The Slot Machine Hockey Team

Section 1: Overview

M.G. McIntosh

OPINION

02/03/2021

CONCEPT REPORT (Sports)

INTRODUCTION

These days, almost every organization is building a hockey team whose primary purpose is to be exciting, addicting and fun to watch. I call it ‘the slot machine hockey team’ because it’s so addicting to watch, it’s like being at a casino. And I’ve noticed teams keeping to a very similar formula for roster construction which I will break down for you below.

CENTER

The pure goal scorer. A sniper with great hands, usually tall (over 6-feet) and fast. Goal scoring is more exciting from the middle of the ice. It’s also more visible. The top line center is almost always a current or former 1st overall draft pick. This player brings fans to the arena (sells tickets) and is usually top of the team for jersey sales. Often, this player is named captain of the team.

LEFT WING

The ‘digger’ and player most likely to be found in the corners. A grinder by trade, this player comes up with the puck and is not afraid to get into hard-to-play-in areas like the front of the net and the corners. Generally strong at forechecking and pressuring the opposing team, this player often creates turnovers for his linemates.

RIGHT WING/CENTER

The playmaker. This player has exceptional vision on the ice, often finding his linemates with tape-to-tape passes. This player can make the puck seem like it ‘has eyes’, often threading the puck through multiple sticks and skates to find an open linemate for a shot attempt or goal. This player is said to ‘drive the offense’ as he is the one who sets up the sniper for his best chances to score goals. He is the lynchpin of the offense.

THE CHEMISTRY

Generally, coaches try to pair a sniper and a playmaker into a ‘dynamic duo’ or linemates that generate 30+ goals per year and keep a point-a-game-pace. The addition of the grinder helps to ‘hem in’ the opposing team and gives the line multiple chances to score on a shift. When the three players are productive they are said to have ‘chemistry’.

LEFT DEFENSE (MIDFIELDER)

The two-way defender. This defenseman is actually a ‘midfielder’ and plays up from their own blue line. This is why they are so exciting to watch – they jump into the play becoming a fourth forward on the rush. The downside is that they also ‘get caught’ out of position and have a long skate back to their own end. This often results in a two-on-one against their own team – the play with the highest chance of ending in a goal. It’s also the most exciting play in hockey as it often ends with either a ‘big save’ or a goal.

RIGHT DEFENSE

Traditionally a hard hitting defenseman. This player is the equivalent of a grinder on defense and when the going gets tough, this defenseman gets going – in the wrong direction. This player is hardwired to make a hit and because the NHL has out-lawed body-checking a player without the puck there is only ever one target on the ice – the puck carrier. When the two-on-one inevitably happens, this player moves to the puck carrier – and the ‘back door’ is left wide open. This is why the two-on-one is so dangerous and why it so often results in a goal. I’ll come back to this in the section titled “goalie” because it’s important to see it from the goalie’s point of view. It will shed some light on the league’s rampant (and non-existant) “goalie issues”.

GOALIE

The last line of defense. The preferred netminder is a butterfly goalie. This means the goalie drops to the ice with his legs in a ‘V’, usually leaving the ‘five-hole’ open. This goalie is heavily reliant on lateral movement or pushing himself left and right from the ‘V’ position. This movement is what creates the ‘big save’ and if you’ve ever had the fortune of seeing one is pretty awesome. Goalies that play this style are known for being very acrobatic. Unfortunately, this comes with a price – exhaustion. That much movement is hard on anyone – even an athlete. Believe me – I’m a goalie guy. I am literally obsessed with all things goalie. It’s my favourite part of hockey. 

This high energy style of play takes a toll on any goalie and is the reason why so many teams in the NHL have “goalie issues”. Remember the two-on-one I told you about? In real hockey (not the ‘fun-zee’ BS they play in the NHL), there is a long sacred pact between a goalie and his defensemen – the goalie takes the shot! In the scenario I presented earlier, the defenseman took the puck carrier. This is bad hockey. This is worse defense! The defenseman should be in the passing lane (between the two forwards) to intercept the pass. This doesn’t happen anymore. So, in defense of goalies everywhere – it’s not their fault! So please, for the love of sanity, stop blaming the goalie! Thank-you. I’m gonna go sit down – my blood pressure is too high.

CONCLUSION

This kind of hockey team is insanely fun to watch. There is no doubt about that. But fun hockey isn’t always good hockey – and that means winning a Stanley Cup is harder than ever. So when an elite goalie comes along, give him a big hug. He deserves it. And he’s probably too tired to stand up.

REFERENCES

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 Roster | Toronto Maple Leafs (nhl.com)

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