When Will They Ever Learn...Put A Sock In It

 from Nick Parsons


Former player PJ Stock was on the telly the other night and wasnt surprised when told the St Louis Blues of the National Hockey League were not happy with their coach. 

Andy Murray is a knowledgeable, articulate guy with bags of experience dating back to 1976.  Hes won at various levels including gold medals at the World Championships three times.  He coached the Los Angeles Kings for six years before being fired there. 

The reason?  He wore his players out.  When team performance skidded Murray would shift into over-drive and hold meeting after meeting with his players.  They grew to hate the sound of his voice.  Murray was relentless.  Look, sporting endeavours like professional hockey arent that complicated.  Just win, baby. 

The puck either goes in the net or it doesnt.  If it isnt going into the net, make it go in.  Theres not a lot to talk about.  The players pretty much knew what the problem was but Murray couldnt resist the endless nagging.

His inability to put a sock in it got him fired. 

But dont you think he would learn?  Nope, because here he is again in the same hot water.  Nag, nag, nag. The Blues began this season pretty well but they peaked in early December.  Most recently theyve been on a 1-9-1 skid and have fallen to 29-30-11.  Being under .500 is hard to do these days so little wonder people are becoming edgy.  

Not that Murray is unique when it comes to being thick-headed.  The champion for refusing to learn and adapt has to be Mike Keenan.  Hes coached 1222 regular season games before this one and has been fired six times - or approximately once every 200 games.  Thats less than three seasons per team. If he hasnt noticed a pattern here shouldnt someone tell him?

Marc Crawford shouted and screamed so much in Colorado that eventually none of his players bothered anymore.  Since he couldnt shout any louder he quit before being fired.  Then he went to Vancouver and did exactly the same thing again.  Eventually he couldnt solve the corrosive personality of Todd Bertuzzi and, without any allies in the dressing room, ended up being fired.

Ken Hitchcock wore out his players in Dallas and Philadelphia because his endless nitpicking drove them crazy.  For now the Columbus Blue Jackets think he is well-organized but that will change soon. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella is another one.  He went to war with star Vincent Lecavalier and dodged a bullet when they managed to win a Stanley Cup.  But Tortorella is another coach who seemingly hates goaltenders.  And the ones hes had the past few years were easy to hate.  Just before the trade deadline Tortorella was thought to be close to unemployment after one too many sour press conferences spent bashing his hapless goalies. 

At one point Tortorella said he coached the way he thought was right and he wasnt going to change his approach no matter what. 

Oh, thats just great.  The good old my way or the highway approach.  Youd think these guys had a death wish.

There isnt a business school in the world that would approve the way these coaches try to pry performance out of their employees.  It has been found that employees respond much more wholeheartedly when involved in the decision making process, who are allowed their opinions, and are treated as if they matter.

Instead what we see, particularly in the NHL, are coaches who badger, threaten, and humiliate.  Coaches too often view players as creatures put on this earth to thwart directives, screw up perfect game plans, and quit at the worst possible moment.  It seems as if some coaches and players have an adversarial relationship within their own team.

Jacques Lemaire is in his seventh season with the Minnesota Wild and Ive never heard anyone talk of players tuning him out.  Someone should find out what hes doing right.  Im beginning to think that Pat Quinn, as lousy a technical coach as you can find, was also a good man-manager.  Jacques Demers was also well liked by his players.

There must be others - maybe Lindy Ruff in Buffalo, Barry Trotz in Nashville, or Craig MacTavish could be included.

My opinion is that coaching in the NHL is still in the stone age.  To me it is hard to believe there are still teams anxious to hire a Cro-Magnon like Mike Keenan.  Many coaches talk about advanced theories of coaching, of being open and communicating with the players, then they drive those same players to open rebellion by making yet again mistakes for which theyd been fired by previous teams.  It makes no sense.

But if a coach isnt bright enough to utilize better techniques then shouldnt the person who hires the coach make demands in that regard?  Where is a teams general manager in all this?  Ill tell you where he is - sitting at a desk in a plush office writing out monthly cheques to three previous coaches he had to fire because they reduced his club to a shambles.

When will they learn.