A Mike Johnston primer

Dave Molinari 7 years ago

Mike Johnston, coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks, appears to be high -- and, quite possibly, on top of -- the list of candidates to be the Penguins' next coach.

He is expected to interview with general manager Jim Rutherford in Philadelphia, site of this weekend's NHL draft, within the next few days.

Much can change, of course, but an individual familiar with the search said today that Rutherford apparently has been impressed not only by his conversations with Johnston, but by what he has learned about him while researching his background.

One thing Rutherford wouldn't have to look far for is Johnston's up-tempo, aggressive offensive coaching philosophy, because Johnston laid it out on the Winterhawks' website.

Here it is, as presented there:


1. Be a First Pass Team

• Defense needs to look for the smart play

• Allow passes to the front of the net or through the middle

• Discourage the “dump out” or “no look rim” style of play

• Safe plays stifle creativity

• An area pass is still a direct pass…utilize bank passes off the boards and laying pucks into open spaces for teammates to skate into

• The players away from the puck have a responsibility to get their stick open and available for direct passes…(much like a receiver in football)

• Use of deception “look away” to have more time to make a play

• Practice transition off the back check and their rush chances

2. Shoot the Puck and Drive the Net

• Sounds simple but volume of shots are key

• Check the shot totals of the top scorers in the NHL…and also shots that miss the net or are blocked per game…the puck must get through

• Defensive coverage often breaks down after a shot

• Net drives off the puck create a play at the net but also openings in the slot. First two players away from the puck must drive the net with no hesitation…(unless the puck carrier has the wide lane deep)

• The first drive should be through the mid lane

• Funnel shots and players to the net

3. Activate Your Defense into the Attack

• Encourage them to join and stay in the rush from the breakout… supporting the mid or wide lane up the ice.

• Often the net D will have an opportunity to move up ice before the low forward in defensive zone coverage.

• Make the attack an odd number by their blueline

• Responsibility is in the hands of the puckcarrier…don’t blame the defence for creating options

• Go after chips or dump in’s when they have the speed

4. Stretch Out the Offensive Zone

• Get the puck to the back of the net on the cycle and work plays from there… stressing their coverage

• On shots off the rush move the puck low/high right away and catch them over backchecking

• On low scrambles move the puck back to the point quickly and catch the team collapsing

• Players and coaches underestimate the danger of point shots

5. Cycle With a Purpose

• Challenge their ability to contain by driving the seams and going to the net with the puck

• Set picks and screens to open up ice for the puckcarier

• Work the overload…once the puck is passed back to the corner that player needs to get into an overload position ready to shoot

• Defence support the backside…strongside slide…or mid ice seam… practice plays involving the defence on the cycle

6. Work Set Plays

• Have set faceoff plays for each zone which will create an offensive advantage. Your centers should take responsibility for every set up… remember you can win by losing

• Control breakouts vs. low trap…work options off a set pattern

• PP stretch breakout… which has the ability to score on the rush

• Regroups geared to beat the trap and hit their blue line with speed