Before we get started, if you have not read my previous posting on my thoughts on the 1-3-1 please take a look here.
Now, as noted in the previous posting, this was not the first time Ken Campbell decried Coach Guy Boucher for implementing the 1-3-1 defensive scheme. His May 2,2011 article was entitled, “Trap-happy Lightning killing excitement of NHL playoffs.” I can only speak for myself on this one, but it was pretty exciting to see the Bolts come back against the Penguins by winning three games straight each time facing elimination. It was exhilarating watching the team sweep the Capitals. And it was downright thrilling to see them take Boston to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But I must be mistaken as I am a southern hockey fan. Either way, I got over Ken Campbell’s article and moved on with the rest of the hockey world. Until now.
Yesterday, Mr. Campbell chose to share his thoughts on the current struggles of the Tampa Bay Lightning in this article here. Now he could have taken the high-road in the matter, but decided to throw an unnecessary and ridiculous jab at the organization as a whole. Calling the current situation that the team is in “Karma.” What is the this awful and detestable atrocity that was committed to warrant such bad times? According to Mr. Campbell, it was/is the 1-3-1 defensive scheme or trap, to which he praised the Flyers for having “exposed and mocked them for playing their insidious trap.” But he does not stop there, throwing yet another jab in their for good measure, “Since then, 1-3-1 hasn’t only been the Lightning’s defensive scheme, it’s more like the win-loss record they post every five games.” He then continues to digress into how the team deserves their current position because of the choice of this defensive scheme.
Now, that really got me going. One, I feel there is nothing wrong with the 1-3-1, it is legitimate, it was not Coach Guy Boucher who first devised the scheme and implemented it into the NHL, it has been around longer than the Lightning have even been an organization. Two, again I find it absolutely crazy that individuals are still applauding the Flyers for not doing anything. They didn’t “expose” the Lightning, they were afraid to play the puck, so they sat back in their own end waiting for the officials to blow the whistle for a face-off. Three, if Ken Campbell has been watching any of the games the Lightning have been playing since November, December and now, January, the 1-3-1 has made a miniscule appearance. Only a few times have I seen the skaters on the ice shift to the formation. In all this is just a man with his pulpit blowing hot air across the hockey universe.
But why? Is he afraid of the return of the Dead-Puck Era? Sure scoring is down a few percentage points across the league over this season and last, but I don’t feel that that is a sign of Armageddon. There are studies being conducted right now on how to address it, whether limiting equipment size on net-minders or increasing the size of the net itself. As I’ve stated before, I’m a defender/goalkeeper at heart, I love watching nothing more than the blue-line corps stuffing an offense or a goalie securing a shut-out. What is wrong with that? It is a part of the game, as much is scoring. Yes scoring is exciting and fun (and of course needed to win) but its not the only part of the game. Without a solid corps of defenders and a strong presence in net, a team might not be able to score enough goals to compensate (see: Tampa Bay).
In all I dislike the offensive-minded direction the game is taking. It is a sport, a game, it is going to have ebbs and flows on every side of the ice, much like any sport. Look at baseball, there are years (in both the American League and National League mind you) where pitchers are dominating, and then it switches to hitters, and then it evens out and repeats. Look at football, this year especially. High flying, high scoring offenses have started to emerge, but a lot of those teams are not as solid on defense (see: Green Bay). There is a cycle to everything, and I believe that is what is happening right now in the NHL as a whole, not some foreshadowing of the return of the Dead-Puck Era because Coach Guy Boucher implemented the 1-3-1. Ludicrous.
In an attempt to end this on somewhat of a positive note, there is one thing I agree with in regards to Ken Campbell’s criticisms, and that is of the Lightning’s play in the 1st period as of late. It has pretty much been non-existent. Come-back hockey is fun to watch, but it is hard to accomplish. The Bolts have the fortitude and character to pull them off, but they need to start playing the first with that same edge and tenacity they play with in the second and third periods. It’s better to win because you’ve kept the lead, than it is to have to continually fight from out of a hole.
As always though, no matter what those outside of Tampa Bay Hockey have to say about Tampa Bay Hockey, I will always be the THUNDER for our Beloved Bolts. Something they will never understand. Until next time, be RELENTLESS!
Take care and take it easy,
- Jim Courteau