Toronto Maple Leafs v St. Louis Blues

Hitch says ‘it’s going to be different’ with larger ice surface in Sochi


The larger international ice surface. Some believe it will be a major factor at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Some disagree, calling it much ado about, well, maybe not nothing, but not as much as some people are making it out to be.

It sounds like you can put Ken Hitchcock in the group that believes it’s a big factor. It won’t be like an NHL game over there, according to Team Canada’s associate coach.

“Size isn’t as relevant as it would be in a [game on a small ice surface],” Hitchcock told “We’re going to play against quicker players than we ever have played against before. We’re going to play against players that have great agility, great one-on-one skills. We’re going to see lineups that are different than we would play in North America.

“The game in Vancouver [2010 Olympics] was very much an NHL game. It felt like an NHL game and it looked like an NHL game, but it’s going to be different in Europe because we’re going to play against more quickness, more agility than we have ever seen in our lives.”

How the bigger ice surface affects Canada’s roster decisions remains to be seen. Hitchcock’s comments wouldn’t seem to bode well for a player like Boston’s Milan Lucic, a big, physical winger not known for his beautiful skating.

And what about a defenseman like Chicago’s Brent Seabrook? Like Lucic, he’s big and physical, but he doesn’t skate like, say, PK Subban.

Once all the rosters are set and the tournament starts, it will be interesting to see the difference in style compared to 2010, when Canada was able to employ a punishing forecheck, led by the likes of Brenden Morrow.

On paper, the Americans seem suited for a fast game, with excellent skaters like Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, and Ryan Kesler, to name just three.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

Leave a comment

Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

1 Comment

Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.