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.

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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?"


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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.


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.

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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.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    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.

  • Jason Strudwick

    A perfect example of a clear role to identify is a great face-off man. This player can also be good at other elements of the game but great teams have good draw men. You can say that is his role or that he is just good at it but we can all agree this need, role, has to be filled to have success.

    You cannot force a player into a role either he has the abilities to fulfill the task, role, asked of him or he doesn’t. Teams require many different elements within a team. Could you win with a team of Richards? Possible I guess but would tha group have been able to handle a very physical team like the bruins? Would that group block shots, wear down the bruins dman by banging them over 7 games or be able to handle both lucic and Horton? Unlikely.

    We all have roles in the real world as well. Look around. Some examples of these are being a parent, brother, sister or job we do for a living. It is just the way it is.

    We can agree to disagree. Tha it cool with me but I will be moving on from this debate. I have my hands full over here with trying to get gas from an automated station when all the directions are in Swedish! I wish my role in life was a linguist right now!


  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    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’.

  • Jason Strudwick

    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.

    • John Chambers

      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.