ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS 10 BRAVE COACHES !
For many swedish NHL-prospects, this season has so far been an endless practice. Yes, they may dress for games and they are almost always included in their respective clubteams squad, but many just dress to sit on the bench for entire games – or possibly serve “too many men on the ice” – penalties on the much shorter bench at the opposite side of the rink.
The NHL teams that drafted them are surely concerned about this, at least to some degree. It would be better if they played, but experience also shows that players mature into regulars on their club teams after serving a couple of years or so learning how to not be a defensive liability and how to best fit into the teams defensive system. To most coaches in Sweden, knowing how to be a good defensive player is the most important quality if you want to be a regular on a team. The second most important quality is discipline. Don’t show any emotion – just obey the defensive system.
There are exceptions to this however – Current Elitserien-leaders MoDo are relying heavily on kids to carry them through games, but that’s always the case with MoDo as they don’t have money to bid for more expensive veterans (and of course, a lot of talented kids). In Frölunda, a team that is currently struggling, coach Tommy Boustedt loaned veteran defenseman Radek Hamr to Färjestad so Blues 1998 First round draft pick Christian Bäckman could step in as a regular. A brave move by Tommy Boustedt that should be appluaded, but it has gone pretty much unnoticed in Sweden.
Every other team more or less are sitting young players, even if they know that they are better hockey players than the 29-year olds they are constantly putting out on the ice because they have discipline and they know how to play the system. In a league where they play 50 games, before the two bottom teams face a qualifying-round in which they may be relegated it’s hard to see why they won’t play their young players more. They would, in the worst case, lose a point here or there, but they would speed up the development of a player, and if the team does really badly because of these young players, then go back to the older defensive specialists who have no problem playing 0-0-hockey for an entire season.
It would be very nice to see coaches take more risks and gamble a bit. That’s #1 on my wish-list from the Elitserien Santa this christmas.