Impressed by the success of the Chicago Bears, nearly all of groups within the Nationwide Soccer League switched to the T-formation within the Nineteen Forties. The lone holdout? The Pittsburgh Steelers.
They stubbornly clung to the antiquated single-wing formation, which had introduced them a measure of success within the late ‘40s. Nonetheless, following a dismal 4-7-1 season in 1951 wherein the Steelers managed solely a league-low 183 factors, the “Chief” Artwork Rooney, Sr. dismissed coach John Michelosen and employed Joe Bach.
Bach’s first transfer was to put in the T-formation. Predictably, the Steelers’ offense flourished, racking up 300 factors in 1952. Quarterback Jim Finks emerged as a star, main the league with 20 landing passes.
A fairly long-winded intro to make the next level. It required a training change and with it a change in philosophy for the Steelers to catch as much as the remainder of the league.
I submit that the Penguins are in the identical spot as these ’51 Steelers. We’re wedded to an outmoded model whereas the remainder of the league has adjusted and handed us by.
The explanation? I’ll level the finger squarely at coach Mike Sullivan.
Earlier than I am going on, I need to be clear. It isn’t my intent to bash Sullivan. I feel he’s coach and a particularly educated hockey man. He’s clever, well-spoken, passionate and a personality particular person besides.
His high quality as each man and coach is obvious throughout post-game interviews, particularly following a tough loss just like the Pens’ 4-3 meltdown towards the Flyers the opposite night time. Even in probably the most tough of circumstances, he’s trustworthy and forthright and does his degree greatest to reply questions with out getting snappy or curt like his former mentor John Tortorella. He refuses to tear particular person gamers in public though goodness is aware of he’s had ample alternative to take action.
That claims lots about who Sullivan is. Once more, only a high quality human being by and thru.
But there’s additionally a stubbornness if not downright obstinance about him, particularly on the subject of his most popular model of play. Sullivan nonetheless needs to play the pace sport that gained us a Stanley Cup in 2016 and drastically contributed to a second Cup the next 12 months.
Comprehensible to a level. The issue is, the remainder of the league has adjusted. Not solely are the highest groups quick, however they’ve added a measure of physicality. The final three Cup winners, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Washington, have all gained with a hybrid method.
Even a speed-oriented staff like Toronto has altered its philosophy. After failing repeatedly with a Penguins-style puck possession sport beneath former coach Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs centered on including character and grit over the offseason, simply because the Lightning had performed the earlier summer season.
The end result? The Leafs are the category of the league with a document of 18-5-2 and 38 factors. Oh, they usually’re twenty fifth within the league in Corsi for at 47.82. After they bought bounced from the playoffs within the first spherical throughout their final season beneath Babcock they had been eighth.
Briefly, possessing the puck is probably not practically as vital as realizing what to do with it when you get it.
Again to Sullivan. He clings to his speed-oriented sport with an virtually white-knuckled fervor whereas just about ignoring different components equivalent to dimension, energy and the flexibility to win puck battles and shove again when needed. Certainly, Sully appears to harbor a thinly veiled hockey purist’s contempt for bodily play and combating. Virtually as if he’s teaching within the Olympics or the NCAA.
In consequence, the Pens have morphed into an undersized, perimeter staff that has grave issue enjoying with any diploma of consistency and effectiveness within the excessive hazard, excessive visitors areas. That goes for each ends of the ice.
Specifically, our protection (or lack of) in entrance of our personal internet is abominable and has been for the reason that begin of the season. But we maintain stubbornly to our stick-on-puck method. That needs to be coming from the coach.
Whereas former common supervisor Jim Rutherford actually had a hand in shaping this staff, make no mistake about who was driving these personnel selections. When JR did attempt to alter the combination by bringing in gamers like Ryan Reaves, Jamie Oleksiak and Erik Gudbranson, they invariably discovered themselves marginalized and shunted to the shadows by their coach. Likewise Sullivan’s close to whole disdain for Ian Cole, a warrior-type defenseman and an important if woefully undervalued member of the Cup groups. But a participant like Dominik Simon (not too long ago waived by Calgary) appears to have 9 lives.
Alongside these traces, I fear about prospects Nathan Legare and Sam Poulin and the way they’ll develop beneath Sullivan. Neither are lower from his fabric (small and speedy). Identical with Radim Zahorna, a hulking 6’6” ahead who’s presently second on the Child Pens in scoring.
All this serves to strengthen the notion that Sullivan solely is aware of easy methods to coach one model. A mode that, very like the outdated single-wing, has develop into passe.
It’s time to change to the T-formation. And maybe a coach who’ll make use of it.
*Remember to take a look at Rick Bukers books,
out there at TriumphBooks.com,