"Riding" into the Sunset

In the past few years fans have often complained that coach Maurice plays Cam Ward too much in goal and plays Eric Staal too many minutes. He is like many supervisors who, if they had their way, would have their best workers working round-the-clock. He doesn’t seem to recognize that the team is a large group of individuals rather than a few, even though those few may sometimes carry the team. (Hence he is satisfied to leave the entire fourth line on the bench because the guys ahead of them are “better players”, at least for now.) But this is all part and parcel of his formula for “success”:

There are three elements to the formula:
1) the players must give 100% effort in a grinding, battling, “be a man” style for 60 minutes; skill is not valued
2) our goalie must outplay the other team’ s goalie
3) our offensive star or stars must make a difference

I've discussed this formula at length in another fan post. This formula can work in the playoffs, and it worked for him in 2002 and 2009, but it's a bad formula for the regular-season and for development of long-term team success.

Because of #s two and three above Maurice has every incentive to overplay the goalie and the team's offensive star. Even in the playoffs this can only work so long. It worked in 2002 partly because we had two goalies who both, at times, stood on their heads. Though we did not win the Cup. It worked in 2009, though just barely, but because the first two playoff series went the full seven games there was never a chance for the goalie to rest and he wore out in the third series. He was also up against a goalie who was about as good as he is in Marc Andre Fleury. Staal did his best to make a difference but he was up against two difference makers, Crosby and Malkin. Between fatigue and the quality the opposition coach Maurice's formula no longer brought success, and the Hurricanes were swept.

It's a bad formula for the regular-season because you can't rely on one man (Staal) to carry a team for the entire season offensively nor can even the best goalies play 70-some games without their performance suffering. But if the coach is depending on the goalie to win the game then he's quite unlikely to play his backup goalie who inevitably is not as good as the first team goalie. We see this year after year with coach Maurice, the backup goalie doesn't play much even if he is doing well, and the lack of games often means the backup does less well than he ought to.

The most successful playoff teams seem to have recognized that they don't need an All-Star goalie to succeed in the playoffs, they need a goalie who can rise to the occasion for a while. The most successful teams usually have several offensive difference makers, not just one. (When the Hurricanes won the Cup we had two, Brind'Amour and Staal.) Many of the most successful playoff teams also have a big-time standout defenseman, which the Hurricanes have never had.

In general, notice how much this formula differs from how coach Lavi ran the team, and how he runs the team in Philadelphia. He managed to nearly win the cup in Philadelphia with a bunch of journeyman goaltenders. And he managed to win the cup in Carolina with two goalies, mostly a rookie.

Staal played 25 minutes against Philadelphia. Ward got pulled, perhaps worn out. I expect that when, sooner or later, we see coach Maurice ride into the sunset, he will be riding E. Staal and C. Ward into the ground as he has every year in the past.

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