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SLBAM: What do you say to a player who isn’t making the playoffs?

What’s up gang. What could be better than the start of the playoffs? When you say playoffs, you say sleep late. So far, a lot of great stuff and a lot of new stuff.

As a coach, the two biggest trends I’ve noticed are set faceoffs and the number of pucks placed on the goalie or in front of him when the puck carrier is behind the goal line. This creates a lot of confusion and a lot of scoring chances.

Another week, another presence on The Sick Podcast. We had the chance to talk about the word “concepts”, which Martin St-Louis mentioned several times at the beginning of the year and throughout the season.

It’s a term that many people didn’t seem to understand, as we often talk about game systems or strategy!

I’ve given a few examples. We talked about Pierre-Luc Dubois in Montreal and please take the time to listen to the whole thing, because at first, I mentioned that PLD could sign for 10M, but this is the first number that came out of my mouth.

A few seconds later, I corrected myself by talking about $8 or $8.5M or more that he could sign for if he waits until he’s an independent player and the bidding is over. And let’s take a look at the playoffs.

Very difficult for me to answer for two simple reasons. Gascon, I haven’t seen a men’s college field hockey game this season and I just spent my first full year in Quebec in six years, so other than in the news, I haven’t seen Eve play.

As for Emilie, I’ve seen her on video here and there this season, but nothing in terms of in-depth analysis.

As for Santerre, I’ve seen her play a few times since I’ve been to Collège Champlain a few times. She’s obviously something, in English we call her an X Factor.

I can’t wait to see her make the leap to university next season and follow her progress.

There are several people I’d like to work with, to be honest. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work with great people or interact with great coaches.

But here are my top-5 people I’d like to work with, across all sports, because there are two coaches outside field hockey for whom I have enormous admiration. By the way, there’s no order.

  • Jon Cooper – For the simple reason that his story is fascinating and he’s won everywhere he’s been, but above all, always puts the team ahead of himself. The relationship, but the partnership he was able to create with the players, is what I’d most like to learn from him.
  • Mike Babcock – He was amazing in many ways. The way he worked, both individually and with the field hockey staff. I have several people who had the chance to work with him and loved their experience. Very difficult at times, but they’ve all grown through it and become better coaches.
  • John Tortorella – I’d really like to understand his non-negotiables and be able to apply them well. I’m a trainer who’s known for his work ethic and non-negotiables (which is part of my success and/or where I’ve come from). But to see how John works, how he thinks and how he says it, because it’s not gray with him, it’s black and white. I’d like x1000. Again, many people I know have had the chance to be around him or work with him, and they all say he’s a great, great person.
  • Bill Belichick – who wouldn’t want to know the Pats’ secret? Beyond the secret. The famous quote that describes him and why I’d love to learn from him is this: Every battle is won before it is fought (from The Art of War). It translates as: Every battle is won before it is fought.
  • Pete Carroll – I was lucky enough to take a psychology course with Pete Carroll as a mentor a few years ago, and I loved him. His way of speaking, his vision, his explanation, but above all, the simplicity of expressing himself and making himself understood to his team, but also to his staff.
  • Bonus: Jon Gordon the writer and Michael Gervais. Two people who could only follow and guide me through their profession.

James Patrick of the Winnipeg Ice. I was lucky enough to work with him for one season. The Ice’s first season in Winnipeg after the move from Kootenay and wow.

After 11 years as an assistant coach in the NHL, he took a head coaching position in the WHL. I was lucky enough not only to share the same building as him, but to be able to see him in action and ask him all the questions I wanted.

I’ll always remember, it was my own little moment and my wife would tell me in the morning when I left the house that my eyes were shining like I was going to a first date. Monday morning was my moment with James and the Winnipeg Ice coaches.

We’d pulled out some NHL videos and James would put them up on the screen in the office. He would go through absolutely everything, without even having to press pause. Not only did he dissect, he also taught me more about field hockey, because when he saw something specific, he would tell me the name one of the NHL teams had given to that system of play or way of doing things, and how long it had been in the league.

I’ve never learned so much so quickly in such a short space of time. I was blown away by his vision and everything.

If not, I could name several others, sincerely, because I’ve given lectures, done conferences and we’ve had a lot of coaches with many years of experience who have been incredible. Otherwise, in terms of the number of conferences I can watch in a year, I have some favorites, let’s say.

At the professional level, especially now, that doesn’t really happen. If you go back not that far, the trainer would tell him to ride a stationary bike until he reached X weight and then he could get on the ice.

Nowadays, there’s so much follow-up during the summer, either by the organization or by the physical trainers, that it’s difficult, unless you do it on purpose, to arrive at training camp overweight.

We’re not in the KHL, where camps last six weeks, precisely because the players aren’t in shape.

Should this happen. As a coach, you can’t beat around the bush either, because sooner or later, there will be a consequence. You start by doing the tests on and off the ice, and see how far behind everyone else he is, and how much worse his results are than in previous years.

Then, a meeting in the office to try to understand what’s happening.

Then you put him with an assistant coach to do some extra work on the ice, you put him with the physical trainer to do some extra work too, and normally you bring in the nutritionist to help him as much as possible. So you help him through this stage.

Often, there’s not much to be done, because unfortunately, or fortunately, playoff field hockey is not the same as in-season hockey. It feels like a different kind of field hockey and I’ll be honest, aside from the officiating this season, I love it.

We often see the same trends: small, non-physical players, or players who play on the periphery, have a hard time adapting. Where big players, physical players or slow players with a good IQ are going to be able to cope well.

Just look at Armia here in Montreal, when the CH made it to the finals, how we wanted to trade him for nothing in the season, but in the playoffs, phew, he was incredible. Being consistent in the playoffs is very difficult, because you’re playing against the same team and the whole team is going to try to play at 100%, not 80%.

Coaches don’t let a match-up go by either. Like McDavid, for example, who has 0 points at 5v5 against the Kings. Danault and Kopitar are doing quite a job.

To change the mindset, it’s important to sit down with the player, and you can do this during the season too, to explain how important his contribution is on the ice. That sometimes things don’t work out the way you want, but you still need to make an impact.

Take MacKinnon in the playoffs, for example. When things aren’t working for him offensively, what does he do? He’ll play like a fourth-line guy. He’ll place the puck, finish the check, get more grit and try to make X impact on every shot. This gives momentum to your team, but also a second wind to yourself.


For those who asked me. I’ve pretty much finished my field hockey work for the summer. In the sense that I’m often a “team consultant” for teams for the season or the playoffs.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to work for several professional teams, both men’s and women’s, in Europe. I still have one team in the final, and we’re ahead 3-1. Tomorrow is game #5. I’ll be in front of my screen wishing for a second championship in two years after winning the NAPA Cup with the French college at JRAAA level.

Otherwise, I’m sending positive vibes to my former KHL head coach who’s currently in Europe, after a sabbatical year, to sign a head coaching contract with an excellent organization.

As always, I have no choice but to say thank you, because without you, I couldn’t write on the site, and you’re fantastic. I’ll see you next week with new questions and old ones I couldn’t answer. Follow me on social networks @Mitch_Giguere.

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