Chiefs Owner Tells Paper "Changes are Coming"

In an April 14 article by Mike Mastovich of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown Chiefs President Jim Weber promised that changes are coming.

“Last year we went farther in the playoffs and I’m not happy that we took a step back,” Weber told the paper. “I gave this system two years. I’m starting a reassessment process, everything from top to bottom. I’m going to take into consideration some things the fans said and things people in the hockey operation said. In the end, I’m going to take full responsibility for doing what is right for the entertainment factor for the fans as well as the on-ice product.”

Mastovich notes the Lightning handled personnel moves during a 33-33-6 fifth-place season and “it’s no secret that without Tampa Bay assigning the majority of the players and offsetting many expenses associated with hockey operations, this team would be history in Johnstown.”

He also states that the constant player movement between Johnstown and Springfield was detrimental to the team, leaving them embarrassingly short on players some nights, and fans “frequently complained they were bored watching players attempt to execute [Tampa Bay’s] system.”

Head Coach Frank Anzalone told the newspaper fans should be proud of Chiefs players this year despite the team’s first round exit. However, he also stated: “Yeah, everybody wants to quote-unquote go deep in the playoffs and win Kelly Cups. But you have to have a team built for that. This organization is built to develop hockey players.”

Mastovich reports the Lightning hired Anzalone prior to the 2005-06 season and he has another year remaining on his contract. “But Weber’s comments might indicate that Anzalone’s status is uncertain despite his taking the Chiefs to two straight playoff appearances, including a two-game sweep over Trenton a year ago.”

“I have no desire to operate in the status quo and do the same things,” Weber told the paper. “I’m looking for better results. I’ve talked to the people in Tampa and they’re willing to embark on an effort where we’re going to be able to improve our product on the ice and improve our fan experience. I’m as unhappy as many of our fans about some of the things that have gone on during the past two years. I don’t want to expand on that. Expect changes, because if you do the same thing, you’re going to get the same result.”

For the full article, please see the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

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What is the Tampa system?

I have not been on the board long. Came on after the announcing of the affiliation agreement between Tampa and Norfolk. I have been trying to soak up everything I can in anticipation of the team in Norfolk next year.

I read the comments of the Johnstown owner concerning the inability of Chiefs being able to play the "Tampa system". I have seen other comments from the Springfield folks saying the Falcons couldn't play the "Tampa system".

Could someone please explain to this newbie what exactly the "Tampa system" is and why it is so difficult to apply it to the farm clubs. It is is pretty standard practice to have the farm affiliates play the system of the parent club in that you develop players who can come to the big club and fit in without a lot of retooling. What makes this "system" different from other teams' systems.

Thanks for your patience.

I'll take a shot...

Other feel free to chime in as well...

TBL's system basically relies on an aggressive two-man forecheck designed to hurry the opponent, and create turnovers in their own zone and in the neutral zone. Furthermore, the defensemen are encouraged to aggressive pinch in order to maintain puck possession in the offensive zone.

In the defensive zone, all five skaters collapse down low in order to focus on blocking shots and forcing the offense to work the perimeter. It then relies on crisp passing or puck carrying by the defensemen when moving the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice.

In short, the system relies on good skating, puck moving defensemen, and a hard aggressive forecheck by the forwards. When executed properly, it is a very up-tempo and entertaining system, designed to hinder trapping defenses from getting setup.

There are some key points to "executed properly". It requires everyone to be very defensively responsible even though almost everyone has a green light to jump up in the play. Since, two forwards are in on an aggressive forecheck, they MUST hustle back when the offensive gets the puck out of the zone. When the defensemen aggressively pince, forwards MUST get back up high and cover, which can be trick since the forwards are actively engaged in cycling the puck. Since everyone collapses in the defensive zone, forwards really have to hustle to the boards from the middle of the ice in order to battle for the puck. As you can see, there is a huge emphasis on skating and working hard, which is why there is a very huge emphasis on conditioning throughout the organization.

Invariably, this style gives up odd-man rushes the other way and relies on good goaltending to come up with that big save. I guess I should also mention the emphasis on the poke check as as well.

There's a sometimes a fine line between success and failure with this system, and even more so in a teaching situation down on the farm with a lot wider variance in skill and ability.

What am I leaving out?

The reason it's difficult to

The reason it's difficult to execute at the minor league level is because it is hard to find two things in the AHL/ECHL:

1.) Defensemen who are mobile and who make a good first pass out of the zone.
2.) Forwards with the speed to get in on the forecheck and win loose pucks consistently while at the same time being able to get back in the play defensively.

Players who have those characteristics don't stick around the AHL/ECHL very long because they tend to be snapped up to the NHL very quickly.

But, it's not like the Lightning can NOT teach their system in the minor leagues. These young players have to be prepared if they ever are called up to the NHL and you don't get prepared by playing the trap or some other system more geared toward a slower more plodding roster. So it's a conundrum and one which probably only can be solved over the course of time as the Lightning identify and develop talent like David Spina, for instance, who might only be average AHL players but have the correct speed and mindset to play this system effectively.

Thank you both for taking

Thank you both for taking the time to explain it to me. It was exactly what I was looking for. I agree, it is an exciting system to run, as long as you have the players to run it.

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