Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flurey vs Osgood

This isn't about Osgood vs Flurey during of the Cup Finals, I'm thinking more in terms of the 2 men and how their play has improved and progressed over the course of the past season or two.

Lets first look at Osgood. who has been a solid backup or #1 man on strong defensive teams. He has never been considered one of the elite goalies in the league, usually staying under the radar in the middle of the pack, always doing a decent job. He has never been given a lot of respect.

Osgood has been phenomenal this season, even playing behind the awesome 'D' in Detroit, he's been rock solid and has league leading numbers to back it up. The thing that is most impressive to me is that Osgood has reinvented himself by completely changing his style. This is no small feat, especially at 36 years of age.

At our schools we often suggest that students need to incorporate some additional 'tools' (read - skills, new saves, etc.) into their game. This is usually met with resistance, especially from the teenaged goalies, who think they know more than they do.

Osgood has redefined his game by becoming a very good butterfly goalie. Something he was NOT. He has also become so solid positionally that he has been able to extend his career. He was never overly flashy, but his game is now very positional, square to the puck and let the puck come to him - awesome to watch, really.

His butterfly game is now up there with the best, again this is phenomenal for a man who didn't play this way until this point in his career. He is obviously a man dedicated to continual improvement and open to suggestions from his coaches. I will use Osgood as my role model when trying to convince young goalies that they CAN change, with some effort and dedication.

Hats off to Chris Osgood for his determination and if he'd just get a real mask, he might get the recognition he deserves.

Marc-Andre Fluery came into the NHL touted as a 'franchise goalie'. His dramatic and flamboyant style won some fans over and his bright yellow pads made him noticeable. Flurey had enormous talent, but it needed to be harnessed, and he needed sound goalie coaching to make him an NHL star.

If you saw him play in his Junior days or at the start of his NHL career, it is so obvious that he has all the talent in the world, but he overplayed almost everything, sliding past the net on lateral plays and often making saves that looked fantastic and required huge skill, but were a result of his overplaying the initial shot.

The Penguins did exactly the right things with Flurey; they sent him to the minors and coached him to be a solid pro, not a flashy star Junior goalie. This took 3 YEARS!! So when students tell me they can't change, it is frustrating, because anyone can change and improve, if they are willing.

Two years ago when (owner of the Penguins) Mario Lemieux's brother, Alain worked for us, during the summer I mentioned what I saw as Fluery's downfall, we had a long discussion and he said that Gilles Meloche (the Goalie Coach for the Penguins) was working hard to help Flurey understand that he had to change his style to be a pro.

Now when you watch Flurey, he is efficient and usually plays the game in a much smaller area. Gone are the big lateral slides and most of the problems he had coming out of Junior. Flurey is still an amazing goalie with enormous talent, the difference now is that he understands that no matter what level you play at, the better the players, the better you have to be and you must be willing to change or adapt your style to suit the level you are at.

Flurey has matured and recognized what he had to do to be a solid NHL goalie. The final step in his maturity was the changing of his pads from bright yellow to white. He wore the yellow in Junior and he liked the look, I would suspect he liked the attention they drew as well, but this season his gear became a more sedate white with gold and his play improved yet again. Stats proved that goalies with white gear had better stats, so he made the change. This was true maturity on his part.

Flashy goalies are seldom great goalies, that is not to say that great goalies don't make flashy saves, but you'll see them a lot less if the goalie is sound positionally and understands that efficient is better then flashy. You'll always get opportunities to make the 'big' save and it'll be flashy because it has to be, not because you were out of position or trying to look good.

Osgood and Flurey have both changed their styles to better suit the game as it is at their level. Both have made dramatic changes to their 'toolbox' of saves and both are now much better because they were willing to learn, adjust and alter what they did in the past.
If there was a most improved award for goalies in the NHL, both of these man would get my vote, but I guess being in the Stanley Cup finals against each other is certainly a reward for their efforts and one WILL be taking home the Cup as his ultimate reward.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

People are strange!

Sometimes I just can't figure folks out and how or why they do the things they do.

I'm at our Year Round Goalie Training Centre the other night, working with a couple of students and in comes the father of a student I worked with last summer.

His son was 14 at the time and playing AA, but he was really struggling and needed some major changes to his stance and his overall game, to play better and have any chance of moving up. I saw him on average, 2 times a week for many weeks. He worked very hard to improve what I instructed him on and we saw a marked improvement.

His goal was to make AAA in August, which he did. His father was ecstatic and gave me all the credit for showing his son where he needed improvement and how to resolve his issues. He told myself and others, that Puckstoppers was the only reason his son improved so much and made the team.

So back to the other night; This fellow goes a long way out of his way to come and see me, he walks all the way around the rink and into our Training Centre and into my office area. He does the usual 'how are you' and then launches into how thrilled he is that I was able to work with his son and that - and, I quote, "you are the only reason he made it to the next level and I just wanted to thank you again, he's still using what you taught him, we're so happy with your what you did for him".

I'm thrilled his son made the team and I'm happy we got the results that they wanted, so I ask him; "why haven't I seen him back here since last summer - because as everyone should know, you can't work on something and assume its fixed forever - like anything, you have to keep working, learning and training, or you start to 'lose it'.

He stammers a bit and replies "too busy", but I'm no dummy, I've been in business too long and coached too many people, not to know when someone is lying to me. So I ask the next question, just to clarify what I already have figured out. "So will we see him this summer at our school?". "No he's going to another school" is the reply.

Well thank you for the compliment and kick in the Kahonies. Frankly I take this as an insult. Of course I understand that people want to do other camps and may 'need a change' but for someone to tell me that we''re the reason his son made it and "we're going elsewhere" is hard to swallow. The worst part is that I hear this regularly from people - "You've done wonders for my 'son/daughter, we're thrilled, but we're enrolled in someone else's camp".

Maybe it's because I really do give a damn about my students and how they progress, or maybe it's because some people have no tact - I mean go ahead and take your kid somewhere else, but don't gleefully stand in my business and tell me that we did a wonderful job, thank you, and now we're taking our money elsewhere. It's not about the money at all, but it is a business and when we do a great job, care about the student and do everything possible to help them achieve their goals and then get told "see ya" it is tough to take and insulting.

I tend not to have much in the way of an ego, and this isn't about mine, but this actually hurts me when someone doesn't have the brains to understand that they just insulted me.
What is worse, and I see this a lot, is when they come back to me after seeing 'the other guy' or going to 'the other guys school' and I have to spend 5 or 10 sessions reworking their whole mechanics or positioning because 'the other guy' taught them incorrectly or didn't care enough to understand how the student was able to play, given their physical characteristics, strength, mental toughness and ability level. Few instructors even think about these things, but WE DO!

I can't even begin to count the number of times I've had to correct 'the other guys' errors in coaching. This leads to discouraged goalies, upset parents and often I see goalies who DROP to lower levels because they aren't able to figure out what the problem is.

I've seen great goalies quit or wind up in House League, all because their parents thought it would be a good idea to see several other instructors or coaches to 'get many viewpoints'. Not that this is bad, there are lots of good goalie instructors out there, but be sure you take the time to find out of 'the other guy' is a real goalie coach, or a guy who calls himself one, or IF he is a real goalie coach be sure he knows how to work with different goalies and doesn't train everyone the same way. THIS ISN'T COACHING AND IT CAN RUIN A GOALIES CONFIDENCE.
OK this is a bit of a rant and I am admittedly upset that we did a fantastic job and lost a customer. I'm not sure how to deal with it when this happens. but it sure is frustrating. Hopefully his son doesn't run into problems and can maintain the level of play that he worked so hard to acheive.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm back

I want to apologize to our regular readers for the time between posts. As I noted, I was off for a bit when I had a couple of scheduled surgeries, one of which was to my right wrist and prevented me from typing for a while and then I was out of town a number of times on business and just didn't seem to have time to post.

I'm back now and I wanted everyone to know I'm feeling much better after the kidney surgery. A big "Thank you" to all those who sent me get well wishes and emails. Now that the wrist is feeling better I can get back to this.

I have been very busy working on our summer schools and 2 of the programs are already SOLD OUT, so if you are planning on attending, I suggest you do not wait to submit your application.

I have also been busier than expected at our Training Centre. This has been a bit of an issue because I intentionally scheduled the surgeries for April because its the end of the winter season and our summer hockey doesn't start until the end of May, the Training Centre has its slowest 2 months of the year in April & May. So I planned well, but because we have been busier than expected, my son (Jamie) has had to come with me almost daily to do my shooting.

Look for more posts this week.