Learning Offensive Zone Concepts from Pete DeBoer at TCS Live

TCS Live 2023-Pete DeBoer
"In the offensive zone, a coach's job is to simply create time and space for players and allow the offensive instincts to take over."

Excitement levels were high when Dallas Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer stepped onto the stage at TCS Live 2023. Just seconds into his presentation, DeBoer addressed the elephant in the room, joking about watching his former team, the Vegas Golden Knights, defeat his group in the Conference Finals and going on to win the Stanley Cup. Realizing that facing this type of adversity is a part of the game, DeBoer stressed the importance of “not taking the game home.” Only one team in the NHL reaches its ultimate goal in a given year, and it is important not to dwell on the failure that many teams experience at the end of a season.

DeBoer focused his presentation on offensive zone concepts, which he believes is the toughest aspect of hockey to teach. Unlike football where plays are scripted and routes are drawn up, scoring in hockey is largely based on talent and instinct. Most players don’t like to be told by coaches what to do with the puck in the offensive zone. They have been scoring goals their whole lives and can easily rely on their creativity to put the puck in the back of the net. Because of this, DeBoer stresses the importance of not overcoaching. In the offensive zone, a coach’s job is to simply create time and space for players and allow the offensive instincts to take over.

As a result of multiple deep Stanley Cup Playoff runs, DeBoer naturally focuses on scoring goals late in the season when the games are more important, details are more focused, and everything on the ice is tighter. Success in the offensive zone all starts with puck protection; this includes both retrieving the puck and protecting it from defenders. From here, DeBoer details different ways to combat tight defensive zone coverage, which is especially common in the playoffs. Certain details like making sure your defensemen have their heels on the blueline, and playing the puck to the weak side of the ice, allow for the whole offensive zone to be utilized and forces the defense to spread out.

Learning Offensive Zone Concepts from Pete DeBoer at TCS Live

As a coach, DeBoer is well known for his emphasis on creating shots from the point. During his presentation, DeBoer explained the importance of defensemen shooting right off of the pass and limiting stick handles when moving the puck D-to-D. Smaller details like these can make a huge difference, giving the defense less time to react and keeping shooting lanes open. Staying true to his style, DeBoer wrapped up his presentation by stressing that fancy plays and rotations are not what score goals. In DeBoer’s ideal world, every offensive play ends in a net-front scramble, with players going to the dirtiest areas of the ice, and scoring gritty goals.

The most rewarding part of coaching for DeBoer is watching a group buy into themselves as a team and move together as one unit. Backstage, DeBoer talked about compassion and the importance of enjoying each NHL season. Analytics and systems are important, but so are attitude and instincts.

DeBoer’s coaching knowledge and upbeat personality make him both a respected coach and a must-see presenter.

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Andrew Leary

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