Actually, it’s not that bad, but I still don’t understand very well the “system” that the Dallas Stars play and how it compares to other teams. Now that I’ve been watching hockey for a few years, I can usually anticipate where a Stars player will go or what he’ll do based on the situation, but I never watch other teams that closely so I naturally assume that all the other teams play the same way. They’re just not as good at it (or better at it, depending on the team).
But when Jeff Halpern and Jussi Jokinen were traded for Brad Richards last month, we got a peek into what the differences might be.
I watched the first game that they played with Tampa Bay on Center Ice and after the first period the local broadcasters interviewed Halpie. Aside from the fact that he could barely hide his disappointment in being traded, he said that he was a little winded because the system that Tampa uses requires a lot more skating.
I found that fascinating when I heard it, because I was stunned that the way two professional hockey teams played could be so different that a veteran player might have to work up to it.
Then, as if by magic, Brad Richards was interviewed after the first period of his first game with the Stars, and he mentioned that the skating is a little easier in the Stars’ system. It’s fascinating to me.
He’s working on getting used to the fact that they don’t always attack no matter what. In the Tampa Bay system, Krazy Koach Tortorella always said that “safe is death.” Meaning that they shouldn’t play it safe, they should take chances and attack no matter what. And it did work the year they won the Stanley Cup. But it takes a special kind of roster, and a lot of luck.
Even I know that that is far from the motto of Dave Tippett and his coaching staff. So Brad is learning when to go and when to drop back and look for another chance later. He said that the coaches are teaching him that system, but they’re also telling him not to fret about it too much, either. He shouldn’t forget his own game while he is trying so hard to fit in.
“The defensive zone is the same thing every team teaches now, which is protect the middle of the ice and keep everything outside. It’s just the neutral zone stuff and sometimes the forecheck. They don’t necessarily send the two guys, or go no matter what. Sometimes they like to back off. It’s just comes down to letting yourself go and play. That’s what I have to do here.