Hockey Tactics Retrospective, Part 1 (1975-86) (by Jack Han)

How can coaches teach Soviet-style possession hockey? Why were the '70s Montreal Canadiens & the '80s New York Islander such juggernauts? What can...
By jhanhky · Apr 3, 2021 · Updated Apr 7, 2021
  1. jhanhky
    Book Title: Hockey Tactics Retrospective, Part 1 (1975-86)

    Author: Jack Han (edited by Michael Farber)

    Publisher: Self-published PDF ebook via


    Author Note:
    Jack Han (Twitter @jhanhky) wrote for the Montreal Canadiens, the ATP World Tour and The Athletic. Between 2017 and 2020 he worked in analytics, player development, scouting and coaching in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He is currently a coaching consultant for NHL, AHL, European and women's professional players.

    Michael Farber (Twitter @MichaelFarber3) is the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award presented by the Hockey Hall of Fame, the top honor for a hockey journalist. His work appears in Sports Illustrated and on TSN.

    About Hockey Tactics Retrospective, Part 1 (1975-86):
    - How can coaches teach Soviet-style possession hockey?
    - Why were the '70s Montreal Canadiens & the '80s New York Islander such juggernauts?
    - What can today's players learn from Wayne Gretzky & the high-flying Edmonton Oilers?
    HT: Retrospective, Part 1 is a loving tribute to the great teams and players of the 1970s and 1980s
    The author uses detailed video analysis to break down and diagram the genius of hockey grandmasters Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Gil Perreault, Slava Fetisov, Wayne Gretzky and many, many others.

    Excerpt from "Game 1: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres 1975"


    Reign of the Bullies

    1975 sees the first all-expansion-team Stanley Cup final, pitting the Philadelphia
    Flyers against the Buffalo Sabres.

    The Broad Street Bullies are at the top of their game, having manhandled the Boston
    Bruins en route to the 1974 title. Meanwhile, the fast and skilled Sabres are on the
    rise. Led by the franchise’s first (and first-overall) draft pick Gilbert Perreault, BUF
    eases past the Chicago Black Hawks and then the Montreal Canadiens to book its
    maiden final appearance.

    Game 6 is the only match won by the away team. After being shelled in his first two
    appearances at the Buffalo Auditorium, reigning playoff MVP Bernie Parent posts
    a shutout in the 2-0 Cup-clinching victory and wins his second consecutive Conn
    Smythe trophy.

    Despite Philadelphia’s intimidating style winning the day yet again, Buffalo’s
    attacking play provides a template for other teams against PHI’s physicality.
    A year later the Flyers’ budding dynasty would end, in large part due to a serious
    neck injury suffered by Parent in preseason but also because of adjustments made
    by coach Scotty Bowman’s Canadiens.

    Power Play: Early Experiments With 4 Forwards
    Experienced Fred Shero (PHI coach) and rookie Floyd Smith (BUF) are faced with
    the same conundrum: neither have access to an offensive defenseman with a fluid,
    creative transition game like that of Bruins legend Bobby Orr or the New York
    Islanders’ 21-year-old Denis Potvin.

    In the post-expansion era, dominant Ds are seldom available on the open market.
    Boston snagged Orr with an infamous C-Form in the Original Six era while Potvin
    was NYI’s reward for finishing last in the league in 1972-73.

    The ingenious Shero’s solution is to play his best puck carrier, winger Bill Barber,
    at the point with defenseman Tom Bladon. Philly’s first wave also features proven
    scorers Rick MacLeish, Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach arranged in a 2-1-2 “Box
    Plus One.”

    As the Left Back, the agile Barber (PHI7) is the primary puck carrier on the power
    play breakout, working in concert with 50-goal scorer MacLeish (PHI19) to enter
    the zone with either a pass or, more often, a trademark dump-and-chase.

    Center Bobby Clarke (PHI16) is a do-it-all player for his team, not unlike the role
    Sean Couturier occupies for the current-day Flyers. But the captain seldom handles
    the puck in transition due to the one blatant flaw in his game: he can’t move his feet
    and his hands independently.

    This inability to skill blend means that although he is extremely effective in winning
    pucks and making small-area plays in the end zones, he needs his linemates to do
    the heavy lifting between the blue lines.

    Right Winger Reggie Leach (PHI27) also has little interest in transporting the
    puck. The “Riverton Rifle,” recently rescued from the inept California Golden
    Seals, is a sniper capable of scoring with a wrist or slap shot from nearly anywhere
    in the offensive zone. Against most 1970s’ goalies, at least. Think of him as his era’s
    Patrik Laine.

    The other big shooter is defenseman Bladon (PHI3), who blasts away from the
    right point at every opportunity. This volume-based approach would later ensure
    Bladon’s place in NHL lore. On December 11, 1977, against the lowly Cleveland
    Barons, Bladon will become the first D-man in NHL history to record eight points
    (4G, 4A) in a single game.

    Buy Hockey Tactics Retrospective, Part 1 on Gumroad (197 pages, PDF ebook)

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