Coach's Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winterhawks GM & Head Coach Mike Johnston is a regular presenter at hockey coaching clinics all over the world. Throughout the season he'll be sharing his coaching philosophies with winterhawks.com.

DEVELOPING AN OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN
“ With Considerations For The International Game”


DETERMINE YOUR OFFENSIVE SIDE…..WOULD YOU?

•    Pull your goaltender and make a 5-on-3 power play into a 6-on-3 power play?
•    Allow your wingers not to come back in the defensive zone…to be a threat in the neutral zone for a quick counter?
•    Play with four forwards and one defenceman?
•    Pick a smaller, more skilled defenseman over a bigger, grittier, less-skilled defenseman?
•    When down by two goals, pull your goaltender with five minutes left?
•    Pull your goaltender with eight seconds left in the period and a face-off in their zone?
•    Allow your more offensive players to cheat to the offensive side of the puck or will all players have the same defensive responsibilities?
•    Use forwards on the power play point?
•    Work on plays to score on the penalty kill?
•    Allow your defence to jump into the rush indiscriminately?

 SIX KEYS TO OFFENSIVE SUCCESS

1.    Be a First Pass Team

•    Defense needs to look for the smart play
•    Allow passes to the front of the net or through the middle
•    Discourage the “dump out” or “no look rim” style of play
•    Safe plays stifle creativity
•    An area pass is still a direct pass…utilize bank passes off the boards and laying pucks into open spaces for teammates to skate into
•    The players away from the puck have a responsibility to get their stick open and available for direct passes…(much like a receiver in football)
•    Use of deception “look away” to have more time to make a play
•    Practice transition off the back check and their rush chances

2.    Shoot the Puck and Drive the Net

•    Sounds simple but volume of shots are key
•    Check the shot totals of the top scorers in the NHL…and also shots that miss the net or are blocked per game…the puck must get through
•    Defensive coverage often breaks down after a shot
•    Net drives off the puck create a play at the net but also openings in the slot. First two players away from the puck must drive the net with no hesitation…(unless the puck carrier has the wide lane deep)
•    The first drive should be through the mid lane
•    Funnel shots and players to the net

3.    Activate Your Defense into the Attack

•    Encourage them to join and stay in the rush from the breakout… supporting the mid or wide lane up the ice.
•    Often the net D will have an opportunity to move up ice before the low forward in defensive zone coverage.
•    Make the attack an odd number by their blueline
•    Responsibility is in the hands of the puckcarrier…don’t blame the defence for creating options
•    Go after chips or dump in’s when they have the speed

4.    Stretch Out the Offensive Zone

•    Get the puck to the back of the net on the cycle and work plays from there… stressing their coverage
•    On shots off the rush move the puck low/high right away and catch them over backchecking
•    On low scrambles move the puck back to the point quickly and catch the team collapsing
•    Players and coaches underestimate the danger of point shots

5.    Cycle With a Purpose

•    Challenge their ability to contain by driving the seams and going to the net with the puck
•    Set picks and screens to open up ice for the puckcarier
•    Work the overload…once the puck is passed back to the corner that player needs to get into an overload position ready to shoot
•    Defence support the backside…strongside slide…or mid ice seam… practice plays involving the defence on the cycle

6.    Work Set Plays

•    Have set faceoff plays for each zone which will create an offensive advantage. Your centers should take responsibility for every set up… remember you can win by losing
•    Control breakouts vs. low trap…work options off a set pattern
•    PP stretch breakout… which has the ability to score on the rush
•    Regroups geared to beat the trap and hit their blue line with speed

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL GAME

Players getting used to the long two line pass…incorporate this into practice drills
Wingers leaving the zone earlier on breakouts
Always having a stretch skater in transition…giving an option for the penetrating pass
Getting skaters off the puck to stretch and come back to the puck
Continue to have the quick short support pass
Lining up for face-offs quicker
Make the rink smaller offensively…use the extra width for possession and time…but get the puck to areas where you can challenge inside the dots
Player selection will dictate your style of play…players perform differently in the international game…players who can skate, think and compete are key   




Developing an Offensive Game Plan

Seven Keys To Offensive Success


1.    70% Of Every Practice Should Be Skill Drills
•    Each player should have lots of repetitions of passing…receiving … shooting and skating manoeuvres
•    Practices should be challenging…and competitive offensively
•    You don’t always need ice time to work on skills
•    Work on players presenting their forehand away from the puck and be prepared to shoot
•    Practice scoring situations…carry and shoot…shot off the pass…shoot through a screen…quick move quick release…deflections…rebounds… wraparounds…up high in tight plays…quick dekes…breakaways…  

2.    Be a First Pass Team
•    Defense needs to look for the smart play
•    Allow passes to the front of the net or through the middle
•    Discourage the “dump in, dump out” style
•    Safe plays stifle creativity
•    An area pass is still a direct pass
•    The players away from the puck have a responsibility to get their stick open and available for direct passes (much like a receiver in football)
•    Use of deception- “look away” to have more time to make a play
•    Transition off the backcheck and their rush

3.    Shoot the Puck and Double Drive the Net
•    Sounds simple but volume of shots are key
•    Defensive coverage often breaks down after a shot
•    Net drives off the puck create a play at the net but also openings in the slot. First two players away from the puck must drive the net with no hesitation…(unless the puck carrier has the wide lane deep) 
•    Check the shot totals of the top scorers in the NHL…and also shots that miss the net or are blocked per game…the puck must get through
•    Funnel shots and players to the net

4.    Activate Your Defense into the Attack
•    Encourage them to join and stay in the rush from the breakout… supporting the mid or wide lane up the ice. Often the net D will be out before the low forward in defensive zone coverage.
•    Make the attack an odd number by their blueline
•    Work plays off the cycle…slide…switch…slot drive
•    Responsibility is in the hands of the puckcarrier…don’t blame the defense for creating options
•    Go after chips or dump ins when they have the speed

5.    Stretch Out the Offensive Zone
•    Get the puck to the back of the net on the cycle and work plays from there… stressing their coverage
•    On shots off the rush move the puck low/high right away and catch them over backchecking
•    On low scrambles move the puck back to the point quickly and catch the team collapsing
•    Players and coaches underestimate the danger of point shots

6.    Cycle With a Purpose
•    Challenge the seams by driving to the net with the puck
•    Set picks and screens to open up ice for the puck carrier
•    Work the overload…once the puck is passed back to the corner that player needs to get into an overload position ready to shoot
•    Defense support the backside…strongside slide…or mid ice seam

7.    Work Set Plays
•    Have set faceoff plays for each zone which will create an offensive advantage. Your centers should take responsibility for every set up… remember you can win by losing
•    Control breakouts vs. low trap…work options off a set pattern
•    PP stretch breakout 
•    Regroups geared to beat the trap

Video Needs:

  • Playing the puck on the forehand
  • Shooting one-time shots (forwards and defense)
  • Mid-lane net drives
  • Shots that go in from poor scoring angles
  • Defense joining the breakout
  • Cycle plays to overload shooter
  • Cycle plays to defense
  • Transition off turnovers
  • Delays and crossing
  • Faceoff plays
  • One-touch passing
  • Deception
  • Breakouts using the front of the net

 

Bench Management and Game Day Preparation

When I look at bench management I am convinced it is a skill that can be developed. If your goal is to have the bench management ability of a Scotty Bowman then you need to be aware of what ingredients go in to becoming a great bench coach. Thorough preparation is important - in order to allow the coach to be relaxed, focused and make the right moves.   

GAME DAY PREP

•    Game Day Skate

  • Physiologically not a benefit
  • Goaltender and “feel good” focus
  • 15 - 20 minutes of good habits
  • May substitute a walk or light activity

•    Preparation Meetings (AM)

  • Set the mental framework with the group
  • Every game needs an angle – what sets it apart from the next/previous one
  • Power play, penalty kill review
  • Meet with individuals to prepare them to “bring their game”

•    Preparing the Game Plan

  • Characteristics of arena
  • Type of crowd and atmosphere
  • The referee and his tendencies
  • Mood of our team and opponent
  • Coaching style of opponent
  • Game plan is based on review of the opponents last two games

•    Written Reports (provided to the players on game day)

  • Individual tendencies
  • Team tendencies
  • Faceoff plays
  • Strategy and tactics they will employ and how we will adjust
  • “5-6 Keys to Success” – this should be the main focus for the players

DRESSING ROOM TALKS

•    Pre-Game

  • Use posters/white board for messages
  • Engage the players  
  • Reinforce the angle/story for this game – talk as you would telling a story to a friend
  • Review opposition’s lineup
  • Video strategy highlights
  • Motivational clips (movies, team highlights)
  • Focus the team on factors that create a fast start – shots (10 shots in the first 10 minutes) short shifts, clean changes, physical play, implementing the game plan. 

•    1st Period Intermission

  • Review relevant statistics from your stats person
  • Review specific video clips
  • Adjust tactics and strategy
  • Motivate or focus
  • Tidy up the little things that mean a lot (face-offs, shift length, line changes, etc.)
  • Short specific message

•    2nd Period Intermission

  • Adjust tactics and strategy
  • Talk to individuals
  • Be prepared to adjust the line-up and have a late game strategy
  • Who is winning draws?
  • Give them a first 10-minute game plan
  • Know what we are going to do for pulled goaltender situations

•    Post-Game

  • Important to touch base with your players
  • Leave them with key messages – lesson
  • No matter what - walk out of the room positive

“My job as a coach is to make grown men do things that they don’t want to do...So that they may become everything they’ve always wanted to be.”   Tom Landry                                           
 
BENCH MANAGEMENT

•    Roles and Responsibilities of Staff

  • Everyone on the bench has a role
  • Clearly outline job responsibilities for all staff
  • Trainer can keep time on ice
  • One assistant coach changes the defense and one assistant observes and provides feedback to the players and head coach
  • The 3rd assistant observes from the stands – keeps stats/video

•    The Head Coach

  • Have a lineup card and make sure there is a rink board on the bench
  • Provide specific, direct feedback to players
  • Coach while you are on the bench – these are great teaching moments
  • “See the game”, “Read the game”
  • Know your matchups and how to get them at home and on the road
  • Get a feel early for who’s hot and who’s not
  • Don’t signal in any way who’s up
  • Go with your gut feeling when making decisions
  • Have a series of set face-off plays and call the alignment from the bench
  • Be prepared for pulled goaltender situations (defending/scoring)
  • Use your timeout
  • 80% of the time stay calm, focused and aware – but recognize when to provide energy
  • Stay in the moment and handle the moment

•    Dealing with Officials

  • Recognize who they are
  • There is an art to working the officials - talk at the right time
  • Never use the officials to provide an excuse for your team
  • Players feed off your conduct
  • Is a call ever really changed?

•    What I Watch During the Game 

  • Our start = zone possession time and shot totals (10 in 10 minutes)
  • Forward and D matchups – where are the weak links on both sides
  • How is our forecheck, back pressure and puck movement = signs we are on our game
  • The body language of their players and coaches
  • Faceoffs
  • I try to stay in the moment and at all times focus on what can we do next – don’t expend energy on situations that have already happened

 

Becoming a Pro

Listed below are 7 tips to realizing your dream of becoming a pro player.

1.    Believe You Can Do It
•    We are all well aware that only a small percentage of players make a living off the game but you have to have an overpowering belief you are going to be the one
•    Stay resilient in tough times – when your belief is challenged picture yourself where you want to be and refocus
•    Enjoy challenges and pressure – if you have the attitude that when someone tells you can’t do something and that motivates you – you will be fine.

2.    Train with a Purpose
•    Today’s players are elite athletes
•    Focus on strength, power, and conditioning
•    Work on your deficiencies and refine your strengths
•    Prepare to handle the “agony of repetition”
•    There is no rush to get there – the key is to make sure you are ready when you get the chance

3.    Work
•    This is still the one factor that separates most players that make it – once you get to an elite level there are a lot of players who are similar
•    It is cool to work and compete hard
•    Find out how hard you can push yourself.  Most people only reach 40% of their true potential. 
 
4.    What do the Scouts/GM’s Look For?
•    It is never about the stats
•    They watch the little things that separate players
•    Are you a good teammate and what type are you
•    Have you been part of a winning program

5.    Look like a pro
•    how you dress
•    carry yourself
•    how you behave in public
•    concern for others – giving back approach

6.    Take time to escape from the game
•    Have other hobbies or interests
•    Get away from the ice for periods of time during the off season
•    Play other sports when possible
•    Mentally you want to be fresh and excited to handle the demands of the season

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."

Vince Lombardi

Development Through Practice

Development Through Practice

Six Tips For Effectively Running Youth Practices


1.Start with a Bang
•Get practice going right away.
•Warm-up and stretch before practice.
•Coaches must be energized; players will feed off you.
•After 10 - 12 minutes, give them a break for water and light stretch while listening to set instruction.

2.Make sure your staff is prepared
•All coaches know where the lineup should start and hopefully the purpose of the drill and teaching points.
•Assistants do not need to be skilled coaches.
•Have a variety of personality types working with you in practice so you can draw on their energy and knowledge.

3.Adhere to the 30-60-90 Rule
•30% of your group must be active or involved in the drill at all times.
•No player waits for more than 60 seconds to get into the rotation of the drill.
•When giving instruction, it should never be more than 90 seconds at a time.

4.Don’t correct every mistake
•Correct in line while the players are waiting.
•Address the most important teaching points as a group.
•Let players play with tempo and enthusiasm.
•Encourage the players to be creative in practice.

5.Be innovative
•Try new things, don’t worry about what the players are going to think; you may be surprised.
•Spray paint the ice, put balls and chairs out there and arrange the nets in various patterns for fun games.
•A fun, organized, enthusiastic and disciplined environment produces the best results.

6.Recognize the value of repetition
•Repeat, repeat, repeat. Continually reinforce habits and teaching points.
•Have a set bank of drills to teach your team play and style of play.
•Reinforce practice habits.
•Hundreds of skill reps should be the base of your practice, after every practice ask, “How many times have they performed the basic skills?”
 

Developing a Successful Program

Developing a Successful Program

Develop and Sell Your Identity

•Write down what type of team you want to be in all areas. “See” the picture clearly.
•Think about how you want to run a team both on and off the ice - In the community and with alumni, fans, charities, and minor hockey.
•Proper treatment of special groups – families, parents, girlfriends, wives, children, employees of the team.
•Know who your key players are and make sure they are on side.

Select Motivated People

•Select motivated people and appeal to what excites them.
•Highly motivated people all have four things in common:
oThey write down their goals.
oHave well thought out personal, career, travel and toys/adventure goals.
oMobilize their goals.
oReview and evaluate.

Create a Winning Environment

•Use people’s core strengths,  and understand why they are valuable.
•Do the right thing, have a big picture focus.
•Two factors that inhibit followership are (1) leaders who expect followers to be mind readers (2) no indication that they are needed.
• Develop group chemistry; have a team building plan.

Create a Winning Environment

•Recruit character and talent.
•Surround yourself with good people and empower them; loyalty is key.
•Develop internal leaders…what happens in the room?
•Have a strong relationship with your veterans; be demanding of this group, but treat them with respect (role modeling).

Build Self-Esteem

•Take an interest in their personal lives.
•Acknowledge and reward those in lesser roles.
•Don’t lose confidence in your people when they struggle.
•One of the most powerful dynamics in human relationships is you often get what you expect from people.
•Take time to celebrate victories; enjoy the moment.

Steer the Ship

•Take time to teach “life lessons.” Be a philosopher coach and get the payback later.
•Stand firm and tall, be willing to make tough or unfavorable decisions.
•Take the heat, stick up for your players and staff.
•Learn from adversity and help others do the same. These are great teaching opportunities.
•Be a role model. Have a long term impact.

Developing Your Identity and Team Play Structure

  As a coach, if you are constantly asking, “Why aren’t they learning?” or “Why does he always do that? Doesn’t he get it?” The first place to look is at your coaching strategy because if there is no learning, there is no coaching taking place. Sometimes we get frustrated with our players’ progress, but we need to recognize those are the challenges of coaching. Don’t get caught in the cycle of looking at reasons why you can’t win. Instead, challenge yourself and your staff to find a way.

Even when you’re teaching professionals, never assume. It is often basic skills or teaching points within a system that separates the top players and teams. These players are motivated and willing to learn or develop in any area, which will help elevate their play or create longevity in their career. Show them a plan to be successful, work on developing it and stay strong when your plan is challenged. It’s not the particular system that wins championships; it’s all about quality of execution.

1.Developing your Trademarks/Identity
•This is the most important step - What type of team do you want to be?
•See the picture clearly.
•The template should be developed by the coaching staff with “guided” player input.
•Make sure your identity is clearly understood and reinforced (drills, meetings, media).
•If your team doesn’t know your identity, you are in trouble.

2.Training Camp
•The numbers at camp will present a challenge; be organized.
•Make sure your meetings have impact.
•Key time to teach, reinforce the identity and lay the foundation.
•Set the standard for younger players in your organization, or for players who may one day be a part of your team.
• Remember, different players learn through different mediums. Use all teaching aids available (chalk talk, video, observation, written handouts, on ice demonstrations).
•The balance between teaching and evaluating will depend on your time and numbers.

3.Practices
• The key to developing people is to “catch them doing something right” and the practice environment provides opportunities for this.
•Strive to achieve practice perfection (good habits).
•Coach the players to “think the game.”
•Be innovative when creating practices.
•Have a bank of drills to develop your identity and teach your systems play.
•As much as possible, use competitive drills for better effort, stronger focus and fun.
•Reinforce key teaching points within the system.
•Bank of 20-30 drills to develop skills; reinforce systems/trademarks/style of play.
•80% repetition 20% new drills (repetition/variety...repetition/competition/fun).
•Have check marks to make sure learning is taking place.

4.Game Day
•Separating one game from the other. Create an angle/edge.
•Have consistency in scheduling your meetings, but use variety in voices, teaching aids and content.
•There should be a balance between preparing for the opponent and focusing on your play/preparation.
• Break down how teaching will take place on the bench, which coach is responsible for feedback and how much feedback or teaching you want.

5.One-on-One Instruction
•How to know when to raise the bar without screaming and yelling to get to the next level.
•It’s important to have a feel for when to push the players and when to let up.
•Subliminal coaching. Decide what you want from players and get them to do it every day without them knowing it.
•Challenges of teaching different types of players.
•Use of video to clarify points. Show constructive clips or show them doing it right and demand it be repeated.
•Problem of visually seeing negative or constructive clips over and over.
•Players watching video on their own (set up stations).
•Focus on personal development as well as skill development (provide opportunities for everyone to assume leadership roles).

6.Clarify Roles and Attach Personal Value
• It’s important that every team member and every staff member has a clear understanding of their role and how they fit into the big picture (vision).
• For staff, provide everyone with clear job descriptions outlining how they are to function in all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the team (include: meetings, practices, games, one-on-one instruction, use of video, pre-scouts, strength and conditioning, psychological prep, community work and media).
•They must feel they are an important cog in the wheel.
• Two factors that inhibit followership are (1) Leaders who expect followers to be mind readers and (2) No indication that they are needed.
•Once you delegate, make sure you allow them to complete the task without looking over their shoulder.
•Attempt to casually meet with individuals; find out what is important to them and take an interest in their personal lives.
•Constantly acknowledge and reward those in lesser roles.

7.Developing Accountability
•Your challenge is to get the players and staff to want to accept responsibility for their roles.
•Be willing to challenge the group and hold them to set standards.
•Posting stats, score system and coaches rating system.
•“Role of your leaders.”
•One-on-one player meetings.

“Take Time to Reinforce Life Lessons”

Developing Your Leaders

Developing Your Leaders

As coaches, we often complain about our leadership void in the dressing room. Seldom do we take proactive steps to do something about it. Listed below are some thoughts and challenges for you to allow your team to “lead from within.”

1. Find out who your leaders are. Your team will have 3 – 4 players who will wear the “C” and “A’s”, but there are also informal leaders who when the coach is not there, they control the group. Generally they are the social leaders also.

2. Meet regularly with your leadership group to address issues and keep them informed on the schedule, travel, and upcoming meetings. Also allow them to voice their opinion of where the group is at. In this meeting include the captains, possibly 1-2 informal leaders, and also one other player on the team. Over the course of the year, all players will have a chance to be included.

3. Educate the leadership group with a one hour training session monthly. Potential topics may include how to challenge your teammates and maintain respect, preparing to play, developing accountability, dealing with problem issues, developing ownership and motivation.

4. In times of trouble it always easy for the coach to jump in and take control, but in order for players to truly lead, you have to give them an opportunity to sort it out on their own. The difficulty is to decide when they need to take control and when you need to step in.

5.Recognize individuals who show leadership skills. Compliment the team when initiative is taken.

6.Hold the team and your leadership group accountable for not taking charge of certain situations.

When the players push the players and keep the group heading in the direction you have outlined, then you have a chance to maximize your team’s potential.

Maximum Development - Minimal Ice

1.PREPARE YOURSELF AND YOUR COACHING STAFF
•Use a set practice form and file them.
•All coaches on the ice should know the drill sequence and teaching points.
•Energize.

2.PROVIDE PRACTICE RULES
•Player input.

3.CREATE A POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
•Positive talk and positive gestures.
•Talk to every player every practice.
•Provide feedback throughout practice.

4.BALANCE INDIVIDUAL SKILL WITH SMALL GROUP AND TEAM PLAY WORK

•Vary the drill formations and alignments.
•Use stations.

5.REPETITION – REPETITION – REPETITION
•Keep the players moving
•Have a set bank of practice drills to teach your systems play.
•Repeat drills often but change the focus or teaching points.
•Push for better execution.

6.INCORPORATE CHALLENGES AND FUN GAMES
•Open and close with a bang.
•Fun and skills together.
•Create competitive challenges.

7.HAVE TEACHING AIDS AVAILABLE
•Ropes, tires, balls, spray paint, chairs and pylons.

8.CONDUCT YOUR WARM-UP AND CONDITIONING OFF THE ICE

•Stretch as a group.
•Drills may simulate conditioning needs.