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Larionov piece that's been making the rounds


Daniel
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It's been talked about in the twitterverse, so here's the link

 

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/miracle-on-ice-hockey-russia/

 

I'll call myself skeptical of his thesis even though the man has obviously forgotten more about hockey than I'll ever know.  I can't speak to the Russian league back in his time, but with 30 teams each having to field twenty players a night, not all of them are going to be as good as the Russian Olympians were back in Larionov's time.  I also get the impression that the KHL actually has less scoring than the NHL.

 

I also don't really see evidence of creativity, i.e. offense, being squelched at the younger levels.  I mean, in the CHL teams seem to put up videogame like scoring numbers.  His idea that there have been several Pavel Datsyuk's waiting to be discovered in the KHL that never got their chance, seems a bit implausible to me.  Would be interesting to see an NHL scout's rebuttal to the claims about specific players.

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It's been talked about in the twitterverse, so here's the link

 

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/miracle-on-ice-hockey-russia/

 

I'll call myself skeptical of his thesis even though the man has obviously forgotten more about hockey than I'll ever know.  I can't speak to the Russian league back in his time, but with 30 teams each having to field twenty players a night, not all of them are going to be as good as the Russian Olympians were back in Larionov's time.  I also get the impression that the KHL actually has less scoring than the NHL.

 

I also don't really see evidence of creativity, i.e. offense, being squelched at the younger levels.  I mean, in the CHL teams seem to put up videogame like scoring numbers.  His idea that there have been several Pavel Datsyuk's waiting to be discovered in the KHL that never got their chance, seems a bit implausible to me.  Would be interesting to see an NHL scout's rebuttal to the claims about specific players.

 

He's not talking about raw offensive numbers, obviously.  What he's talking about is offensive creativity - the ability to know where your teammates are on the ice.  Plenty of guys who've put up big offensive numbers in the NHL haven't excelled at that.  He's arguing that system play isn't what makes for the best hockey and that talented players have to break some of their habits in order to play this style, especially young players.  I don't buy some of his argument only because NHL D are so much better now than they were when Larionov was playing - it's way harder to exploit them - but on the other hand it's pretty easy to see his point - the league is in danger of becoming more of a monotonous systems-only north-south league.  I think it's also true that the NHL discards players at the margins who could be effective but don't fit into an NHL coach's idea of a bottom six forward.  I don't think the league has lost any Pavel Datsyuks.  

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He's not talking about raw offensive numbers, obviously.  What he's talking about is offensive creativity - the ability to know where your teammates are on the ice.  Plenty of guys who've put up big offensive numbers in the NHL haven't excelled at that.  He's arguing that system play isn't what makes for the best hockey and that talented players have to break some of their habits in order to play this style, especially young players.  I don't buy some of his argument only because NHL D are so much better now than they were when Larionov was playing - it's way harder to exploit them - but on the other hand it's pretty easy to see his point - the league is in danger of becoming more of a monotonous systems-only north-south league.  I think it's also true that the NHL discards players at the margins who could be effective but don't fit into an NHL coach's idea of a bottom six forward.  I don't think the league has lost any Pavel Datsyuks.  

I think that's the one real big inefficiency. NHL coaches see bottom 6 players as needing to fit a certain mold of being big and/or tough grinder types. They're less inclined to put an offensively creative, but less defensively responsible player there out of the way things have been done in having a dedicated checking type of line. Tampa has a 4th line that defies this a bit with Brett Connolly on there. Vancouver having Horvat on their 4th line is a bit of a departure from the norm too. I think this is an area where a team could really gain an advantage if they can ice a 3rd or 4th line of more skilled players that, while less adept defensively, could beat the typical lesser skilled 4th lines of most teams.

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I think that's the one real big inefficiency. NHL coaches see bottom 6 players as needing to fit a certain mold of being big and/or tough grinder types. They're less inclined to put an offensively creative, but less defensively responsible player there out of the way things have been done in having a dedicated checking type of line. Tampa has a 4th line that defies this a bit with Brett Connolly on there. Vancouver having Horvat on their 4th line is a bit of a departure from the norm too. I think this is an area where a team could really gain an advantage if they can ice a 3rd or 4th line of more skilled players that, while less adept defensively, could beat the typical lesser skilled 4th lines of most teams.

I think teams would love to be able have skilled players on their fourth lines, especially like a Bo Horvat. There just aren't that many of them to go around, plus you have a salary cap and a draft that tends to space them out fairly evenly among 30 teams that have 20 plus players on the roster at any given time.

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Edited by Daniel
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I think teams would love to be able have skilled players on their fourth lines, especially like a Bo Horvat. There just aren't that many of them to go around, plus you have a salary cap and a draft that tends to space them out fairly evenly among 30 teams that have 20 plus players on the roster at any given time.

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I don't agree, and history bears this out.  Most teams do not play skilled players on their 4th line because they choose not to.

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Re: the bottom 6- someone made a point a few months back that the salary cap is the reason why mostly underskilled, "gritty" players are there and why it's asinine that International teams choose these types (albeit more skilled ones) when there's no salary cap. I know that goons dominated 4th lines in the 90s and 00s but were 4th lines similar before that?

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I don't agree, and history bears this out.  Most teams do not play skilled players on their 4th line because they choose not to.

 

True most teams for a long time had the obligatory goon or two in the lineup, but those days have come to an end pretty abruptly. 

 

It's also partly a definition problem.  I suppose you could call someone like Mattias Tedenby or Nic Bergfors  skill players, but you wouldn't want them on your NHL team at all.  But a lot of teams would put a 19-20 year old Bo Horvat on their fourth line if they only had one, and enough players to fill the first three lines. 

 

Otherwise, it just struck me that all of the commentary about it that I saw seemed to accept everything he argues at face value.  There should also be a twinge of skepticism knowing that he's an agent to a lot of Russian players that haven't panned out in the NHL thus far... see Loktionov, Andrei. 

 

Plus, I'll be the ugly American here and say that trying to make hockey more exciting by comparing things to soccer is pretty ridiculous.  Watching a soccer game is like watching paint dry. 

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I think teams would love to be able have skilled players on their fourth lines, especially like a Bo Horvat. There just aren't that many of them to go around, plus you have a salary cap and a draft that tends to space them out fairly evenly among 30 teams that have 20 plus players on the roster at any given time.

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This is where I'm coming from too.  I don't buy the theory that there are tons of Pavel Datsyuk's that went undiscovered or discarded because they didn't fit on NHL 3rd or 4th lines.  If that were the case, believe me, a guy like Datsyuk would replace many guys on the 1st and 2nd lines of current NHL teams, and those players in turn would be shifted and moved down to the 3rd and 4th lines.  In that scenario, the gritty/grinder type players that currently occupy the 3rd and 4th lines on most NHL squads would be the ones left holding the bag, and we would have deeper teams with 12 superstars.  Everyone would love to have that, but the talent just isn't out there.  It's not some refusal to change styles perpetuated by stubborn behind-the-times coaches that insist on employing checking grinders, but rather a lack of talent.    Also, for the record, how boring would it actually be to have 12 Sidney Crosby's on one team?  It may have been fun to watch the Soviet team of 12 superstar forwards (and defenseman) crush opponents on their talent and "creativity" for a decade or so, but eventually a team came along and adapted to their style and was able to beat them.  Having to manage a team of so-called "lesser talented" guys who all have different skills and abilities and aren't robotic superstar clones of one other and molding them into a cohesive unit capable of beating said unit of robotic players is way more impressive and entertaining to me.

Edited by NJDfan1711
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True most teams for a long time had the obligatory goon or two in the lineup, but those days have come to an end pretty abruptly. 

 

It's also partly a definition problem.  I suppose you could call someone like Mattias Tedenby or Nic Bergfors  skill players, but you wouldn't want them on your NHL team at all.  But a lot of teams would put a 19-20 year old Bo Horvat on their fourth line if they only had one, and enough players to fill the first three lines. 

 

Otherwise, it just struck me that all of the commentary about it that I saw seemed to accept everything he argues at face value.  There should also be a twinge of skepticism knowing that he's an agent to a lot of Russian players that haven't panned out in the NHL thus far... see Loktionov, Andrei. 

 

Plus, I'll be the ugly American here and say that trying to make hockey more exciting by comparing things to soccer is pretty ridiculous.  Watching a soccer game is like watching paint dry. 

 

Niclas Bergfors is absolutely good enough to play in the NHL and is what is being talked about here.  He was 163rd in ES points/60 when he was here and he doesn't take penalties.  He's not the fastest guy, and his effort on defense wasn't always the best, but he's an NHL-quality player.  If the NHL weren't so averse to skilled 4th lines, he would be here.  It is, so he isn't.  Andrei Loktionov, same thing - Loktionov clearly wants to play in the NHL, he resisted the KHL for 2 years, but eventually the NHL stopped calling and he had to go there.

 

Try watching the team he's talking about - I don't watch pro soccer but Spain's World Cup team just had incredible passing in the early part of this decade.  

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Niclas Bergfors is absolutely good enough to play in the NHL and is what is being talked about here.  He was 163rd in ES points/60 when he was here and he doesn't take penalties.  He's not the fastest guy, and his effort on defense wasn't always the best, but he's an NHL-quality player.  If the NHL weren't so averse to skilled 4th lines, he would be here.  It is, so he isn't.  Andrei Loktionov, same thing - Loktionov clearly wants to play in the NHL, he resisted the KHL for 2 years, but eventually the NHL stopped calling and he had to go there.

 

 

 

Fair enough, and I look at Bergfors' KHL numbers and he does seem to be producing offensively.  And I suppose I would rather have him and probably Loktionov instead of Gionta, especially on this team that can use all the scoring it can get. 

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Re: the bottom 6- someone made a point a few months back that the salary cap is the reason why mostly underskilled, "gritty" players are there and why it's asinine that International teams choose these types (albeit more skilled ones) when there's no salary cap. I know that goons dominated 4th lines in the 90s and 00s but were 4th lines similar before that?

I don't think that the cap is the issue either unless we're talking about a team that's basically capped out. I'm not suggesting that teams should put veteran skill players, but rather young guys on ELCs, that usually sit in the minors being passed over for a call up because they don't fit the typical mold of the 4th line energy forward.

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Playing together for 11 months of the year was how they were able to develop that kind of creativeness on ice. When the pieces are constantly in motion and there is trust, you know exactly when your far winger is going to weave, rather than sit back.

Wasn't just the 11 months together.  The Red Army team also had pretty much all the best players in the Soviet Union.  Could you imagine if Hockey Canada and/or USA Hockey had the authority to force the best 25 players from each country onto a single team and then put that team in the NHL how they would dominate?  I am not talking about just the Olympics.  Put Crosby, Stamkos, Price, Doughty, etc ALL on Team Canada full-time.  

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