The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/11/12 at 02:59 PM ET
If I am to believe what I was told by Jim Paek, the Red Wings development camp’s skill development specialists and drill coaches “dumbed things down” a bit to account for the fact that the prospects were more than a little tired and, gauging by the number of ice bags worn as fashion accessories by so many players, banged-up after last night’s scrimmage.
That being said, you can imagine what the Red Wings’ version of “dumbing it down” involves.
For Tomas Storm, it meant bringing out full car-sized tires for players to skate around, and, when sticks were attached to said 16-inch tires, hop around, over and stickhandle through; for Andy Weidenbach, the “dumbing” of power skating drills involved using said tires and engaging players in drills where they both had to execute precision turns while not running into 2 other players taking part in the same drill; and for Paek, “dumbing it down” meant emphasizing regrouping in the neutral zone and looping back on offense, and eventually engaging his players in the craziest game of street hockey on ice that I have ever witnessed. The goalies didn’t have it easy, either, as off-the-post and center-of-net positioning were heavily emphasized.
Team Zetterberg was taking part in the morning skating session: team Lidstrom was doing some crazy workout stuff that I’ll try to take a peek at this afternoon, and to refresh your memory:
Team Zetterberg consists of…
Tomas Jurco #28
Teemu Pulkkinen #62
Mitchell Callahan #42
Alan Quine #59
Marek Tvrdon #60
Martin Frk #48
Luke Glendening #72**
Rasmus Bodin #75
Michael Babcock #70*
Phillipe Hudon #61
Robert Rooba #64*
Brian Lashoff #23
Nick Jensen #71
Xavier Ouellet #54
Ryan Sproul #22
Ben Marshall #50
Richard Nedomlel #3
Gleb Koryagin #77*
Petr Mrazek #34
Jake Paterson #68
As has become typical, the skaters were on the ice early, at 8:23 AM, and after a short skate-around, at 8:28, the players were split into “red” and “white” teams. The white team proceeded to the south end of the rink to take part in goalie drills, and the red team took part in skill development drills with Tomas Storm.
Storm very meticulously placed his tires in specific locations to make sure that at least he could stickhandle through them with is little winter gloves on, and when the players came out, they were able to pretty easily skate through a straight line of 4 tires lined up along the rink’s centerline, stickhandling backhand to forehand and backhand to forehand as they slithered around the tires.
Then the degree of difficulty ratcheted up as Storm had the players skate deke around the tires while spreading their legs far apart to skate over them, which the players could do pretty well, and Storm followed that up by having players skate around the tires in a serpentine fashion so that their sticks were extended past the tires as they deked from forehand to backhand at the furthest extent of their reach, and even deke-and-dangle players like Nick Jensen screwed that up because they were thinking about getting around the tire as opposed to focusing on going far forehand and far backhand.
Then came my favorite set of drills for the entire camp, “Sticks and Tires.” Storm placed the sticks in, “Right=handed player, left=handed player, right-handed player, left-handed player” fashion and asked his charges to hop over the sticks while puckhandling in a straight line, which ain’t as easy as it sounds, and wasn’t as easy as it looked given the stumbles involved in engaging in a stutter-step hop over the sticks.
Next, he asked his players to pivot their bodies backwards to avoid the pretend defender’s stick, swiveling away in 180-degree turns to protect the puck, with some success….
And when the tires were placed into a formation I can only describe as a “7,” the players had to stickhandle through the tires while sliding the puck under said sticks, then skating around the tires laterally while continuing to complete the forward-skating puck-under-tire (and Storm finished off his example of the drill by scoring a goal and performing a combination of the Selanne pop-gun and the “sheathing of the sword” celebrations)...
Storm drill 7: extent of reach, pass and fake as you go backwards, go around 3rd tire, 2nd and 4th tire requires a 180.
Storm Drill #8 involved reshaping the tires into a line and requiring the players to point their skates in opposite directions while shielding their pucks from the pretend defenders, looping around the tires while facing them, and he finished off his drills by having players hop over the tires again, stickhandle pucks through the tires again, and straddle ‘em as they stickhandled through ‘em.
Yeah, not so much.
At the other end of the ice, multiple shots were in play early and often.
The very first drill involved one player taking a shot from the faceoff circle, then taking a pass from Jim Bedard, cutting back and sliding laterally to shoot and ensure that the goalie had to readjust and reset.
The second and third drills involved players walking off the side boards—and then down low, at the bottom of the faceoff circle—-skating laterally and either trying to backhand shots over the goalie’s blocker or glove, after the goalie started from a set stance position at the top of the “horseshoe” and the side board/down low player received a pass from Bedard. Again, the goalies had to re-set in a hurry, and they were beaten regularly in these drills.
Change things up and have one shooter set up down low to receive a pass from the slot—again, with the goalie at the top of the horseshoe—to fire one shot on the glove side, and then have another shooter ready to receive another pass to challenge the goalie’s blocker side, and you’ve got goalies swimming, which is of course the whole point.
The next one?
Very complicated. Pass from coach at rt blocker side or lft glove side to high slot, rw spins through glove side faceoff dot or lw spins through blocker side faceoff dot, gives to another player who must skate back and turn through sticks lined up toward the left side or right side of the slot, shoot, turn back and retrieve another puck, then shoot again. This is for the forwards more than the goalies.
Now it’s diagonal—pass goalie coach rt goal line or lft goal line to slot to rt side or slot lft side dude peels back to forward through slot.
The remaining drills were a little simpler: fire a pass from the faceoff dot on the glove or blocker side to a player down low, and find out whether the players can indeed pick the corners before the goaltenders can seal the post.
At 8:59—-a minute late!—, power skating coach Andy Weidenbach took over, with the players initially warming up via the classic Weidenbach drill, encouraging players to stride forward with one leg and very very carefully let their other leg drag behind them without digging too heavily into the ice so that they can snap it back under themselves and simply use their body weight to push themselves forward.
Soon, utilized both Storm’s four tires and 4 cones, and three lines of players began to engage in serpentine squiggles of skating around 2 of the 4 cones and/or tires, spaced out from the center ice dot to just outside the blueline, 15 feet inside the blueline and at the hash marks…
Then things were switched up as the right side of the “S” involved skating forward around the obstacle, and the left side involved skating backward…
The third drill got particularly complicated as the players were to “hockey stop” next to their obstacle, circle it from behind, and then power forward, with the players stopping behind the obstacle…Which no one did but Michael Babcock Jr. Jiri Fischer reminded the players to keep their shoulders level, and he asked them to hockey stop on one leg, not two, and then push off with their other leg.
Did they succeed in implementing those technical tweaks? Not so much, but they tried.
While the skaters were doing this, the goalies were engaging in a strangely fascinating affair: they had to had to face a slate of four shots spaced out in what I can only describe as a sort of wide-bodied “M” without the “V” part, attempting to start at the center of the net and then push out to stop each puck successively, from right to left or left to right, with the two left side and two right side pucks separated by about 12 feet of bottom of faceoff circle to ensure that the goalies’ angles were thrown off just enough to make them search for the back of the net. Paterson and Mrazek fared…mediocrely…in this drill, and they spent the remainder of their time with Bedard skating up through a line of 4 pucks lining the length of the faceoff circle, skating up to the first, then back to their starting position, skating up to the second, then back to their starting position, and up to the third and fourth, having to mirror the skaters in going to the right side of one and the left of another…
And then the goalies engaged in more classic post-to-post, drills which involved diagonal slides to encourage them to cover the center of the net.
The skaters found themselves skating up to their first obstacle, shuffling back to their starting point, striding forward to skate around that first cone again, and then skate backward as they repeated the drill through cones 2, 3 and 4.
When the cones were placed around the faceoff dot, um…
Skate around cone at faceoff dot, go backwards to blueline, turn, go through tire up center blueline, charge toward net. Twist away from boards, to boards, skate up. Too subtle for me, shuffle as they skate toward that center tire, no C cut, no skates leaving ice, just a shuffle of feet spread wide apart.
So it’s skate around cone backwards, go forwards, shuffle shuffle, power toward opposite blueline.
The backward skating part involves crossovers.
Add in skating up to the slot, around the back of the net, back through the slot, stopping at the goal crease and skating back in what I can best describe as a figure 8 without the last part of the “8”—those of you who know that an “8” without that last loop looks like a “6” from cursive class might have a better idea of what I’m talking about—all while skating backwards and then twisting toward the side boards, and doing this simultaneously with players engaging in the same drill from the other side of the ice,
Well, you know, simple stuff.
They also engaged in “windmills” around the faceoff dots where the players were supposed to face the net at all times, and skate forwards, backwards and sideways as necessary, but the guys kinda screwed the “face the net at all times” part up, and the final drill involved…
Last skating drill: tires at half boards area, skate around cones in U, turn toward net, stop at net, turn back and skate back itno opposite line. Again, players not running into each other.
But this version of the “6” instead of “8” drill involved a couple of cones knocked over.
From explaining these to you, you might not get what the point is, but Weidenbach and Fischer are trying to get the players’ legs going one way and their upper bodies going the other while still trying to keep their shoulders level to the ice and emphasizing that you can skate in all sorts of crazy ways without allowing what are clearly somewhat uncomfortable means of locomotion to take away from the players’ abilities to continue skating properly and to continue to skate efficiently.
After a Zamboni scrape, Jim Paek and Keith McKittrick took to the ice, and their drills started and ended with f-u-n.
First, Paek had five players line up in four of the five faceoff circles—goalies included—and on his whistle, he encouraged them all to play a game of keep-away that involved every player having to protect his own puck while trying to poke his opponents’ pucks out of the confines of that faceoff circle, with the “winners” of each of the 4 circles squaring off at center ice for bragging rights.
The winner of the overall competition? Goalie Jake Paterson, who kept the puck squeezed between his skates and let his opponents take each other out before he charged forward and poke-checked the remaining skater’s puck away.
The second drill was simpler: three players skated up in rapid succession to warm up the goalies…
But the rest of the drills all involved players having to regroup, tag up and skate the other way.
The first drill involved a player skating out of the right or left half boards, dropping the puck he carried to the next man in line, that man firing the puck across the ice to the other “line,” and that player sending the initial player on a breakaway.
The second involved two and then three forwards skating in on a 2-on-0, then looping back to the blueline to tag up and receive a pass from Paek and then loop back into the zone for another offensive try, and things got more complicated from there. Soon, one defenseman and then two defensemen were taking Paek’s pass, and all three and then four players had to skate up to the opposing blueline, the forwards had to put themselves offsides, tag up and after giving pucks back to the defense, which executed a lateral d-to-d pass, the forwards would skate up and the defense would bring up the rear, charging up in a 5-on-0.
Add in some diagonal breakout passes, and then line four players up at the corners of each blueline, and tell them that they can make as many passes as they want before springing one skater lurking through the neutral zone in on a breakaway, and you get a very complicated set of drills…That started to involve more than one player, then defensemen who were executing breakout passes to the players they’d have to defend against, half-ice 2-on-1’s where, again, the breakout passer becomes the defender…
And you’ve got a complicated, somewhat confused and sloppily-executing set of tired players running on five or six hours of sleep who deserved a break.
They got one in the weirdest way I have ever seen a drill be drawn up and executed.
McKittrick and Fischer placed two nets equidistant from the center of the goal crease and the side boards/blueline intersection, and on each side of a pair of gloves McKittrick laid on the ice to mark the “center line,” four players were set up essentially as blueliners in either red or white, and in the middle, there were two “shift disturbers” from the other-colored team.
How did this game work?
The four defenders tried to score on the goalie they were facing, but there was only one puck between a total of twelve players, and these “shift disturbers,” should they be able to regain control of the puck, were expected to send said biscuit across McKittrick’s dividing line and toward their four point men on the other side of the ice so that they could attempt to score on the goaltender they were facing.
It was street hockey at its best, marvelously complicated, goofy and downright bizarre, but it worked and the players had all sorts of fun goofing off and trying to make each other look bad. It was awesome, plain old awesomely chaotic fun, and while the drills ended with the usual set of blueliners blasting shots at the net, forwards skating up the side boards and centers taking faceoffs, the “dumbing down” of drills and allowing players to engage in a little fun left the gents pretty refreshed in the locker room while nursing bumps, bruises and in many cases insomnia.
Seeing the coaches take so much care and concern for their players’ physical well-being and their morale as they try to drill in some serious-ass hockey philosophy, technique and some grueling on and off-ice training is very heartening, and as the camp continues to grow and change and become more efficient, it makes me smile to watch the summer development camp begin to hum like a big red machine.
I’ll offer player assessments as I am able. Right now I’m 20 minutes from watching another on-ice session and/or stalking Jim Nill and/or watching part of the off-ice work, so I’ve got to post this and run.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.