KNOW YOUR ROLE

Jason Strudwick
November 24 2011 03:34PM

Last week Archaeology asked a great question about players accepting different roles on a team. This is an interesting topic that GMs, Coaches and players alike wrestle with every year.

Growing up every kid playing street hockey dreams of being who they think is the best player in the NHL. Before each game we can all remember calling out "I'm Messier! I'm Bossy or I'm Crosby!"

Each generation has it's own group of heroes and we all wanted to be just like them. 

But can you remember anyone yelling out the equally important "I'm Hunter, I'm Talbot  or I'm Yelle?"

WHO DAT

Who you ask? I am talking about Dave Hunter, Maxime Talbot and Stephan Yelle. These guys are Stanley Cup winners and were very important role players contributing to their teams success. They are examples of players who accepted and excelled at a certain role.

Successful teams are made up of a group of players that all have different skill sets. You need your top end skill players - think Jagr and Richards. Then you'll need your grinders - Cooke and Holmstrom. Finally sprinkle in some penalty killers for good measure like Draper and Maltby.

These are just a few of the roles on a team. As we all know there are others. They are easy to identify.

The hard part is finding the players to fill those spots and most importantly getting them to accept the role a GM and Coach want them to fill.

KNOW YOUR ROLE

Coaches love that line. If their expectations for you are to check or score or hit then every game you had better bring it. Coaches will often sit down with young, newly acquired or lost players to explain to them how they fit into the team concept and their role on the team.

It is then up to the player to digest this conversation and deliver on it.

Players don't always get the message. They are either unable to fulfill the role due to a lack of ability or they are unwilling. The first you can forgive a guy for, the second you cannot.

In my experience I have noticed that if you fall into the first category the coach will adjust your role assuming you are working hard. The second group of guys finds their way to the scrap heap. Nobody wants players who are uncoachable.

As this year keeps moving along watch for the teams that are having success. It will be a group of players accepting both the Coaches system and their roles.

Each player has to give up some of himself to make it work but it is worth it to hold up Lord Stanley in June.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 Captain Obvious
November 25 2011, 10:11AM
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I'm sticking with my claim that there are no roles in hockey. Nothing Strudwick has said has convinced me these roles are real.

Now, I never denied that coaches use the world roles and that players believe they fill roles. I denied that the word actually referred to anything that makes a difference in a hockey game.

For instance, Strudwick's role is to play defense. This is indistinguishable from his job. Now in order to do his job well he may have to "play physical" and "make the little plays," things that sound like roles but which are really the method by which he does his job. These methods are replaceable, i.e. there are other ways in which the job could be done.

Which is to say that teams don't need a physical defensemenn or two. A team with six Brian Rafalski's would do very well, I think. What matters is that you have players that are good at their job not how they are good at their job. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

In my mind a good coach is one who recognizes the abilities of his players and lets them use them instead of forcing them into predetermined roles that aren't necessary.

A good GM will assemble the best players he can find and will always choose the best player available and let the coach sort it out.

Since I respect Strudwick's opinion a lot and since he obviously thinks there are roles I'd like to know what, specifically, these roles are and why a hockey team needs them to be filled. I'm pretty sure that anything that will be named can easily be explained in terms of something else and hence won't be an identifiable thing.

I mean a team with 12 Brad Richards would crush a team with 12 Jody Shelleys. Not only that a team with 12 Brad Richards would beat a team with 9 Brad Richards and 3 Jody Shelleys. So what role, exactly, does Jody Shelley fill? It certainly isn't the role of "winning."

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#52 Adam Hodge
November 25 2011, 10:22AM
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Every season when Lord Stanley is hoisted the team that has the honor of holding it usually has one common thread. Every single member of the squad performed his specific task or role as required. Hockey is not about a team filled with the best parts but the right parts. The ingredients and the mix is the most important factor in determining team success. If every member knows their role the team as a whole will become much more efficient in all facets of the game. Maxime Talbot, Adam Hall & Craig Adams were some of the role players who enabled the Stars to focus on their games when the Penguins won in 2009. Much like the grind line in Detroit. The Pahlsson, Moen, Niedermayer line with the Ducks. The Hawks were forced to get rid of many of their role players and it hurt them the season after their cup win. Boston was a team made up mostly of role players and every member pinched in on the way to a nail biting 7 game series over the Canucks. The importance of the role player can never be devalued and never will be in the eyes of the fraternity of NHL coaches.

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#53 Archaeologuy
November 25 2011, 10:30AM
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@Captain Obvious

I almost gave you props for sticking to your guns when all hope was lost, but then I realized that you were just being a goof.

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#54 Captain Obvious
November 25 2011, 10:56AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I almost gave you props for sticking to your guns when all hope was lost, but then I realized that you were just being a goof.

Except I am so obviously right. Another example. Would you rather have Jeff Petry playing with the clone of Jeff Petry or Jeff Petry playing with Theo Peckham (who knows his role)?

If you choose option #1 you agree with me. If you choose option #2 you like losing.

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#55 Randall Shermer
November 25 2011, 11:13AM
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Captain Obvious wrote:

I'm sticking with my claim that there are no roles in hockey. Nothing Strudwick has said has convinced me these roles are real.

Now, I never denied that coaches use the world roles and that players believe they fill roles. I denied that the word actually referred to anything that makes a difference in a hockey game.

For instance, Strudwick's role is to play defense. This is indistinguishable from his job. Now in order to do his job well he may have to "play physical" and "make the little plays," things that sound like roles but which are really the method by which he does his job. These methods are replaceable, i.e. there are other ways in which the job could be done.

Which is to say that teams don't need a physical defensemenn or two. A team with six Brian Rafalski's would do very well, I think. What matters is that you have players that are good at their job not how they are good at their job. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

In my mind a good coach is one who recognizes the abilities of his players and lets them use them instead of forcing them into predetermined roles that aren't necessary.

A good GM will assemble the best players he can find and will always choose the best player available and let the coach sort it out.

Since I respect Strudwick's opinion a lot and since he obviously thinks there are roles I'd like to know what, specifically, these roles are and why a hockey team needs them to be filled. I'm pretty sure that anything that will be named can easily be explained in terms of something else and hence won't be an identifiable thing.

I mean a team with 12 Brad Richards would crush a team with 12 Jody Shelleys. Not only that a team with 12 Brad Richards would beat a team with 9 Brad Richards and 3 Jody Shelleys. So what role, exactly, does Jody Shelley fill? It certainly isn't the role of "winning."

Why are you trying so hard to deny reality CO? Mr. Strudwick provided an invaluable insider's look and made several statements that directly contract your proposal. The most critical is the explicit acknowledgement that players possess --- and are put in places to utilize --- different skillsets.

I am not aware of a coach who has 12 Brad Richards to work with nor of a GM that can afford to pay 12 of them. Each will have access to a collection of individuals with different skillsets. I expect a coach to develop a strategy that works with the hand given as best as possible, and I daresay you agree. He will make decisions, for example, on personnel to select for the powerplay. Those not on the powerplay will spend a greater proportion of their time on the PK or at evens, and be matched up against other players with different skillsets. These context will emphasize different needs. What is so wrong with calling the things the player is prompted to do his "role"? GMs face similar optimization problems when selecting players, and roles are convenient mental boxes to work with players with different skills and their associated costs.

As to your fetish to deny value for words that admit decomposition to simpler concepts, why would you admit defense is a role ("Strudwick's role is to play defense")? Is it not easier just to say everyone's job is to create positive goal differential? Why are you boxing Rafalski and Richards into artificial "roles" like "defense" and "forward" when there are many ways to skin the cat of creating goal differential? Each player's job is to create more goals than they give up. Why add anything else to the discussion?

The answer, it should be "obvious", is that they characterize skill application profiles that necessarily arise in hockey. A team of personnel with heterogeneous collections of skills trying to create goal differential against an opponent with a heterogeneous collection of skills will necessarily employ a strategy to maximally generate benefit from each on-ice combination over the course of periods, games, and seasons, and doing so necessarily places players in situations that emphasize certain collections of skills and de-emphasize others. These are "roles", and naming them helps the conversation.

Even the hypothetical team with 12 Brad Richards will have, at times, certain Richards playing physical on an aggressive forecheck against certain defense pairings and more patiently clogging up the middle against other defense pairings. Jody Shelly fits in by being cheaper than every single Brad Richards and can cave in faces better too when the coach wants that to happen.

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#56 Archaeologuy
November 25 2011, 11:20AM
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@Captain Obvious

A man who has been paid for his service as a hockey player since 1995 told you the exact opposite of what you claim. That's 12 professional teams in multiple leagues over a couple continents.

He just told you, clueless dude from the interwebs, that roles are important and very real. Coaches believe in it. Players believe in it. They are a part of the game of hockey at all levels and especially so in the Pro game.

End of story.

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#57 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 25 2011, 11:42AM
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@Archaeologuy

Doesn't it strike you as entirely predictable that the folks who tend to stir up the most trouble on here through their pet theories, moral scolding and/or inexplicable hatred of particular players... are all non-citizens!

Captain, j, wtf, Dennis, Putzstew, DSF...

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#58 Captain Obvious
November 25 2011, 11:43AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

A man who has been paid for his service as a hockey player since 1995 told you the exact opposite of what you claim. That's 12 professional teams in multiple leagues over a couple continents.

He just told you, clueless dude from the interwebs, that roles are important and very real. Coaches believe in it. Players believe in it. They are a part of the game of hockey at all levels and especially so in the Pro game.

End of story.

Except he didn't. Nothing he said had anything to do what I said. It was non-responsive.

I'll say this in plain English for the intellectually challenged. His beliefs concerning the importance of roles on an NHL hockey team are evidence that people in hockey think roles are important. It is not evidence that they are, in fact, important.

That they are, in fact, important would require some kind of rational account, an account that has not been forthcoming. I've tried to draw one out of you and others but you are either unwilling or incapable.

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#59 88MPH
November 25 2011, 12:27PM
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What you wrote, CO, is the diatribe of a wannabe know-it-all. It is as ignorant as it is stubborn.

Thank you, Mr. Struddles. This is something sports fans rarely consider. Role players often receive a lot of hate from fans because there is no column in the Sun for 'Role Playing' stats. I catch myself screaming at Horcoff sometimes when he does something wrong in the offensive zone, but often fail to acknowledge his defensive zone presence (which isn't a stat) and leadership on and off the ice (which we don't really see).

These are things that experienced players and managers have the ability to gauge at a higher level than the rest of us, but some would rather ignore these statements to keep their pride intact.

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#60 Archaeologuy
November 25 2011, 12:36PM
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@Captain Obvious

What's comical about this is that you think I am the one incapable of delivering your answer, and I think you're incapable of comprehending the answer.

Classic case of the fool thinking he's the professor. So, who do you think is the fool? I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with Maptain Mobvious.

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#61 Miami Dolpins
November 25 2011, 12:50PM
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I love Pizza.

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#63 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 25 2011, 01:06PM
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Miami Dolpins wrote:

I love Pizza.

meh... "Blak says hi" was better

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#64 Pucker
November 25 2011, 01:38PM
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back in the day, all-star teams used to play the Stanley Cup Champs.

I didn't look it up but I'm sure a good majority of the time the Stanley Cup Champs won.

I think this is because the SCC we're a team of players filling the various roles vs just a bunch of 'stars'.

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#65 Captain Obvious
November 25 2011, 01:47PM
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I like the example of winning face-offs as a role. That probably fits the criterion of role. However, you could still win without a "face-off man" provided your players were good at other things. Thus I wouldn't say that it is a necessary role. All other things being equal winning faceoffs is a good thing however all other things are not equal. If winning faceoffs were a genuine role (in-itself) than Zenon Kenopka would be a good hockey player. But it isn't and he isn't.

This is demonstrated by the elaboration of the idea in the example of Richards. Sure a team of Richards wouldn't be wearing the other team down and so they'd have to do other things in order to win. But, thankfully, a team full of Richards would also have the puck the whole game. And so what matters is how all of this adds up in the end in terms of scoring and allowing goals.

My point is that the idea of roles isn't very helpful in understanding how the many things a player could do to contribute towards winning add up to actually winning.

So I have no problem agreeing that winning faceoffs and playing physical contribute to winning hockey games. What I have a problem is the attempt to define that contribution using a vague term like roles that is by definition undefined. The use of the term role creates a nebulous black box of value full of things that are important but which it is impossible to assess how and to what extent they are important.

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#66 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
November 25 2011, 02:10PM
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Captain Obvious wrote:

I like the example of winning face-offs as a role. That probably fits the criterion of role. However, you could still win without a "face-off man" provided your players were good at other things. Thus I wouldn't say that it is a necessary role. All other things being equal winning faceoffs is a good thing however all other things are not equal. If winning faceoffs were a genuine role (in-itself) than Zenon Kenopka would be a good hockey player. But it isn't and he isn't.

This is demonstrated by the elaboration of the idea in the example of Richards. Sure a team of Richards wouldn't be wearing the other team down and so they'd have to do other things in order to win. But, thankfully, a team full of Richards would also have the puck the whole game. And so what matters is how all of this adds up in the end in terms of scoring and allowing goals.

My point is that the idea of roles isn't very helpful in understanding how the many things a player could do to contribute towards winning add up to actually winning.

So I have no problem agreeing that winning faceoffs and playing physical contribute to winning hockey games. What I have a problem is the attempt to define that contribution using a vague term like roles that is by definition undefined. The use of the term role creates a nebulous black box of value full of things that are important but which it is impossible to assess how and to what extent they are important.

Time to shut it down.

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#67 John Chambers
November 25 2011, 06:16PM
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@Captain Obvious

I get what you're saying: that by definition a player holding down an NHL job they have a role.

I think the counterpoint is that some guys don't want to play on a line with grinders, or don't want to play against the other team's toughest opposition. A hypothetical example would be Ryan Smyth refusing to play on a line with Ryan Jones against the other team's toughest.

But he accepts a role beyond simply that of playing wing to the best of his abilities for the Oilers.

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#68 melancholyculkin
November 25 2011, 06:40PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

A man who has been paid for his service as a hockey player since 1995 told you the exact opposite of what you claim. That's 12 professional teams in multiple leagues over a couple continents.

He just told you, clueless dude from the interwebs, that roles are important and very real. Coaches believe in it. Players believe in it. They are a part of the game of hockey at all levels and especially so in the Pro game.

End of story.

To be fair, and with all due respect to Mr. Strudwick, if you're going to use that particular appeal to authority you have to acknowledge the other side.

The other side being guys like Joe Morgan, Don Cherry and Pierre McGuire who also played/coached the game for many years and won championships and individual awards. Those guys may all have been great players/coaches, but that didn't stop them from being any less stupid as broadcasters/journalists/pundits/whatever.

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#69 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 26 2011, 10:04AM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

To be fair, and with all due respect to Mr. Strudwick, if you're going to use that particular appeal to authority you have to acknowledge the other side.

The other side being guys like Joe Morgan, Don Cherry and Pierre McGuire who also played/coached the game for many years and won championships and individual awards. Those guys may all have been great players/coaches, but that didn't stop them from being any less stupid as broadcasters/journalists/pundits/whatever.

The argument from authority is only a logical fallacy in the case where no other arguments subtend the argument from authority. The same is true of the argument from popularity.

For example, if I say democracy is the best system of government because X authority says so (and leave it at that, or that is the sole criterion on which I base my argument), or because it is the most prevalent system of government those are both fallacies.

However, if I say democracy is the best system of government for reasons x, y and z and cite the data, experience and arguments of experts THAT is not a fallacy. The citation of empirical data and experience and the expertise of others is standard in academic argumentation.

The reliability of information and expertise is, or course, open to criticism. However, saying X is unreliable, or questionable, is not the same as saying the argument is logically invalid.

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#70 ubermiguel
November 26 2011, 11:31AM
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Struds, I couldn't find anything online about Swedish gas stations, but here's an instructional video on Swedish donuts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbs64GvGgPU

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