|To be more effective, goalie coaches should be incorporated into|
coaching sessions for the entire team, not just the goaltenders.
OK double or nothing today (see, I promised I'd get back u to speed). One of the most frustrating aspects of being a goalie coach is the sense, on far too many teams, that you're some kind of appendage, responsible only for making sure that the goalies stop the puck.
But there's much more to goaltending, and to goalie coaching. That's the topic of the following column. Let me know what you think ...
Goalies need to be included in situational drills & game plans
This month, with the traditional start of club and select hockey already under way, I want to talk to the coaches. Head coaches, and assistant coaches. Sure, goalies and goalie coaches can listen in (and I'll wager that you'll find plenty of material here to advocate either for yourself or your goaltender). But my target audience is the group of coaches who are in charge, especially those running situational drills.
Those "situational" drills include power play, penalty kill, forecheck, breakout, odd-man rushes, and the like. Goalies typically know when these drills are coming, because the coach will often look at them, or the goalie coach, and recommend that they work on something "goalie related" at the other end of the ice. It's as if the goalies really didn't have any use for anything that the coaches would be covering in these situational drills.
Without the slightest exaggeration, I've lost count of the number of times this has happened to me as a coach. I'm willing to bet my house that this experience is the rule, and not the exception. And that reveals an enormous disconnect between the coaching staff and their goaltenders.
I've written about this before. I call it the "Auto Body Approach" to coaching goalies. In short, this method is the favorite of coaches who like to dent and damage their goalies in practice, send them off to a private goalie coach (the auto body shop) to get patched up, and then repeat the entire process all over again. It's an inherently flawed approach.
Basically, here's what's wrong with this thinking. First, it perpetuates the Old School concept that goalies only have one job, and that's to stop the puck. Granted, that's still a goalie's primary responsibility. No debate there. But that thinking only recognizes one of many jobs that a good goalie needs to be concerned about. Which leads directly to my second point.
Goalies need to be coaches on the ice. It is the only position where the action is coming directly to them. It's very similar to a catcher in baseball. Pitches, and ultimately opposing players, are coming to home plate. But 90 percent of the time, the play is out in front of them, which gives them a unique and important perspective on the game. The same holds for goaltenders. While goaltender's skating "area" is fairly limited, we know that eventually the puck is coming right at us.
I often refer to the goaltender as the "eye of the hurricane." That's why we, as goalie coaches, often tell our goaltenders to speak up. The game is played at such a fast pace these days that defenders rarely have the opportunity to process things thoroughly. They have to act on habit, or instinct. Or they can listen to the goaltender. Ideally, the goaltender, with the added "luxury" of time, can assess the game situation and bark accurate instructions to the defensemen.
However, to ensure those commands are in sync with the coach, the goaltenders need the time to observe these "situational" drills in practice. That allows them to fully incorporate how you want the defense to play in a variety of game situations. If you don't include your goaltenders in these sessions, you've really got no right to blame them for shouting the wrong instructions.
Finally, telling the goalie coach to go off and "work with the goalies" denies the team a chance to hear another important voice. And that's the voice of the goalie coach. Yeah, I know that sounds self-serving. But the reality is, few people know more about scoring than goalie coaches, because we're constantly working on stopping the puck in every situation imaginable.
Here's a great example. While recently watching one of my teams run a two-on-one rush, I noticed two things. First, the defenders were wildly inconsistent with how they played the odd-man rush. A big reason was that the goalie and defenders weren't on the same page, and that breakdown in communication resulted in obvious confusion.
However, they were able to get away with it because the second forward (the one without the puck), was often too close to the puckcarrier, or too close to the defender. Both situations made the defender's job much easier. If that second player either drove wide, or drifted to open space instead of directly to the net, they would have given the player with the puck better passing options. That creates more headaches for the defense, and forces the goalie to cover more ground.
Another time, during a one-on-one drill, two of the team's strongest forwards kept trying to deke their defenders. And they hardly ever got a shot off. The problem was that, while both forwards were big and strong, neither were particularly fast, and neither had particularly silky hands. So I pulled them both aside, and suggested that they use the defender as a screen, shot the puck low, and crash the net for rebounds.
Not surprisingly, they started making things happen by making life a whole lot more uncomfortable not only for the goalies, but the defenders as well. That's the idea, right? And it was really rewarding to see these two forwards "get it."
So here's what I recommend. If you're a coach, make sure your goalies are involved in team drills. Every drill. That will help ensure that your netminders have a grasp on how you want your team to play, and can convey that game plan on the ice. At the higher levels of the game, clear, concise communication is critical to team success, especially in the defensive end. That doesn't happen magically in a game. You need to develop it in practice.
Furthermore, if you're fortunate enough to have a goalie coach, take full advantage of having him (or her) on board. Pick their brains. Get their input. Encourage them to participate. The old adage that goalies are "just weird" is as outdated, and inaccurate, as the effectiveness of trickle-down economics. We know the game. You may not agree with everything we have to offer, which is fine. But being open to different ideas is a hallmark of great coaching.