System and execution is what the first ten games in this shortened NHL season will be all about. Can this shortened training camp push players into a team system that will allow players to flourish? This is just one of the many issues all NHL coaches face as we reach the end of the week and rosters need to be submitted by noon on Friday.
As of today James van Riemsdyk wasn’t on the ice to partake in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies intra squad blue and white game at the Mastercard Centre. The former NHL second overall pick suffered a bruised foot in practice when he was hit by a Mike Komisarek shot. Although there is no indication that van Riemsdyk will be ready to play on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, what remains is the ability for Coach Randy Carlyle to put together a system in short order with players nursing injury.
Every team will want to enter the season with a line up that is healthy and a snapshot of what the identity of the team will be after the 1/4 point in the season. Remember the 1/4 turn in this shortened NHL season is just twelve games away. This alone will put pressure on any NHL team maintaining play off potential in the standings within a month of opening night. Twelve games into the season and the Toronto Maple Leafs will find themselves back in Montreal!
Jake Gardiner also didn’t skate today and looks to be still trying to recover from “concussion like symptoms” he received while playing for the Marlies nearly a month ago.
These kind of small injury set backs can be detrimental in ensuring the players all buy into that coaching system that needs to be implemented in short time. Will Randy Carlyle be able to put this team on the ice with a sense of the expectation that he has for them? This is the question that will be answered by the time the Toronto Maple Leafs arrive at MSG in New York a week from puck drop in Montreal. Five games in seven nights should be the crash course in the Carlyle way of doing things for sure.
Execution in hockey can be defined by many things. execution of a system either defensive or offensive, for the sake of argument here I believe the difference maker in many tight played NHL hockey games is the execution of chances. Especially offensive chances. A few of the determining factors in many of these early games will be as follows;
- Can teams take advantage of weak goalkeeping early in a game.
- Scoring early and often on power play opportunities.
- Keeping a lead late in the game and not letting games reach overtime
The above three are so obvious. However until teams get in full gear and are able to adjust to a shortened schedule and tough grind of five games a week, execution under these circumstances is the only way teams will pull ahead of others. No matter what system a coach has in place if a team has raw skill; execution of the three examples above can come natural.
The questions will be this over the next ten days;
Have the Toronto Maple Leafs found the Carlyle system?
Is this team executing on the power play and are they able to hold a lead?
Revisit these questions with me in ten days. Give me an idea of what you think on twitter as well. Look for hash-tag #F4S during Toronto Maple Leafs games.