December 16, 2010
One of the reasons coaches don't want cameras in their dressing room is because they have sensitive information written on their whiteboards, and they don't want other teams seeing their game plan. Also, I presume they don't want people knowing that they sometimes coach with a hand down their pants, as was Bruce Boudreau's preference.
Well, thanks to HBO's first hockey episode of "24/7" -- every time I type that, angels sing -- we caught a glimpse into how Pittsburgh and Washington -- and Dan Bylsma and Bruce Boudreau, their respective coaches -- prepare for opponents.
Bylsma appeared to be more technical with his preparation (as well as a wise manipulator of his players). He came off as a coach with a nice balance of hockey charisma and seriousness, a fine line that good coaches walk behind closed doors, something 24/7 allows us to see.
Boudreau, on the other hand, came off a touch less cerebral -- an understandable impression, given the team's current struggles (as HBO wisely pointed out, a team is never as good as it seems when they're at their highest peak, never as bad as they seem in their lowest valley).
Still, his whiteboards seemed old school. There were plenty of full sentences written, specifically the "Keys to Victory" board, which included messages like the one before the Caps game in Madison Square Garden that read "1st period success we always have to come from behind in this building play with a lead meet their play!"
Hmm ... kay. So, try hard, then?
Coach Bylsma's whiteboard was set up in a fairly standard, if more thorough, fashion. I managed to get a solid "pause" when we saw it, so here's an explanation of how Pittsburgh's coach technically prepares his team for a game:
On the far left, Bylsma has two whiteboards that he's combined to use as one, with the headline "Toronto's Tendencies" (oddly, it doesn't appear to say "sucking" anywhere). It lists what their scouting report tells them of their opponents OZFC (offensive zone forecheck), NZFC (neutral zone forecheck), breakout preferences, and other things to note - if they were to play Tampa Bay, the phrase APPARENTLY STAMKOS TAKES THE OCCASIONAL ONE-TIMER FROM THE LEFT SIDE might appear.
Down the middle you have the most important information, the X's and O's. For this game (and probably most), Byslma has diagrammed their opponent's most commonly used powerplay breakout and then their in-zone rotation.
Toronto's "set breakout" is in focus beneath that -- that's the one a team will use when a defenseman has time to stop behind the net and set up. He has that written in blue, while Pittsburgh's plan to defend it is in red.
Since that was the clearest for us to see, I'll break down how he has that coverage drawn up:
To go along with the first forward in front of the net (who is to pressure the d-man to bring the puck out on his backhand side), he has one of his forwards come down low on the second d-man who is without the puck and in the corner, so he can provide immediate pressure on a quick pass. "F3" has a read to make, depending on which of the two low forwards the defender moves the puck to -- he'll either swoop into the middle or hold his ice and provide pressure. Bylsma then has his first D-man on Toronto's forward that swings across the blueline, and as he puts it, the other D-man plays "centerfield." If well executed, that's a tough system to crack.
To the right of that board, he has his "Keys vs. Toronto" -- a compilation of shorthand notes that provide more tactical advice, which again, differs from Boudreau's more longhand, motivational Keys to Victory.
Finally, to the right of that information, he has the basics - a permanent team board where "The Code" is displayed (team motivation), and even farther right of that, there's a board simply titled "Systems," presumably where a reminder of the basics for their own team goes.
Unfortunately, we didn't get nearly as good of a look at Boudreau's full whiteboard set-up, although there's one concerning shot in their home rink during the eff-bomb speech where there's literally nothing but those "Keys to Victory" in the middle of two near-blank boards). But you know that somewhere, he's written out similar information for his players.
Still, I always preferred to have it laid out and left in front of me for the entirety of the game.
The whiteboards will be filled before you come to the rink - it's one of the first things you do when you walk-in -- change, grab a coffee, saunter over and give it a quick read.
There are two full-team meetings before a game -- the quick one we saw from both coaches mere moments before hitting the ice, and one that takes place around 5:30, where coach goes over what he's written in detail.
Hopefully sometime next week we'll get to really pick Boudreau's board apart too. I'm sure he's got his own effective methods, and I think we'll glimpse those before the series is over.
I left the show thinking both teams reflected their coaches styles, to a certain extent - one is tactical, the other more free-wheeling.
The only thing I didn't see that I was looking for was: Where's the spot where a team is apparently supposed to write about Pronger's sexual orientation?
Maybe the Blackhawks still have some whiteboard from a previous era?