Look, everybody knows that no one likes the trap. And everybody knows that Jacques Lemaire is the trapping coach non-pareil. And everybody knows that when Jacques Lemaire is holding down an NHL head coaching job, it’s really easy to whine and bitch about how much the trap sucks, and how much Lemaire makes it even doubly sucky. But you know what? We were wrong about Lemaire this year (so far). We fully put forth that we bought into the common perception that Lemaire = Soul-Killing Trap, and painful memories of past miserable seasons and even more miserable past playoff failures ran through our heads. We went on record in the Puck Daddy season preview saying that we were sure Zach Parise would be shackled to a passive neutral zone trap and he’d never score again. We assumed the d-men spent training camp being reconditioned to never leave their defensive zone quadrants. We were sure a season’s worth of dreadfully dull hockey lay before us.
We were wrong.
Now that the Devils are relevant again, we’d like to call on the media to admit they’re wrong, too. At the very least, we’d like to see how the Devils are perceived in the national hockey landscape tweaked just a bit. When the Red Wings were at their pre-lock-out peak, they were given the benefit out the doubt and the trap they played was referred to as the “Left Wing Lock”. The trap played by sexy, big-market teams like the Rangers is referred to as “strong defensive play”. And yet, since Lemaire first brought back the trap played by the revered ’70s Canadiens, the Devils have always, always played “The Trap”. Historically, this has given carte blanche to hockey pundits and fans alike to dismiss whatever style of game the Devils play as “boring”, “so boring”, and “so boring it’s killing hockey”. This continues to today.
Here’s the thing though — right now, the Devils aren’t playing hockey that’s so boring it’s killing hockey. It’s not even so boring. Believe it or not, it’s not boring at all! Players like Parise, Zajac, and Clarkson spend much of their time on the ice engaged in aggressive forechecking. Puck possession is the name of the game. (As Friend of IPB, Morgan, once said, “You can’t trap when you have the puck”.) When the top two puck-moving defensemen are in the line-up, they will frequently leave their quadrants in the dust while jumping into the play (before he broke his arm, Paul Martin was often seen behind the other team’s goal line, for Pete’s sake!). So we think it’s high time that the Devils get the benefit of having their system of play described by a term less loaded than “The Trap”. Instead of just complaining about how much anything called “The Trap” sucks, let’s solve that problem by giving it a new name!
We bandied around a few ideas for snappy terms like “Left Wing Lock”, and realized there are a few elements to the Devils game that we feel should be highlighted. The system encompasses all areas of play, in all zones of the ice, and throughout the whole line-up, from the top line to the third d-pairing to the goalie. The system leads to exciting plays when the Devils pounce on the opponents’ mistakes. The system requires that players engage their brains and think about the game. The system leads to success. The system can emphasize the beauty of speed and skill that the NHL is known for, such as on the gorgeous Parise breakaway after Zajac took advantage of Semin’s stupendously stupid turn-over in last night’s Devils drubbing of the Caps. Putting those concepts together, we came up with an acronym to properly describe the current Devils system:
“Holistic Opportunistic Cerebral Kickass Elegant Yes!” or “Hockey!”.
If “Hockey!” is too confusing for the hockey media to glom on to (and to be honest, other teams do play hockey without playing “Hockey!”, so it is potentially confusing) may we suggest “S to the P4”? That’s cool-kid shorthand for “sound positional puck possession play”. That might cause problems since it sounds a lot like “PL3” (who, you know, the national hockey media talks about a lot), so how about “Sound Holistic Positional” hockey or “SHiP Shape”? Or how about “Holistic and Offensively On Target” or “Give a HOOT, Don’t Make Blind Passes To No One at the Point”. Or how about Zach is Often Offensively-Minded, or “ZOOM” (because “Zach is Often Offensively-Minded But Defensively Responsible and Positionally Sound”, or “ZOOMBDRPS”, is a bit of a mouthful). Or “Welcome Hockey Excitement and Energy”, or “WHEE!” See, when you call The Trap (that’s said while ominously shaking your head) “WHEE!” (said with a big smile and a nod), it makes you a lot less mad, doesn’t it? Go ahead, national hockey media — give it a try.
If no one else gets on board with calling the current Devils system any of these new names, we’ll just have to assume that when they say “trap”, they mean Totally Rad Action Play.