AP Hockey Story of the Day: November 5 – On Skill Development as an Inefficiency

There’s a fascinating look at skill development here that reminds me of an interesting anecdote I read in Sports Illustrated a while back. When people think of sports inefficiencies these days they think of analytics, numbers, Moneyball, etc. But those are just the most the most prominent modern manifestations. Back in the late 19th century, Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon began bringing his team down south prior to the season to work on their skills and ability to execute plays like the squeeze bunt and the hit and run. He had players field grounders and fly balls for hours every day, and his teams, more ready for the season than ever before, won three straight National League pennants, leading other managers to copy his practice and develop what has become known as Spring Training. Hanlon actually developed baseball’s first true inefficiency: fundamentals.

That New Yorker article from James Surowiecki talks about a similar development in basketball, almost a century later, but it leads me to wonder, how much skill development is truly being done at the NHL level? I remember people talking about how Pat Quinn was a poor fit for the young Oilers because he wasn’t a teacher (I hope I’m remembering that right, feel free to correct me). You hear about players working skating or shooting over the summer, but how much of that is team-driven? Are there coaches who take the time to teach young players some of the fundamentals that they may have missed learning in juniors, or are they simply benched when they make mistakes? This isn’t an issue I know much about so I’d be curious to hear the opinions of others.

Are skill development and fundamentals inefficiencies that could still be exploited at the NHL level, or are we past that point?

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