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Ekmanc

Larionov on NHL/AHL stifling creative play.

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Great article. Could not agree more with Iggy's take. The system has routed out creativity. Recently, I read an article that quoted Babcock as saying he looks specifically for work ethic and brains. If you're a grinder, grind... if you're a shooter, shoot, and so-on. This is not as prevalent at lower levels. It's not that systems are complex, it's that there are systems that each coach adopts and trains their team on. The system is molding the player, instead of the player's talent molding the system. Look at our defensive prospect Hicketts. This guy is tearing it up... and seriously tearing it up. Look at his size and tell me if he's going to be an NHL defensemen. I hope he does, but the perception-reality in today's game is, he won't last 5 minutes.

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Another s***ty stuff from the same person. Stopped reading after "my fear was that I would loose my identity". Yes, sure, this is a first thing a 19yo is thinking when invited to play for the best team in the world... Then again "we lived in barracks", "trained for 11 months", etc. Seems like he is still in his 90s when people around were applausing him to death for stories like that.

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Great article. No idea what stick crawled up the behind of the poster above me.

Take a look at this clip which accompanies the article:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv3B-MLt8q8

If you watch video of us back then, it barely resembles the way the NHL is played today. It’s more similar to how Barcelona play soccer. Our philosophy was about puck control, improvisation, and constant movement. Now, the game is all about “north-south,” chip-and-chase. We moved side-to-side and swooped around the ice looking for open spaces. A backward pass was just as good as a forward pass. You didn’t have to see your linemate. You could smell him. Honestly, we probably could have played blind.

I miss the 90s when the Wings played like that on a regular basis. What a beautiful thing it was.

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I honestly don't think the Kane, or Toews or Crosby's imaginative play comes from any soviet influence as Igor suggests. I think the issue is that certain players are allowed more freedom than others....perhaps that is part of the problem. Guys like that are allowed to get away with turning the puck over, guys trying to crack the line up are not given the same latitude. I think he has a point with that, the NHL, in general, could be much more imaginative and interesting to watch, but the #1 problem is that teams, coaches, GMs, etc. only have 1 priority and that's winning. It has been proven over and over again that a certain style of play wins out more often than not and that style of play is not always the most interesting. With that fact out there, I'm not sure how you could ever change things...unless you tried to make rules to avoid certain playing styles (which would be extremely difficult)

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Except for maybe 3-4 top lines (20 top players in USSR) on few top Soviet teams, other Soviet players couldn't produce the same artistry on ice, due to lack of overwhelming skill. Yes, the overall style was a bit more E-W in Russia and N-S in NA, but neither proved obviously superior or even more entertaining, IMO.

Igor is simply being nostalgic. I share his fond memories of what top Russian players could do (somewhat helped by the fact that apart from 87 Canada Cup finals, they usually met inferior opponents). I just don't think it is possible to recreate this now without assembling top players on one team and have them play many games together and practice even more. In other words, by recreating the same Red Army system that Larionov, Fetisov and Co. hate so much. :P

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Except for maybe 3-4 top lines (20 top players in USSR) on few top Soviet teams, other Soviet players couldn't produce the same artistry on ice, due to lack of overwhelming skill. Yes, the overall style was a bit more E-W in Russia and N-S in NA, but neither proved obviously superior or even more entertaining, IMO.

Igor is simply being nostalgic. I share his fond memories of what top Russian players could do (somewhat helped by the fact that apart from 87 Canada Cup finals, they usually met inferior opponents). I just don't think it is possible to recreate this now without assembling top players on one team and have them play many games together and practice even more. In other words, by recreating the same Red Army system that Larionov, Fetisov and Co. hate so much. :P

I'm on my phone, so I can't look it up right now...but I'm sure you can determine which type of hockey philosophy is superior. Look at all the times the Russian national and junior teams played north american teams and count the record, then weight that record based on the type of ice and rules they played under in eaach instance. My guess is the soviet team is a clear winner, but I'm just speculating.

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But, I will add that its a moot point because its the type of system you can only acquire by treating human being like interchangeable parts. As machines. So its the kind of system that probably will never exist again. Soviet totalitarianism was able to accomplish some pretty remarkable feats by basically denying people their right to live their own lives, so the so called artistry accomplished by it is bittersweet I'd assume.

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Except for maybe 3-4 top lines (20 top players in USSR) on few top Soviet teams, other Soviet players couldn't produce the same artistry on ice, due to lack of overwhelming skill. Yes, the overall style was a bit more E-W in Russia and N-S in NA, but neither proved obviously superior or even more entertaining, IMO.

Igor is simply being nostalgic. I share his fond memories of what top Russian players could do (somewhat helped by the fact that apart from 87 Canada Cup finals, they usually met inferior opponents). I just don't think it is possible to recreate this now without assembling top players on one team and have them play many games together and practice even more. In other words, by recreating the same Red Army system that Larionov, Fetisov and Co. hate so much. :P

This

They could play that way because the same team spent 11 months a year, locked away, playing hockey together, 24/7 for years. And on top of that they played on 5 man units where the same 5 guys were always on the ice together. It's not imagination, it's extreme familiarity/chemistry.

The imagination was all Tarasov, their head coach, for implementing a system that allowed them to play their free-wheeling ballet style. You can't recreate that style of play effectively without training under a system that allows for it. It just wouldn't work in a decadent imperialist system like the NHL.

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I'm on my phone, so I can't look it up right now...but I'm sure you can determine which type of hockey philosophy is superior. Look at all the times the Russian national and junior teams played north american teams and count the record, then weight that record based on the type of ice and rules they played under in eaach instance. My guess is the soviet team is a clear winner, but I'm just speculating.

Not really. First, one needs to take into account the fact that Olympics and Sr World Championships before 1990s featured all the top Soviet (half of whom were drafted into the CSKA team and so had an advantage in team chemistry because they played together a lot) and Czech players playing against the NA teams featuring only players free from playoffs, so probably missing at least half of their top players. (This also applies to Sweden and Finland to a lesser degree.) So results of those are not representative.

The Soviet club teams that would tour NA over Christmas seasons were always the top 4 in the domestic league, and often were reinforced by top players from other Soviet club teams specifically for those games. Even so, only CSKA had a consistent winning record against NHL teams. Dinamo, Soviet Wings, Spartak, and Khimik had losing records.

IIRC, the junior record is about 50/50 between Soviet Union and Canada, and here again Canada was often missing their best young players due to their being busy in the NHL.

So, no I don't think Soviet style was superior. The elite 20 guys could execute those beautiful drop passes and circle back in the neutral ice to keep puck control. But if your average Soviet club team tried that, a more likely result would have been a turnover and an odd man rush against. In fact, apart from 4 top clubs in the USSR (who assembled all the country's top players), all other Soviet club teams tended to play counterattacking defensive style, because they couldn't compete with the top clubs in run and gun.

My hometown team Sibir Novosibirsk played two game back-to-back home series against 4 top Moscow teams in (IIRC) 1975. They compiled a 3-5 record, the pattern being they would win the first of the back-to back games by circling the wagons in their own zone and hoping for a lucky break on a counter. Then the visiting team would figure them out and a double digit shellacking would follow. So a typical score was 3-2 win in the first game followed by a 12-2 loss in the second.

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Not really. First, one needs to take into account the fact that Olympics and Sr World Championships before 1990s featured all the top Soviet (half of whom were drafted into the CSKA team and so had an advantage in team chemistry because they played together a lot) and Czech players playing against the NA teams featuring only players free from playoffs, so probably missing at least half of their top players. (This also applies to Sweden and Finland to a lesser degree.) So results of those are not representative.

The Soviet club teams that would tour NA over Christmas seasons were always the top 4 in the domestic league, and often were reinforced by top players from other Soviet club teams specifically for those games. Even so, only CSKA had a consistent winning record against NHL teams. Dinamo, Soviet Wings, Spartak, and Khimik had losing records.

IIRC, the junior record is about 50/50 between Soviet Union and Canada, and here again Canada was often missing their best young players due to their being busy in the NHL.

So, no I don't think Soviet style was superior. The elite 20 guys could execute those beautiful drop passes and circle back in the neutral ice to keep puck control. But if your average Soviet club team tried that, a more likely result would have been a turnover and an odd man rush against. In fact, apart from 4 top clubs in the USSR (who assembled all the country's top players), all other Soviet club teams tended to play counterattacking defensive style, because they couldn't compete with the top clubs in run and gun.

My hometown team Sibir Novosibirsk played two game back-to-back home series against 4 top Moscow teams in (IIRC) 1975. They compiled a 3-5 record, the pattern being they would win the first of the back-to back games by circling the wagons in their own zone and hoping for a lucky break on a counter. Then the visiting team would figure them out and a double digit shellacking would follow. So a typical score was 3-2 win in the first game followed by a 12-2 loss in the second.

You clearly know more about Soviet hockey than me, so I'm going to take your analysis at face value. I will say though, that I'm generally a little skeptical about comparisons in which you factor out too many variables. At some point it almost becomes meaningless. It's a little like saying "children are better athletes than adults if you don't count the adults' size, strength, speed, and coordination advantage".

In the paragraph above you've basically said, if you don't count the Soviets' best teams and players, and you don't count the advantage they gain from being forced to play together all the time, and you don't count the junior hockey records, then it's clear the Soviet system is much worse. Which is probably true, but what does that really tell you?

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pffft - that goon Larionov.....He's the guy responsible for igniting the brawl on that fateful evening of March 26th 1997.

Actually, I've always felt he was smart enough to know exactly what he was doing. He knew exactly which 10 skaters were on the ice at that time.

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In the paragraph above you've basically said, if you don't count the Soviets' best teams and players, and you don't count the advantage they gain from being forced to play together all the time, and you don't count the junior hockey records, then it's clear the Soviet system is much worse. Which is probably true, but what does that really tell you?

Actually I am saying that we don't have enough information to say which style of play was superior in the 70s and 80s.

There were too few "best vs best" or even "average vs average" matchups between Canadian/NHL and Soviet teams. So I can't draw any evidence-based conclusions. Therefore we are left with personal taste, I enjoyed the CSKA and Soviet National team brand of hockey more than the NA version, but that is just an aesthetic preference and not a basis for awarding superiority. Just like some men preferring blonds and some preferring brunettes doesn't make one superior to the other.

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He's a hell of a lot smarter when it comes to this stuff than I am, so I won't try to dissect what he said. All I know is, when Pasha's gone it's gonna be a while before you see someone like him again. We should count our blessings.

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