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Gallant And Players Excited About New Defensive System

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For the first time since becoming a franchise, the Golden Knights deployed a new system in the defensive zone. As opposed to playing strict man-to-man across the entire defensive zone, Gerard Gallant and his staff advised players to show more of a zone look, handing off puck carriers when the opposing team cycles.

(To read much more about the new system, how it works, what it looks like, how it’s different, and the benefits, check out yesterday’s article breaking it down with clips and illustrations.)

The new system was far from flawless in its first appearance as Vegas allowed multiple goals while trying to sort out plays. However, universally across the locker room and the coaches room, there’s a belief that it will eventually turn into something much more efficient than the simpler man-to-man system of the past.

I spoke about it in-depth with Paul Stastny, Nate Schmidt, and Gerard Gallant. Here’s what they had to say.

It wasn’t a big deal really. Players probably talk about it more than we do, it was a minor tweak. There were still some mistakes made but no matter what system you play there’s going to be some mistakes but I like what I saw last night. Moving forward we’ll see. Hopefully it keeps working and we’ll try it. You’ve got to change things when you are not winning. You don’t want to change a whole lot but you can do minor tweaks and hopefully, it helps. -Gallant

That’s a tough team to do it against because their D-men are so active. But the more we do it the more we’ll get comfortable. It’s like anything, sometimes you change something little, you don’t want to overthink it because when you overthink it that’s when you get in trouble. -Paul Stastny

That’s about as active as a d-group as you are going to see and I thought we did the whole ‘bend don’t break.’ We didn’t have a lot of time to practice it a lot but I thought we did a pretty good job of picking it up and going with it. -Nate Schmidt

The other, I mean I shouldn’t say the other because we haven’t completely changed, but the other stuff we were doing we found some teams were taking advantage of some stuff we were doing and giving them too much open ice so we’re hoping this works out. -Gallant

It’s definitely not man-on-man. That is the way we want to play. More support, more layers, more backing each other out, more guys helping each other out in battles. Where if a guy gets beat you aren’t scrambling to try and come off a guy. Back each other up a little more, support each if something happens. In this system, you are going to block more shots and we are going to have to communicate more. For most of the game we did a pretty good job for just picking it up and going with it. -Schmidt

It’s a combination of both if you can defend well you can get the transition going. As coaches, we look at different clips and different systems around and you say what’s going to work for our team and we are going to hope this works. -Gallant

We were giving up a little too much. We want to play less time in the D-zone and try and transition and play some offense. There were times we got hemmed in a few times, but everyone does against good teams, but there were also times we got it out quick and started transitioning real quick.-Stasnty

I think it helps everybody be more efficient. You’re not chasing guys out to the blue line after a guy activates. There are times where you are just skating around and around tracking a guy. Where last night it kinda happened where we just point them out. You aren’t going to give up those goals out on the blue line or down in the corners. -Schmidt

You always think of doing different things with your systems and different teams do different things but I think it comes down to the little things to win hockey games. -Gallant

I’ve been through this before on different teams where every day, every practice, every game you get more and more comfortable. Sometimes there might be a step backwards but it’ll be two steps forward eventually. -Stasnty

Yeah we had some mistakes but you aren’t going to see that type of pressure from a defensive corps like you will when you see Nashville. It’s going to evolve the more we do it. It was pretty black and white last night, it was rigid. It’s going to grow itself into what we want it to be as we do it more and more and as we see more situations while playing that way. -Schmidt

To summarize, it appears the new system is here to stay. Reilly Smith, Jon Merrill, and Shea Theodore all had positive things to say about the new system as well with everyone agreeing that for just picking up and trying it against one of the toughest teams in the league to deploy it against, that it went fairly well.

Arizona has some active defenseman and they’ll certainly be looking to exploit some of the cracks the Predators found, but the Golden Knights will have had a full practice and multiple off-ice sessions to continue cementing it before then.

As much as Gallant wants to downplay it, this change is significant and it very well could be the jumping-off point that turns the Golden Knights season around. If it is, Gallant and his staff will look like geniuses for adapted a quarter of the way through the season, but if it isn’t, there are going to be a lot more ugly goals allowed in the next two weeks or so.

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7 Comments

  1. Darren T

    Knights been great getting the lead but not so great at holding so new d system should be welcomed . Just dont turn into Flames chasing in games constantly .

    • Attitude is more important than the system hopefully they can get back the killer instinct stay on their guys and play the game they are capable of. Why they allow opposition to circle in OZ is beyond me and they continue to let it happen time after time. They get burnt every time standing around watching. Not sure zone play will correct that hopefully l am wrong.

  2. Jim R

    So admit it, the commenters here had it RIGHT. Gallant had it WRONG, and he had to CHANGE his system, just as the poster wanted. Maybe he reads these comments.

    Schmidt confirmed this by saying, “I think it helps everybody be more efficient. You’re not chasing guys out to the blue line after a guy activates. There are times where you are just skating around and around tracking a guy. -Schmidt

    “You’re not chasing guys out to the blue line”……gee, seems I saw the commenters say that over and over.

    Final score = Commenters 1 (Won) – Gallant zero

    big winners= Players and fans

    • Mike G

      Jim I hate to burst your bubble but I don’t Turk is changing his coaching philosophy based on Sinbin comment boards..
      Otherwise after every loss he would firing a coach, sending a star player down to the AHL, trading Eakin for Connor McDavid, waivIng Malcolm Subaan, …

      • Jim R

        That is not the point of my post. The point is that the commenter was RIGHT about the need to change the man to man d system because of the lack of foot speed of the VGK dmen. and by some strange “coincidence” Gallant did just exactly that.

        and of course the players like it because it means less chasing around for them.

        But it will take time to implement it, as the confusion was evident against Nashville on their first 2 goals. But it will not work if Gallant wants his wingers to just stand there and allow their man (the opponent dman) to just walk right in like Josi and Ellis were allowed to do. It should be a modified zone with the wingers staying with their man.

  3. Bent Hermit

    It sounds like the players are buying into the new system which for a coach can be the hardest part of changing systems. Having the team play man D day 1 was the easiest way to get a team that had never played together working in the right direction. Some zone D’s can be complicated so playing man gave the team time to work on other areas of the game. The 1st year it worked great. The 2nd year teams started to figure it out. The 3rd year the book is out on it. Patience is going to be key with the new system. They are going to lose some and win some games until everyone figures it out. The most important thing is that there’s a lot of time before the playoffs and they will be better because they are making the change now.

  4. schmitty 88

    looking for the boys to hang a five spot tonight on the yotes

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