Behind the Bench

By Michael Moore

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I hope that everyone’s winter break has been filled with love, happiness and cheer! It has been rather hectic around my world. After last week’s snowstorm and bitter cold temperatures, we are set to be near the sixties for the rest of the week (my sinuses love this). Victorious has been extremely busy and my family seems to now do Christmas in waves. The third wave is today and I am still scrambling! This is my puppy’s first Christmas and while it has certainly been entertaining, he can be a lot to manage (Dad is worn out!). Still he seems to find all of it fun and exciting and after last year’s cancer fight, I really cannot ask for much more than that.

Not much to report on except that the World Junior Championship is under way. If you have  not been following the NHL’s 2023 top draft prospect, Connor Bedard (Regina Pats, WHL) posted a showstopper in Canada’s 11-2 victory over Germany. Connor took command of the game with seven points (three goals, four assists). The feat tied the Canadian record for points in a single WJC game. With Chicago, Anaheim and Columbus at the bottom of the league, it will be fun to see who hits the Bedard Jackpot this June in Nashville.

Here are the World Junior Championship standings thus far:


This week’s reading from Coach Littler:


The Jets don’t have a player in top 25 league scoring, but they have heart and a next-man-up mantra that works. 

By Ben Kuzma – December 17, 2022, The Province

Be careful what you wish for.

J.T. Miller believed being refreshed would bring out the best in the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at Rogers Arena. 

“I’m glad we’re playing a good opponent,” he said. “It brings out the best when it gets tough, but we’ve got to make sure we right the ship at home and play a really good game for 60 minutes. 

“The compete level and being engaged is a very simple recipe.”

The Canucks lacked those elements, and also had all kinds of trouble dealing with the Jets speed and structure, in falling 5-1.  

The Self-inflicted wounds included giving up two goals in a span of 2:39 of the first period in which they had but one shot through 15:23 and also went 0-for-2 on the power play without mustering a single shot.

Why do the Canucks continue to make it complicated with a one-step-forward and one-step-back approach as they hover around the .500 mark at 13-14-3? And why are they just 5-8-1 at home?

Yes, they were without leading scorer Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, who were hit by the flu bug this week. But the Jets have six injured players and lost Blake Wheeler and Nate Schmidt to long-term injuries Thursday.

The Jets don’t have a player in top 25 league scoring, but they have heart and a next-man-up mantra that works and has powered them to an impressive 20-9-1 record.

The Canucks also came up way short in a key category by blocking just five shots. The Jets had 16.

“It’s more frustrating watching our team sometimes when you can go from great to whatever tonight was,” said Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau.

“You try to build them up and tell them how good they were in Calgary (Wednesday) and then we come here and it’s not even the same team.

“It’s hard to understand sometimes. What needs to change is you can’t turn pucks over at the blueline when they’re guarding it — you have to get it behind them.

We don’t score a lot of 3-on-2 goals with the fourth man coming up.It’s a grinding team and that’s what our identity is supposed to be.”

The best part of the night was goaltender Spencer Martin wanting to stay in the fight and not wanting a mercy hook when so much in front of him wasn’t right.

For Canucks captain Bo Horvat, it was another post-game summation that sounded like a broken record of disappointment.

“They were obviously the better team and limited our opportunities from inside and we didn’t do a good enough job,” he said.

“It’s a matter of doing it consistently in this league and that’s how you’re going to be successful. Tonight, it wasn’t there for us and night and day from our game in Calgary. That’s unacceptable.”

Here’s what we learned as the Jets got goals from Kyle Connor, Kyle Copabianco, Neal Pionk and Axel Jonsson-FJallby and Sam Gagner, while Horvat’s third period power-play goal spoiled Connor Hellebuyck’s bid for his fourth shutout of the season:

Too many miscues, too many missteps

The margin for error against a very good club was going to be minimal and too many blunders were critical in the telling setback.

When Tyler Myers took an early and needles interference infraction behind his own net — a team-lading 14th minor of the season for the giant blueliner — it didn’t take the Jets long to respond.

Connor took a drop pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois and went short side stick on Martin.

The Canucks starter came right back to deny Karson Kuhlman with a tough glove save, but by that time the Jets were already up 10-1 on the shot clock.

The Canucks were fortunate to escape the opening period down 1-0 because they had but three shots in the frame.

“It definitely stinks but they were better than us,” said Quinn Hughes. “We didn’t get many chances after the first two periods and that’s a credit to them and where they are in the standings.”

However, the night got more complicated because the Jets were establishing position down low and making it tough for Martin to track pucks. Capobianco’s point shot in the second period went through a maze before catching the short side glove on Martin.

It was the same story as the stopper was on his knees and trying to track Pionk’s point shot through a screen that found the high stick side.

And in the third period, a tic-tac-dough passing play with the Canucks slow in retreat allowed Gagner to pick the top corner as Martin tried to go post to post in vain.

Not enough power in their play

It was a bad sign of the times when the Canucks looked plodding, confused and disorganized on their first power play in the first period when they didn’t get a sniff or a shot. 

Same story on the second power play in the same frame. Pettersson doesn’t have a power-play goal, but he is second in team shots and you’d like to think if he had played, he might have wired a shot or two from his sweet spot to score or produce a rebound.

“It’s very different — he’s one of the best players in the league,” said Hughes. “You take a guy like that out of the lineup, you’re taking away at least two Grade A chances and also in the D-zone he’s been as good as anyone on our team.

“But we still have a lot of good players. We’ve got to play better than that.”

Then again, nothing was clicking. Not the bumper pass to Horvat or Miller letting a wrist shot go from a prime shooting area.

“Our entries weren’t good enough and we just weren’t executing,” added Horvat.

“Our passes weren’t on and we tried to force plays.

We get one at the end by simply shooting the puck and making the right play.”

Horvat did deflect a power-play point shot in the third period to top his team-leading goal total to 22. But like a lot of things on this night, it was way too little too late.

“Teams that are good enough can withstand injuries,” stressed Boudreau. “I never use that as an excuse. It’s somebody else’s time to step in.” Two more Jets grounded

Every team has injuries sooner or later.

However, the Jets got a double-whammy of bad news in one day following a 3-1 home-ice victory of the Nashville Predators on Thursday to push their walked-wound list to six.

“We don’t expect anyone coming back in the next three weeks,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness.

We look for solutions, we don’t look for excuses.

We’ve had a lot of injuries all year and we’re going to continue to play with the next-man up solution.”

Wheeler, 36, had groin surgery Friday and is expected to be sidelined at least a month after being felled by friendly fire when he absorbed a shot by teammate Josh Morrisey. Wheeler left the game in the second period and tried to gut it out in the third. He has 28 points (9-17) in 29 games.

“I give him 100 per cent credit for coming back and trying to play in the third period,” added Bowness. “He’s one tough cookie man, he’ll try to play through everything. There’s 3 1/2 minutes to go in the game and the puck goes back to the defense and who’s the first guy as the net front? It’s Blake looking for a tip or screen and didn’t hesitate. A tremendous competitor.”

Former Canucks defenceman Schmidt, 31, was also injured Thursday after taking a hit from Tanner Jeannot. He cleared concussion protocol but will be sidelined four to six weeks. He has six points (3-3) in 31 games.


Taking away an opponent’s freedom of movement by getting the in way, legally.

Greg Revak, December 18, 2022

FoM is important in the development of battle tactics, operations, and strategies.

Freedom of movement (FoM) = Actual or perceived degree to which people can move from place to place within or in/out of a given environment.

Within any battlespace, FoM is one of the key elements that tips the scale toward a side winning or losing. Therefore, eliminating the freedom of movement of an opponent is a priority for any side when battling.

Hockey FoM

With hockey, I am talking about the ability of an opponent to move around the rink.

Players and teams want to be harder to play against. Eliminating FoM is a great way to becoming harder to play against.

  • High FoM = Easy to play against
  • Low FoM = Hard to play against

Dump Retrieval

The most common place you will currently notice players taking away an opponent’s FoM is during a dump-and-recover situation.

This is when an attacking player flips the puck behind the defensive player. The defensive player then messes with the attacker’s ability to directly recover the puck.

1. Pivoting into the attacker’s skating lane

We see Alex Romanov in red #27 patiently waiting to pivot until the attacker picks a side to skate into. Romanov then pivots from defense to forward into that lane/side.

In this clip, we can see the defender quickly choose to pivot the side the attacker committed to.

2. Partner chips/blocks the forechecker’s path

Defensemen #22 Tyson Barrie is a wily veteran with great details. We can see him as a defensive partner skating into the forechecker’s route to buy time for his partner. It makes all the difference.

3. Forward help

If you’re a forward… this is your job as well. William Nylander (#29 white) is a winger that glances twice, gets good body positioning so he can (1) See Connor McDavid at all times, and (2) beat him to any race by boxing out. Nylander simply gets in the way to allow a teammate to grab the puck.

The same principle can allow him to win the race to the puck. Gaining positioning before touching the puck is the best predictor of who will win a given puck battle.

Breakout – Milan Michálek’s Soft Pick

This concept is most glaring in most dump-and-recover situations. But is not limited just to defensemen and puck recoveries as every player is entitled to space on the rink.

Entry – Kirby Dach’s Soft Pick

Kirby Dach does an excellent job of driving deep into the zone and into the space the defender would use to confront the puck carrier (Pat Kane). This provides the space to gain the middle and score.

Offensive Zone – Moving/Hard Pick

Auston Matthews is strong side support and steps into space early. McDavid skates his check into that space to use Matthews as a pick.

From the on-ice referee camera

Stopping Fast Players Like Connor McDavid

Eliminating FoM is a key team tactical battle. Even more so when facing quality players like Connor McDavid.

Stopping speed before it gets going is critical. Stopping an opponent’s speed early in their defensive zone or neutral zone means they’re less dangerous as they move up the ice.

Officials/Referees will call interference if they see interference. They also happen to be human and suffer from the same disease as everyone else… they focus too much on the puck and play around the puck.

Getting in the way away from the puck, giving little shots, and innocuous interference early before the opponent is able to get up to speed is a great habit to have. The battle for positioning is eternal.

Eliminating FoM (Freedom of Movement)

Simply getting in the way, purposefully. Players want to get going and gain speed. Taking that away is very frustrating and hard to play against. Players don’t have to be 6’4” and 220lbs to routinely be hard to play against.

What other game situations can you imagine eliminating opponent’s FoM?

Arizona Players- check out this scholarship opportunity. If you have any interest in Cybersecurity this might be worth looking into.

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College Hockey Inc. is accepting applications for the third annual College Hockey Inc. Scholarship, presented by JLG Architects. The grant is awarded in honor of JLG founder Lonnie Laffen, a passionate hockey supporter who passed away in 2020. 

Application link

Players and families, we want to hear from you. If there are any questions, concerns, or if you just want to have a conversation, please feel free to contact us directly. We want to hear from you. Good Luck and Great Hockey!

Thank you,

Team VHC