Interesting read here at the Players’ Tribune, by Hockey Hall of Fame member Igor Larionov.
It seems Larionov — much like another retired legend, Teemu Selanne — has a problem with the way the game has evolved:
The problem is more philosophical and starts way before players get to the NHL. It’s easier to destroy than to create. As a coach, it’s easier to tell your players to suffocate the opposing team and not turn the puck over. There are still players whose imagination and creativity capture the Soviet spirit — Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago just to name a few. However, they are becoming exceptions to the rule. Many young players who are intelligent and can see the game four moves ahead are not valued. They’re told “simple, simple, simple.”
That mentality is kind of boring.
Larionov is right that it starts before players get to the NHL. More and more, youth hockey associations are realizing that they need to foster creativity and skill development, even if it leads to the occasional turnover at the blue line. That’s tougher than it sounds though, because dump-and-chase hockey often works at the youth level, where kids can’t break the puck out like NHLers. It’s an ongoing challenge.
At the NHL level, my biggest problem is the lack of incentive to play attacking hockey. Too many teams are happy to reach overtime or the shootout and get at least a point. If three points were awarded for a regulation win, I wager you’d notice a difference in style, and maybe those creative players would be more valued.