So, the 2016 Islanders season isn't going the way many people would like. So why not go back and try to rewrite history a little?
I'm setting up the 2016-17 season using Franchise Hockey Manager 3 from Out of the Park Developments. In the game, the date it August 5th and I have taken over as the GM and head coach of the Islanders, using the opening night rosters. Players who were injured for the opener are marked as injured. Any contracts signed after the opener are not in game
One of the new features in the game is a very detailed implementation of systems and tactics for even strength offense and defense, power play offense and penalty kill defense. Rather than just choose the systems I want to play, I'll open it up to a vote on LHH. Once the systems have been chosen, we'll go into lines and roles. The team needs time to adjust to a system, so any changes made will come only at 20, 41 and 61 games played. The descriptions of each system come from the game.
There are 16 different even strength systems to choose from. Rather than show all 16, I'm going to choose the 6 that make the most sense to me.
- Activated D - A system in which the defensemen play an extremely active role in the offense in a variety of ways - rushing the puck themselves, going deep into the offensive zone, and in general taking considerable risks in order to generate a scoring chance, at the risk of giving up a lot more chances of their own. Requires talented defensemen with considerable offensive skill, and preferably some speed so they can get back in a hurry if things go wrong. Vulnerable to a defending team that's capable of generating a rapid counterattack with a quick breakout.
- Cycling - An offensive system that uses fast-paced movement of the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone to create chances by pulling defenders out of position. Requires forwards with passing skills and situational awareness, and at least one who can find open spots to shoot from. Vulnerable to opponents who can physically dominate along the boards.
- Dump and Chase - An offensive system that relies on dumping the puck deep into the defender's zone and then attempting to recover it and create a scoring chance. Requires at least one forward who can out muscle defenders for the puck. Vulnerable to defenders who can react quickly enough to recover the puck and counterattack, or who can physically dominate the opposing forwards.
- Flexible Triangle - An offensive approach that keeps the 3 forwards spread out in a roughly triangular formation, but rapidly relocates the size and position of the triangle to exploit shooting chances. Demands smart offensive reads and good mobility from the forwards, but an opponent can respond by shutting down a corner of the triangle with close checking and/or exploiting turnover chances created by the rapid puck movement required from the offensive team.
- Puck Control - A moderately conservative offensive approach that focuses on keeping puck possession by sticking with high-percentage plays and limiting risk taking to high-reward situations. Vulnerable if an opponent has the personnel to reliably win one-on-one battles.
- Stretching the D - A tactic that attempts, while in the attacking zone, to pull defenders out of position with quick passes between the points and forwards low in the corners. Useful for trying to break rigidly-positioned defenders out of their box. Depends on strong passing skills from both forwards and D and forwards who are capable of fighting for the puck along the boards. Less effective against more flexible and mobile defenders, particularly if the defender makes the pass back to the point an interception risk.
There are 19 options for even strength defense. Once again, I'm only presenting my top 6.
- 1-2-2 Forecheck - A flexible defensive system that allows a lot of options for responding to the opponent's breakout by applying pressure in their zone, but can be beaten a little more easily in mid-ice. Requires good defensive awareness from the forwards; vulnerable to quick passes.
- 2-3 System - A common system that's best employed against teams with a fairly balanced attack in the offensive zone. One forward, usually the center, actively assists the defensemen while in the defensive zone, while the wingers watch the high slot and the points. A fairly forgiving approach that mainly requires some checking skill from the assisting forward. More vulnerable to teams who have the inclination and personnel to use a flexible and creatively aggressive approach to creating chances in the offensive zone.
- Collapsing to the Net - A defensive system that, while playing in the defensive zone, has players retreat back towards the net, often setting up a penalty-killing like box, in order to force the opponent to shoot from the outside. Requires good shot blockers and solid defensive stickwork to obstruct the shooting lanes. Vulnerable to a patient opponent who's willing to cycle the puck around the outside and wait for a breakdown, or one who has a dominant screener who can still operate in the crowded slot.
- Counterattack - This system takes the approach that the best defense is a good offense. Positioning and forechecking is done with the main goal of creating rapid turnarounds in play that will catch the attacking team flat footed and generate a quick scoring opportunity. Very risky, buy potentially rewarding for a team that's skilled enough to make the most of the offensive chances it generates. Can lead to big problems, though, if the opponent has the skill and firepower to exploit the breakdowns that will inevitably result.
- Left Wing Lock - Similar to the Neutral Zone Trap, the Left Wing Lock, first seen in the 1970's in Czechoslovakia and then adopted by Scotty Bowman and the 90's Red Wings, drops the left wing back in line with the defensemen during an opposing team's breakout, relying on zone coverage to obstruct the opponent's passage through the neutral zone, usually with the two forechecking forwards attempting to guide play towards the attacker's right side. Requires smart defensive reads from the forwards and a LW who can be effective defensively. Countered effectively, ironically enough, by a similarly conservative defensive approach like the trap - which can lead to some very boring games that devolve into mid-ice struggles.
- Retreating 1-2-2 - A conservative forechecking system that keeps the defending players in tight formation as play moves back down the ice, depriving the attacking team of room to maneuver. Requires very careful positioning on the part of the defenders, since a skilled passing team can easily exploit any gaps in the formation.
There are 10 power play systems in the game from which to choose. I'm presenting 4 options.
- 1-3-1 Power Play - An aggressive power play system that keeps one defensemen at the blue line, spreads three players across the middle of the ice, and one man in front of the net. With only a single defender back, vulnerable to speedy penalty killers.
- Overload - A power play system that attempts to overload one side of the ice to get a 3-on-2 matchup against the penalty killers. Requires skilled playmakers on the overload side, and at least one forward who can maintain position in front of the net. Vulnerable to skilled and disciplined defenders who can minimize the disadvantage on the overloaded side.
- Spread - A power play system that arranges the players in a 2-1-2 format in the offensive zone, allowing them to exploit multiple passing angles from any position to create scoring opportunities. Requires good playmakers for maximum effectiveness and demands positional discipline from the defensive team to avoid being exploited.
- Umbrella - A power play system that attempts to exploit rapid cross-ice passes to draw the goaltender and defenders out of position.
There are 10 penalty kill options in the game. Here are my top 4:
- Aggressive Box - A variation on the standard PK Box system that allows the defenders a little more flexibility in pressuring the puck carrier. Effective stick checking and play reading become more important as defenders need to retrieve the puck without taking themselves out of the play by getting physical. As with other penalty killing systems that try to force turnovers, can be exposed by rapid and accurate puck movement.
- Box - The simplest penalty-killing alignment, arraigning two forwards and two defensemen in a square formation to limit good scoring chances from the middle of the ice.
- Diamond - A penalty killing formation that arranges the defenders in a diamond formation: one defensemen in front of the net, one forward and one defensemen at the top of the circles, and one forward covering the blue line. Particularly useful against the umbrella formation, requires intelligent and quick-reacting defenders or it can frequently result in the penalty killing team getting outnumbered near the net.
- Rotation - A penalty killing strategy based on challenging the puck carrier in a way designed to force turnovers, but without pulling the defenders out of position. Requires mobility and quick thinking on the part of the defenders to avoid getting over-extended and respond quickly to loose pucks; can be countered by calm decision making and rapid puck movement by the power play team.
Because SB Nation only allows 1 poll per post, and I don't feel like doing 4 posts, all voting can be done in the comments. Simply reply with:
Feel free to argue the case for your selections afterwards, but only choose 1 system per situation. I'll close the voting down on Saturday night around 8:00 PM ET.
Once the systems have been chosen, I'll go over the roster and depth chart, and we'll start making some lines and choosing roles.