Very early on in his presentation at TCS Live 2023, Dallas Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer addressed the elephant in the room. His former team, the Vegas Golden Knights, defeated the Stars in the Western Conference Final and went on to win the Stanley Cup. “I’ve had a heck of a few months. Lost in the Western final to the team that fired me the year before. But that’s coaching.” DeBoer pointed out that facing this type of adversity is a part of the game and he 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.
Having cleared the air, DeBoer shifted into presenting 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. Many 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 want to 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.”
During his 36 minute presentation, DeBoer focuses on how success in the offensive zone all starts with puck protection (retrieving the puck and protecting it from defenders), details different ways to combat tight defensive zone coverage, and explains why it’s important to play the puck to the weak side of the ice, allowing for the whole offensive zone to be utilized and force the defence to spread out.
As a coach, DeBoer is well known for his emphasis on creating shots from the point. During his presentation, DeBoer also 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 defence 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.
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