Keeping your players accountable

Well, first of all you got to evaluate what type of team that you have and what direction is your team is going to. I know that when we talk about pro level -- when I became head coach of the Blackhawks, my second year as head coach, I was able to have 11 rookies on the team. So the most important thing for me at the time, that process was not about what’s going to happen today, it’s what’s going to happen tomorrow. So it was a different approach in having a veteran team. There’s always different strategy that you use. 

For me, having 11 rookies was very important for me to teach them and also to play them in all situation possible so you could mature from there and obviously learn from those situation for the following years to come. It doesn’t matter if you’re a great player as a junior. When you come to the NHL level, it’s a different ball game. Part of it, I say this because everybody is able to skate, everybody is able to check, everybody is able to shoot. NHL level is a pleasure to play the game. They’re able to do everything. In junior, there’s always going to be some weaknesses in certain areas with certain players. So as a great player in junior, you’re able to just dominate. Once you get to the NHL level, it’s a lot more difficult to dominate like you had in junior. 

So the position I took at the time, it was for me to have my young players get as much as repetition as possible. Whether they made a mistake, they would go back on the ice. But if their effort weren’t there, then they have to pay their consequences. And their consequence was not to be part of the special teams. That’s one way to keep your team accountable. Another thing that I did, I’ve had like 10 game segments where I would call it a tick sheet, and how that worked is, I had the chances for and the chances against when you’re on the ice. Whether it was five-on-five or even on the power play or penalty killing, we kept those separate. But we kept the scoring chances for our team for and against during the course of the game. And during the 10-game segment, example, I would grab one player, let’s say he’d be a plus 20 and this was 10-game segment. That would be a good number. A player would come up minus 20, that means somewhere in that segment of 10 games, he didn’t play his best hockey. And there’s a reason why he didn’t play as well. As a coach, you have to figure this out and try to get him in the following segment to be a plus player. So it gets complicated but it’s not that complicated. As a coach, if you have somebody that tracks that down for you, you are able to keep them accountable in a sense where after every game, I would post a sheet on the board so guys when they walked in the morning they look at that sheet and believe me, they all really look at the sheet, see if they were a plus or a minus player. 

It’s just not about scoring goals or making assists. It’s how many times we got any guys in your team has a scoring chance for and how many times we got on the ice when you had the scoring chances against you? It was a minus. So the number that was important as a plus number. If you’re a plus player after a 10-game segment, I guarantee you, if I have three quarters of my team that was plus, well it reflects on the wins and losses. We have a lot more wins. And in a 10-game segment where the guys are a minus, more guys minus than guys plus, it would reflect on the loss column. 

So it’s a system that I liked a lot when I did it. It kept players accountable. I’m not sure the players liked it and believe me, if their coaches are listening, players won’t like everything you do and that’s okay as long as they respect it and I think our players respected that.


Kevin Donovan on 9/26/2018
Denis, What is your definition of a scoring chance for and against? Thanks, Kevin

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