Conventional Wisdom is Wrong Again
Posted by Dean Holden at August 30th, 2015
by Jack Blatherwick, 4 June 2015
The “experts” were at it in full force before game7: Blackhawks vs. Ducks for all the marbles. Pre-game question: “Eddie (Olczyk), what do the Ducks have to do in order to win?” Answer: “Stick with their game plan (which failed in game 6). They have to be PHYSICAL.”
Next question: “Jonesy, what does Anaheim need from their top players tonight?”
“Be nasty,” was the short reply from Keith Jones. The video from a previous game is rolling, and Corey Perry is featured trying to break the arm of a Chicago forward with a wicked two-handed slash. “We like this kind of hockey,” Jones adds with a grin.
Later, at a crucial moment of the game, Ryan Kesler scores a goal to give the Ducks a breath of life with the score 4-1. But it just couldn’t last, this idea of scoring goals before the series is lost. It was too un-physical, so Kesler makes another two-handed slash, breaks the opponent’s stick and heads to the penalty box. This time the second-guessers are all over Kesler for his “dumb” penalty.
How is “dumb” defined in hockey? Ironically, it’s defined as “conventional w-i-s-d-o-m.” But don’t ask the experts to spell it, because there are more than four letters. We’re told the Ducks won the game of hits, something like 9849-to-12. They also won battles after the whistle with intelligent trash talk and face-washing. “It gets their team going,” according to conventional wisdom.
Bottom line? The Blackhawks are playing hockey these days; the Ducks are playing golf. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was asked after the game 6 loss in Chicago what they would do to turn things around: “We’ll just do what we always do. Play physical. That’s our game.”
What’s with these game plans? Anaheim has incredible talent – at least as good as any team in the league, but Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler and the boys were supposed to look for hits instead of anticipating the next play. Consider this: If you were coaching against Wayne Gretzky two decades ago, wouldn’t you have loved to see him finishing checks instead of anticipating the next play? His ability to think a play or two ahead made him the best in history. He skated to the place where the puck would be in the next seconds.
If you were coaching the Blackhawks, what could be a better gift from the Ducks than to see their talented players racing around the ice looking for hits instead of goals? Is it even possible to have the two priorities at the forefront of your brain? Think of the multitude of possibilities that flash through the minds of NHL players who have to make sense of this fast-flowing chaos we call the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s like making decisions while handling the puck in the middle of a 10-lane Anaheim freeway. Picture that!
Then consider how those thoughts are biased when conventional wisdom has convinced players that the key to winning is to hit. Forget the puck, as we saw in several replays. Forget the puck, and hit someone.
Like all geniuses who analyze pro sports, ours in hockey feel compelled to name individual stars in a team victory. So it was their opinion that Duncan Keith and Jonathon Toews were the top competitors in the series – not bad choices, if you have to choose (and of course you don’t). So how did Toews, Keith and the Hawks overcome the Neanderthal “game plan” of the Ducks – the one that declared publicly, “No human can take that many hits?”
The answer must be in the down-to-earth WISDOM of coach Joel Quenneville and management: Bowman and father, spelled w-i-n-n-e-r-s. From top to bottom, the organization believes in, “showing our toughness in different ways,” according to Coach Q.
After a brilliant, short answer like that, shouldn’t there be a follow-up question, like, “Coach, what are some of those ‘different ways?’”
Does it mean skating away from Neanderthals who ignore the rules, ignore the puck and get their hits in at all costs – including the cost of elimination? Does it mean daring to make creative (mind-boggling) plays in the biggest moments of the biggest games, when every analyst tells you to keep it simple? Does it mean taking a hit to make a brilliant pass that leads to a goal?
Come to think of it, the Wild eliminated the Blues with the same toughness: defined as doing your job when the goon on the other team is going to run you through the boards after you pass. Toughness is smiling – not retaliating – when the moron wants to “dance” after the whistle.
It is laughing at “conventional wisdom” when you’re holding the Cup.
Jack’s website www.overspeed.info will be up and running soon.