The value of resets vs dump and chase hockey in the modern game

In Coaching Hockey, Tactics by Malcolm SutherlandLeave a Comment

Offence is delimited by one factor: puck possession. And because of this fact, it is directly observable and an analytic that is used by most to capture trends towards successful outcomes in a hockey game.

Puck possession by measures (Corsi, etc.) are linked to the predictability of creating scoring chances and goals by an individual player. To score, however, we must relinquish possession of the puck and take the risk of an unsuccessful attempt resulting in a save or a blocked shot, and therefore a return to defence. This truth puts into question the dump and chase tactic but may not necessarily eliminate this action as a reset tactic.

In elite competition, the rapidity of transition resulting from turning over the puck is costly and in the modern game has become an intense debate in terms of overall team systems. 170-foot attacks now common occurrences with the best teams able to transition immediately advancing with quick and deliberate counter-attacks off of unsuccessful attempts.

Low threat shots have become so costly, that maintaining puck control and passing has become the best option for attacking groups. This has even become the best tactical option even when a player is not taking direct checking pressure. But passing off can also be determined to be an execution error and because of this, it has become an issue seen when players freeze and fail to capitalize on apparent scoring chances. It is needing a player’s second-guessing in high percentage scoring areas that seem most troubling. But, they are not pulling the trigger because they don’t want to be chasing.

Of course, we as coaches may have set this stage for this performance error because we felt that over-passing wasn’t an effective strategy — at least in North America. Today, evidence suggests otherwise.

We understand that direct 1 vs 0 attempts have the lowest probability when compared with a pass-shot (one-timer across the mid-ice seam) scenario. And while the old coaching adage “score off the rush, but don’t be in a rush to score” remains true; drive entries (mid and wing) with half board delays appear to be trending downward in terms of goal scoring chances.

Equally low in the probability of creating scoring probabilities is the tactic of an unforced dump and chase plays. That is, teams that elect to throw the puck deep to gain on-ice positioning deep in the offensive zone rarely regain possession in advantageous on-ice locations. Instead, almost always, it is opponents that successfully retrieve the puck and then make multiple passes or other (particular) exit strategies, leaving the dumping team with multiple forecheckers behind the puck.

This is not to say that resets are not a valuable and effective tactic. Reset is a viable tactic!

They vary from the traditional dump and chase in that this tactic is more purposefully and involves only carefully chosen puck placement. Regaining possession is not even really an objective, but instead, time and space benefit is. For example, a team’s reset option may include soft-placement of the puck from the neutral zone when a line match is prescribed and it is noticed that it is not in play; or when short-shifting is selected as a strategy to catch a team who poorly breaks out or is fatigued and you want to keep them on the ice, exhausted.

Resets may also be used to “run the clock” to manage time and to manage player personnel. Resets may also be used in particular situations, like on-the-road, or early or late-game when well ahead etc.

Characteristically resets differ from a dump in that the forecheck choice is passive and best fitted to locks, traps, or torpedo and other zone configurations. They concede deep space and time but bottle up and create deliberate and obvious constraints. The goal being a slowing and limiting of options for the opponent. The pressure is only typically applied at transition and neutral zone ice locations.

To teach and adopt the reset strategy a number of restricted space, contain, steer, and control, small area games can be selected by coaches. In these games competing players assume roles of exiting or escaping while the “resetting squad” practices forcing turnovers. Try having rep-setters tag up and place the puck in a different (prescribed) reset location. As a coach, you may also add a change player rule to emphasize this teachable tactic.

Use this and other modern strategies to keep your players engaged, improving and wanting more in your next practice and game.

About the Author

Malcolm Sutherland


Malcolm Sutherland is a coach, physical educator, sport pedagogist, and SME in sports development, sports safety and injury prevention. As an athlete and player safety expert Malcolm has developed prevention tools and a program to control serious injury in sport. He is a Chartered Professional Coach holding designation with Coaches of Canada. In hockey specifically, Malcolm is now active as a sought after development coach working internationally and nationally. Malcolm has coached at every level from professional minor leagues, varsity as well as junior and AAA levels of minor hockey. See All Posts By Malcolm


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