Daniel Sedin slides a backhand shot past Nikolai Khabibulin. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
I’ve long railed against the common coach’s mantra “shoot from everywhere,” but only because it’s a horrible idea.
The root of this tired, beaten philosophy came about organically - your average hockey coach is generally at least a decade or so older than most of his players, meaning the last time he played hockey, be it in the ’80s or ’90s, goalies still let in a plethora of bad goals over the course of the season.
They’ve seen garbage goals go in, they know it can happen. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, right?
As James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail recently pointed out in an article, goalies today average 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and are only getting bigger. Some pro teams (such as Nashville) have guys who are considerably bigger than that. Predators netminder Pekka Rinne stands 6-foot-5, while his backup, Anders Lindback, is 6-foot-6.
Part of the reason for this trend in size is goalies don’t really do the whole “reacting” thing they used to do and generally play angles and more of a net-blocking style. Combine that with their emphasis on minimizing movement and there are just fewer bad goals being scored.
Yet, coaches preach on.
Essentially, throwing the puck to the net against most of today’s ‘tenders, when there isn’t any traffic, is a turnover. Hopeless shots are the equivalent of dump-and-chase in today’s NHL - why are you giving your opponent the puck for free?
Of course, this applies more to professional hockey than youth or recreational hockey (given that a lot of those goalies wouldn’t be any worse if you put them on roller blades), but still it’s incentive for all of us to yell “shoot” less often.
Shots on goal are diminishing in value as a stat - it used to be a barometer of who carried the play and who had the most pressure. And while it still does represent offensive dominance to some (lesser) extent, it’s far more valuable to quantify quality scoring chances.
Smart offensive players hang on to the puck and try to maintain possession, looking for a legitimate opportunity rather than settling for a goal line shot from the wall.
The best players in the game (take that Crosby character, for example) enter the offensive zone and, if they’re well covered, delay and wait for support. Third- and fourth-line grinders in that situation will invariably throw the puck towards the net, then take their pat on the back for a good shift when they get back to the bench.
That’s old-school foolishness.
“There’s no such thing as a bad shot,” can be heard on NHL broadcasts around the league and the fact it comes from ex-NHL players only serves to reinforce the conviction most fans have when they yell SHOOOOOOOOT at their TV sets.
But we can stop the madness, folks?
Skill guys, in general, are not afraid to have the puck. I know that sounds obvious, but when you’re a third- or fourth-line guy, each play you make carries a heavy weight - you only get so much ice time. Thus, players feel safer “getting a shot” rather than trying to create an opportunity, so they waste a possession.
Let’s all step back and realize that “shooting from anywhere” is a cop out. Hang on to that thing. Look around. Really try to generate legitimate scoring chances.
“Shooting from anywhere” is just settling for nothing.
Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and is currently a columnist for USA Today. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. Justin will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com. Follow Justin on Twitter.