Peter Laviolette The Brave

The 1-3-1 trap system of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Peter Laviolette is a rebel. He will become a hero.

Like all great rebels, Laviolette isn’t going to be well received by all. Like all great rebels, Laviolette made a bold and daring statement. Unlike all great rebels, Laviolette is fighting for a just cause.

He made his stand on Wednesday November the 9th of 2011. Write it down, take a picture, watch the video. The day will go down in history.

In an era of low scoring, big pads and boring trap defences, Peter Laviolette decided that enough is enough. To counter the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 1-3-1 defensive scheme, Laviolette told his defencemen to hold the puck in their own end and wait until a Lightning player came to get them. So they did it and no one came. After 30 seconds of holding onto the puck, the refs blew the play dead. Laviolette wasn’t phased. He did this a few more times in the 1st period.

To boot, Laviolette strategically chose to implement this plan, which I’m sure he has been concocting for a while, in front of the Lightning faithful. Away from home, to a chorus of boos, the Flyers held the puck in their own zone while the faithful Tampa Bay soldiers held their ground.

Peter Laviolette is frustrated and I don’t blame him.

Although trap hockey has been “around as long as the game itself” as TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie noted, the strategy has grown in popularity among coaches over the past decade. It has helped play a big part in the dull neutral zone dominated hockey we see on a day-to-day basis.

The Minnesota Wild’s, Nashville Predator’s, New Jersey Devil’s, Tampa Bay Lightning’s, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets of the world used to be few and far between.

But, as you can see from that extensive and incomplete list, trap hockey is far from uncommon in today’s NHL.

It’s sad that the epidemic has gotten so bad that Peter Laviolette felt he had to force his men to stand down and refuse to play the game they are paid to entertain us with just to make a point. It shouldn’t take a defiant act like this for the NHL to take notice. Darren Dreger, another TSN Hockey Insider, suggested that this 1-3-1 system will become a major topic at next week’s General Manager’s meeting. Bob McKenzie said that they have been talking about doing something for a while but haven’t gotten around to it.

Until now.

You can’t blame the coaches for trap hockey. They want to do whatever is best to keep their job.

This is the league’s problem to fix and, at this point, it doesn’t matter if it takes a rebel like Peter Laviolette to make them finally take notice.

Once again, this all goes back to the entertainment value of the game that the NHL, at times, seems to understand as much as I imagine Stevie Wonder does. Remember the ridiculously illogical skate in the crease rule preventing legitimate goals from a goal starved league? Remember the excessive hooking and holding that was left in the game for far too long?

Let the players play they say. That type of sweep the dirt under the rug attitude is exactly what is wrong with the league. Peter Laviolette rolled up the rug and threw it out the door last night. The dirt left out in the open for Gary Bettman and his lackeys to see.

Trap hockey is a big part of the reason why goal scoring is down in the NHL. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the only solution to more goals is to reduce the pad size of goaltenders. I should rephrase that to the only easy fix to more goals is to reduce the pad size of goaltenders. Little did I know that an NHL coach would have the stones to implement such a defiant act.

It is quite possible that a pad size reduction would cause a lessening of trap hockey among coaches as goals would be easier to come by from longer distances and tougher angles.

Nevertheless, the solution to a quick fix to more goals may be easy but eliminating trap hockey is not. Finding a similar to the NBA 3 in the key type or the elimination of a zone defence is not nearly as simple in the game of hockey.

Personally, I don’t have a definitive solution but it would be well worth the NHL’s time to explore all possible options.

Up and down, run and gun hockey should not be a luxury that is enjoyed only on special occasions.

Best known in Vancouver for his West Coast Express line, Stanley Cup winning coach Marc Crawford said that “fans don’t want to watch that type of a system where nothing is happening. I think unfortunately this is absolutely something that the league will have to address.”

Can I get an amen!?

It is wrong for the NHL or fans to resist the Peter Laviolette led revolt. This is for the greater good of the game and the league. Laviolette made a mockery of trap hockey and truly exposed its massive flaws for everyone to see.

Today, Peter Laviolette is one brave rebel championing for an NHL that doesn’t feature garbage hockey on a regular basis.

One day, Peter Laviolette will be the brave rebel who began the shift back to real, entertaining hockey.

One day, Peter Laviolette will be the hero.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

13 Responses to Peter Laviolette The Brave

  1. Jsportsfan says:

    I say the team without the puck should be forced to forecheck after 10 seconds in the neutral zone. If they don’t an illegal defence penalty on the board and a 2 minute minor is assessed with someone on the ice to serve the penalty.

    • Chris Ross says:

      Yea, definitely a good thought. I just hope they can figure something out to help deter this. I think there are a lot of grey areas in this matter though. If you take your example you would have to define forechecking and what areas or how many players would have to be involved to fulfil the definition. I have ideas myself but then I think of all the complications that occur. It’s a toughie for sure.

  2. puckinidiots says:

    I think the whole thing could have easily been avoided had the T-Bay player just skated in another 12 feet.

  3. Dan MacNeal says:

    I don’t know if I’d call him a “rebel” as a lot of media/GMs agreed with him, or at the very least didn’t see anything wrong. Most blamed TB.

    But incredibly gutsy.

  4. Sreesha Vaman says:

    I’d agree that its a huge problem. Teams in some markets are so concerned about winning that they will do anything – even bring back this dreaded neutral zone trap.

    I like the analogy to the NBA’s three-in-the-key, which is harder to police in a fluid hockey game, but necessary. One way you could do it is to have off-ice officials who monitor this, and call the penalty at the next whistle, potentially negating a goal.

    Tampa rightly got blamed for this. Definitely can’t blame Philly for countering – Laviolette is just trying to find a game plan that works, and the only way the trap really goes away is when those teams that use it is when teams consistently find a way to beat it.

    Love your blog – keep up the great work!

  5. CR…

    Thanks for explaining this.

    As a hockey newbie, and a Tampa resident, I was trying to find out what all the fuss was about.

    I guess I’d liken the trap to basketball’s zone defense, which was, until recently, illegal in the NBA. A few years back, the NBA re-allowed zone defense, but with limits.

    Maybe Bettman and the powers that be can look at that if they feel it’s really weighing down the game.

    Otherwise, you’re right. Teams have to do whatever suits them best to win games.

  6. Mike Milbury says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Obviously, it’s the job of the team that DOESN’T have the puck to determine how the puck is played. Rather than try to beat a new defensive scheme, the correct course of action is to sit in ones own zone and protest that the other team isn’t playing in a way that makes it easy to score.

    The trap is overpowered and unbeatable, that’s why the Lightning won the cup last year and are undefeated this year. Tampa plays a boring game, which is why they are ranked 4th in the NHL in total goals scored and why the series between Tampa and Boston(who also plays a defensive game) in the playoffs last year had such high ratings.

    Their fans also can’t stand to watch the games either, which is why they regularly sell out the arena and average over 19K attendance per game, not to mention that they ONLY doubled their season ticket sales form the year before. I suppose those numbers are probably higher than they should be because Florida is such a terrific hockey market with a bunch of locals who watch hockey just because it is their favorite sport that they grew up playing.

    What a terrible plan by Guy Boucher. With 2 of his top 4 defensemen and a top 6 forward hurt, he decided the best way to play the top scoring team in the NHL was to play a very tight defensive game, the nerve!

    Fellow hockey fans, unite! it’s time to make a stand and say:
    “We’re tired of a sport that requires intelligence to coach, play, and watch!”
    “We’re tired of not having enough goals per game to satisfy fans of other sports who will never care about hockey anyways!”

    • Dr Nick Riviera says:

      Awesome reply. You win ten internets. Let us raise our glasses high and celebrate a future day when every game is won 15-13 and approximately four more current non-hockey fans will give a crap about the NHL. Perhaps someday scoring will be so frequent that we can all become numb to joy of each individual goal the way basketball observers are to each of the approximately 125 baskets made per game (field goals + free throws combined for both teams). We can dare to dream.

    • Teeblerone says:

      Yeah, defense…gross.

    • Chris Ross says:

      And here is the problem. Completely ignoring the issue. I guess it’s true what they say, ignorance is bliss. The Lightning are a prime example of what the trap has done to hockey. It used to be exclusively used for teams that lack skill players like Minnesota and Nashville but now it has gravitated to teams like the Lightning who have so many high skill players (St. Louis, Lecavalier, Stamkos). Their defensive core is weak so they use the trap to mask their deficiencies back there. They score because their counterattack out of the trap is so effective with their plethora of skill players. Have you ever even watched a Tampa game?

      Teams use the trap to overcome their deficiencies. Teams don’t win with the trap because they generally don’t sport a very deep or skilled roster. However, what the trap does is allow teams to play above the level that they would if they tried to go punch for punch with a Vancouver or Chicago or Washington. The trap is no doubt a good strategy for the teams that employ them but it is not good for the game. If you read my piece fully you would have noticed that I don’t blame the coaches at all.

      Also, using a sold out arena as an example is hardly a telling statistic. Winning hockey is good hockey to these non-hockey cities as evidenced by Nashville’s evolution as a sell-out franchise. Boston has such a storied history as an original 6 team and are a team American fans care about. Tampa Bay is filled with stars that are even known by the casual American fan. That’s where the high ratings come from. It’s like FIFA telling us why improve the game of soccer when it is the most popular sport in the world.

      Moreover, saying that you don’t want to worry about satisfying the “fans of other sports who will never care about hockey anyways” is like a business owner who doesn’t care about his potential customers. Unless that also makes sense to you?

      As a true hockey fan, I want the game to be as good as it can be. If you can tell me with complete honesty that you enjoy trap hockey over hockey with real flow and action then feel free to give me a shout and we can revisit this.

  7. chappy81 says:

    So I was curious as to why the refs blew the whistle to stop play if nothing illegal was going on. I’m slowly turning to hockey now that the NBA lockout is killing my enthusiasim for that sport, so if this ramps up the amount of goals scored, I’m all for it!!

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