Hockey

Dear Jeremy Colliton, You Haven’t Earned The Right To Bus Toss Your Players

Dear Jeremy Colliton,
We don’t know each other. Likely won’t. That’s cool. Anyway, I was at the game last night. Surely wasn’t inspirational. Truly impotent, in fact. I came home to find you bus-tossing your players in the press. Interesting move. We’ll get to why in a sec.

I want to be fair to you, Jeremy. So I’d like to list the obstacles put in front of you that either aren’t your fault or have nothing to do with you. It’s actually pretty long. So your job is hard. Very hard, in fact. Perhaps too hard for someone with your experience. You might never have had a chance. But again, let’s get to that a little later. So here they are.

-You’re not the GM. So hence, you didn’t put together this blue line that simply has no one with plus-speed. And other than one doofus who has completely reversed, it doesn’t have anyone who can actually handle the puck all that well (though Maatta has been better at that than anticipated). You have no transition game because of this. Not much you can do.

-You’re not the GM, so you didn’t put together a forward grouping that also simply isn’t fast enough and is a bit mismatched. It doesn’t really have enough forecheckers. You didn’t bring back Andrew Shaw to sell tickets (even though they’re also all sold? Weird that, no?) when what you really needed was an Erik Haula-type (he’s got seven goals already, by the way), A whole lot more speed to go with his puck-winning abilities.

-You’ll never convince me that even your entrenched veterans didn’t know it was time for a change behind the bench and actually welcomed it. But you still followed a legend, which means you had little chance of winning over the fanbase and your leash with the “Core Four” was always going to be short. They were open to new ideas and new ways, but they also weren’t going to be all that patient given what they’d known. That’s hard.

-Your best d-man is made of duct tape and boogers.

That’s a lot actually, Jeremy. You probably have every right to be frustrated, because in your first NHL job you shouldn’t have to deal with that. Especially when you were shotgunned into the position before you could have reasonably expected to be so. So…okay fine.

But Jeremy, you’re not doing anywhere near enough with what you can control, and your play of putting it on your players has little chance of working.

Here’s the thing, JC: this isn’t the doldrums of February. This isn’t when any regular season gets boring, long, and repetitive. Last season, your front office and even some of your players (almost certainly at the front office’s behest) wheel-posed to make it clear how hard it is to make changes without a training camp. This ignored that you had five months, and also ignored that this is hockey and you’re not trying to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 or something like that. But that was what everyone wanted the fans to know. You needed a training camp.

Well, you got one. It was only three weeks ago, in fact. Should still be pretty fresh. And that’s when you’re supposed to instill belief, get guys to see what it is you’re trying to do, and get them to believe it will take them where they want to go. Make it clear that it will work if they are fully committed to it and get them to do that. That excitement should be clearly evident a mere eight games into the season. It should still be fresh in their minds. These new ways and ideas will work and they should be excited about it, if for nothing else that it’s still top of mind.

If they already think it’s bullshit, that’s on you, friendo. You had your chance to make it clear why this is the way forward without any distraction. Judging by introducing your players to the bus bumper eight games in, you borked it.

And is effort really the problem here? It can look like that, sure. But are you putting your players in the best spots to succeed?

This Strome-Dach-Kane line…what’s that supposed to do exactly? First of all, there’s nothing about Strome’s game that suggests it will adapt well to a wing. And he hadn’t really played bad enough to be “demoted,” and yet he’s been moved from his favored spot and off the first power play for Alex Fucking Nylander. You really expect him to play with verve after that? Or maybe play like he has no confidence?

Second, that line has no puck-winner, isn’t fast at all, and has three guys who all probably need the puck. Nothing about any of their games suggest they can flourish playing away from it and seek out space for the others. So what’s it supposed to do?

Your first line…again, you’re hampered by the fact that Andrew Shaw is a half-step slower than he was and also doesn’t seem clear on what it is he does that actually helps a team. You’re probably not helped either by the fact that it looks like Jonathan Toews when from 30 to 38 on his last birthday so far. But you still seem to think Toews is a do-it-all center. He’s not. And if there’s one set of skills that’s definitely at the bottom for him, it’s playmaking. He’s not going to get the puck to DeBrincat. He’s not a set-up guy, never really has been. So how does that work? Toews and DeBrincat worked ok last year at times, but they had a hard-worker next to them like Kahun when they did. And Toews’s most goals came with Kane and Caggiula. Now, I know that a team with real aspirations would never have Drake Caggiula on the top six. But hey, he knows what he is and does what he does, which is open up space for those who need it. You can’t seem to get Andrew Shaw to do that.

And it’s still your defensive system, Colly. You’re bottom five in the amount of attempts, shots, and expected goals you surrender. Again, that has something to do with talent on hand. But just last night, I counted at least three times where one of your d-men was just standing in between the circles not doing anything in particular. Either that’s the way you want it, which doesn’t make any sense, or your players still don’t get what it is you want. What happened to MAGIC TRAINING CAMP?

How many odd-man rushes did you give up last night? Eleventy-billion? That’s being shitty with the puck, and also a result of your forwards having to do everything, the latter of which isn’t on you. But still, being focused and smart with the puck…that comes from you. And why are you still trying to play a high-pressure game with a blue line that can’t move?

Oh sure, you can hang out Erik Gustafsson to dry again. That’s easy. That doesn’t impress anyone. That doesn’t grab anyone’s attention. He’s a third-pairing player who’s gone in a year at most anyway. So who are you talking about? Are you talking about Toews and Kane? No one’s really questioned their desire in a very long time, and only the latter’s which was some eight years ago. Anyone who’s seen what his offseason training program looks like would be hard-pressed to claim he doesn’t care.

Seabook? We’ve been down this road. You know what you have to do but are terrified of doing it. And it doesn’t matter until Boqvist is here anyway. You really want to  do something impressive? March upstairs and tell Stan to get his tiny Swedish ass up here so you can have at least one d-man who can initiate a transition game.

Keith? He looked pretty inspired next to Murphy, and he’s been your biggest critic. So whom are you aiming at?

Your team looks like it’s not working hard because other teams know they just have to clog the neutral zone a bit and prevent your forwards from carrying the puck the whole way, which they have to. It’s why only your third line looks good because it’s the only one that can do it at what is now NHL speed. Force the Hawks to dump it in, and they simply don’t have the forecheckers or speed to get it back. That’s not about effort, and that’s not really on you.

Who looks like they’ve improved from last year? Kubalik wasn’t here. This is what Kampf has been and is. Anyone? Maybe Maatta? That’s on you too, bud. Ask Matt Nagy about players not improving and who gets blamed for that.

But if you think they’re uninspired, well…you’re supposed to do the inspiring. And you’re not supposed to use the press to do it until you’ve tried everything else. This is kind of the last chord to pull. If it doesn’t work, where are you?

Sincerely,
A Functional Alcoholic in Section 320

Related Posts