The game of hockey is all about time and space. We are seeing a shift away from the requirement to have large 6’3-6’4″ defensemen with below average feet, hands and technical skills for smaller more skilled athletic defencemen.
The first step towards getting more offensive play from your defensive corps will come from selecting the group based more on their athleticism and technical skills and abilities with less emphasis being placed on size. We all get it, size does matter, we would all choose the large player at any position with all the other factors being equal. The teams in the NHL who have moved toward drafting the 5’10-11″ defensemen with good feet, soft hands and strong technical skills over the big men who have trouble playing “FAST” are doing much better in the offensive and defensive statistical game and the win loss columns.
The following is a list of keys to creating more offence from the backend with your defensive corps:
- Recruit better athletes with the best technical hockey skills and don’t get caught up on size.
- Play more five in the box on the strong (puck) side and support the puck better offensively and defensively to win the puck battle, puck possession and control game. Playing more 5-3 and outnumbering the opponent in tight spaces works.
- Have your D join the rush and teach them how to effectively create an outnumbered situation off the rush to guarantee a quality scoring chance. Encourage your D to join the rush. Forwards must be taught and coached on when to drop back and cover for a D joining the attack.
- Play tighter GAP control in the neutral zone and encourage your D to use their mobility to pinch and intercept passes and break up plays in the zone to counter attack or set up a regroup.
- Teach your D to join the rush on the NZ regroup and counter attack.
- Teach and coach your D to come down off the point in the offensive zone to drive open seams and lanes to create scoring chances.
- Teach forwards how to take the puck in deep and set up in the offensive zone to control the puck low. Forwards should be looking to set up the D coming down off the point.
The game has gotten faster with better ice and better equipment. We must support the game by playing FAST tactically and recruiting players who are the best athletes.
We must focus our attention on the teaching and coaching of sound technical hockey skills to both forwards and defencemen. Don’t worry about systems.
Our focus in competitive minor hockey has to change and be more about the development of hockey players and less about winning or loosing hockey games. The team that creates the most turnovers, wins the possession game and advances the puck to the net the most in every game usually wins. These teams also have the most fun playing the game because they are playing fast.
We encourage all competitive minor hockey coaches to teach and coach playing fast. Own the puck in all three zones with proper puck support and strong technical hockey skills. Your D should be taught and coached to use their feet and their read and react skills to join the rush and become part of the offensive game plan in all three zones.