Brad Shaw, the Philadelphia Flyers new associate coach,will handle the defense and the penalty kill this season. He wants his team to be more aggressive in both areas.
Shaw, 58, is reunited with head coach John Tortorella. The two had success during their five seasons together in Columbus.
“It feels like a real good reunion,” Shaw, who was an NHL defenseman for parts of 11 seasons, said in a recent Flyers Daily podcast with Jason Myrtetus. “I have the utmost respect for him in how he runs the bench and runs the room and guides the team. Can’t wait to get going again.”
Shaw said he will “fill the gaps” for Tortorella. “He’s very black and white in his messaging and I think there is some gray within the game of hockey, and the guys need some of that explained, and it falls on the assistant coach or associate coach’s lap and allows them to kind of take care of that.”
He said Torts gives the players freedom that “allows them to grow” and permits them to “test what works and what doesn’t work, and through that process, you get smart hockey players and a fantastic team-based group of athletes that are all pulling in the same direction.”
Fans supply ‘more incentive’
Shaw, a former assistant with Tampa Bay, the Islanders, St. Louis, Columbus, and Vancouver, said he is “excited about the opportunity in such a sports-fanatic city. There’s four or five of them in the country. .. I’m looking forward to the pressure that comes with playing in an environment like that, I think it helps our players get to their best hockey quicker. It’s one more incentive.”
Added Shaw: “You can feel it. It’s intimidating. We have to get the team playing to a point where we get that energy going every night, and we get that passion and give them something to cheer about. It might be a bit of a process . Might not happen as quickly as we all like, but we’re going to get there.”
One of Shaw’s biggest challenges will be trying to improve a defense that allowed 3.59 goals per game (27th in the NHL) and was 26th on the penalty kill (75.7 percent success rate).
During a five-year stint with Columbus, the Blue Jackets; had an 80.9 percent success rate on the PK, 12th in the NHL. They were tied for No. 1, at 85 percent, in 2018-19.
Creating an identity and “getting the players to embrace it” is one of the team’s goals, said Shaw. That, he said, is in Tortorella’s wheelhouse. “I’m not sure there’s a better coach to get that done, especially in a short term,” Shaw said.
Defensive structure needed
Creating a defensive structure will be critical, he said.
“I think there are certain habits, certain mindsets we have to embrace,” Shaw said. “We have to realize that being a better checking team doesn’t just help you defensively, but helps you on offense because you’re not spending as much time defending. I think individually, there’s always things to work on. I don’t care who you are as a player.
“On the defensive side, sometimes its just a little more awareness and a little bit more attention to detail on defensive habits. So that’s something we’ll hammer home,” he said. “I know Torts has specific ways to play D-zone coverage and in the neutral zone and the forecheck and all the different structures without the puck.”
Perhaps most important: “We’d like to get the type of chance (for an opponent) and the quality of chance a little bit more predictable for Carter Hart and whoever else is playing in the net,” Shaw said. “That’s a process. There’s going to be be some bumps in the road. There’s going to be some mistakes and that’s fine. Those are going to happen. It’s a game of mistakes. We’re just going to try to minimize them and have them happen in (less-dangerous) areas of the ice … so we don’t pay a price for it.”
If Ryan Ellis returns from a pelvic injury, of course, the defense will be much improved.
As for how Shaw runs the penalty kill …
“We know we’re going to give up shots and chances, but we want to try to minimize them,” he said. “We want to try to take away their first option, second and maybe even third options — and get them a little disjointed and get them a little bit frustrated and out of sync. I think good checking and good defensive-team play does that. And it doesn’t mean you have to sit back… It’s going to be assertive. It’s going go be aggressive. We want to be as decisive as we can in our checking so we can get back on offense as soon as possible.”