Last season, it seemed that the Carolina Hurricanes had more than their fair share of breakaways and odd-man rushes against them. Of course, some of these can be attributed to poorly timed pinches or a blocked shot where the puck bounces toward the Carolina end.
But it seemed like many of them resulted from slow or poorly timed line changes.
I recently asked Kirk Muller about how his team could reduce the odd-man rushes against.
"Basically, it comes to our shifts being too long," the coach said. "We have to get our shift length down so players can get to the bench quicker and the line changes can be faster".
The coach went on to explain.
"The style that we play, you have to keep your shifts under 40 seconds. It's impossible to play at a higher tempo style at over 40 seconds. Obviously, you get caught sometimes by accident but if we can do that and we have confidence that the next guy that jumps on the ice can do the same job, then I think that it becomes an easier thing to take and respect."
A quick look at NHL.com will show that most of the Hurricanes average shift lengths last season were more than 40 seconds.
Obviously, every shift cannot be the same and some shifts will be longer, especially during the powerplay or shorter during the penalty kill.
We talked a bit more about how he could get his players to reduce the time of their shifts.
"I think it's like other parts of the game, it's discipline. They have that internal clock, they know the time frame by playing their whole life. But I also think you will see in training camp a lot of drills that emphasize that at the end there will be a quick change to get it into their thought process of how important it is. So I think you will see some of this in practice, just to instill the discipline of how important it is."
While some of his player's shifts might be longer than the coach likes, they are still shorter than many other players in the league.
For instance, last season Mike Green and Kris Letang both averaged 60 seconds per shift. Alex Ovechkin was at 59 seconds, while Ilya Kovalchuk and Jack Johnson were both at 58 seconds. (NHL.com)
But the Carolina coach is not alone in his thinking.
The following quote is taken from the article.
Five- time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom played more than 28 minutes a game, but his shifts averaged 44 seconds in length. Henrik Zetterberg’s shifts ran about 43 seconds while Pavel Datsyuk was on the ice for an average of 39 seconds before grabbing some pine. Conversely, there were several noted situations where Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins was on the ice for more than a minute and was clearly out of gas by the end of his shift.
Another article follows which emphasizes the value of shorter shifts while teaching youth hockey.
A quote from that article follows:
If a player is on the ice for 40 seconds and competes at 100% of his physical capacity he should be exhausted at the end of the 40 seconds or even sooner. A hockey shift combines aerobic with anaerobic (short bursts) activity – the longer the shift the less likely the player is competing at maximum capacity during those most important short bursts.
Will Kirk Muller be able to shorten average shift length and quicken up the line changes? Look for work on this to come during the preseason and later in training camp.