not “not to lose”

    • hockinj25 - May 15, 2012 at 4:08 PM

      There is no way they go to 4-on-4.

      • comeonnowguys - May 15, 2012 at 5:49 PM

        Then make the ice bigger. But that won’t happen, either.

        Basically, make it easier to enter the offensive zone.

  9. thomaspratt - May 15, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    I just with the league would be more forthcoming about the fact they changed the officiating standard this year and explain their rationale. The uncertainty is baffling. How would you formulate your team heading into next season if you were a GM? It seems clear to me that the league acquiesced to slow the game down as a way to limit their liability to any future concussion lawsuits, but since they won’t even acknowledge the change, they invite speculation.

    My fear is that inertia will cause the new style dead-puck hockey to take hold. If there are 15 teams who have the talent to play uptempo, attacking hockey, there are 15 others who see more interference and a trap in their own zone as their chance to compete with those teams. Why develop and pay top dollar for talent when you can just pay a few beefy $1 million D to fill the area in front of the net like a dump truck?

  10. bcjim - May 15, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Obstruction, yes. Stop the obstruction.

    Bigger ice, too.

  11. hagigun - May 15, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Start making restrictions on shin pad size. You may see less guys blocking shots if it means they could miss a few weeks with cracked shins and busted ankles. Back in the day the goalies were the only ones who had equipment MADE to stop the puck. Now it seems the shin pads are not there for incidental slashes, deflections and such, but almost a small goalie pad. These guys are tougher for sure, but don’t tell me they are all tougher than guys back in the day. The fact is it’s easier to block shots because the equipment is better and it hurts less (I’m sure it still hurts real bad) but when was the last time a guy missed significant time from a blocked shot? It used to happen, but now unless it’s in the face, it doesn’t happen anymore. When I played, it still hurt to get hit even when it hit your shin pads spot on…now these guys don’t feel a thing. As a coach, you wouldn’t want your top wingers or forwards blocking shots if it meant risking injury and a chance to miss major time.

    It’s like we protect the players with equipment so well, now we have created problems where they don’t fear pain or injury (blocking shots) and they certainly don’t fear contact (big body checks and head shots). Take away shin pad size and strength and guys would hardly get in the way….but now you have more injuries…so you know this may work in theory, but it’s just not practical.

  12. spavs412 - May 15, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Big fan of international ice. Geno would kill on the big ice so much room :)

  13. cableguymike - May 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Get rid of coaches. Problem solved.

  14. bleed4philly - May 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Make the goals bigger! Just an inch makes a huge difference. (That’s what she said)

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