1. an introductory act or step; leading action: to take the initiative in making friends.
2. readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise: to lack initiative.
3. one's personal, responsible decision: to act on one's own initiative.
Initiative is a relatively common idea. Do you take action, or do you wait for action to happen then react? If you have a financial portfolio in a poor economy do you wait for everything around you to crumble before adjusting your portfolio, or do you get ahead of the problems to take control of the situation? This is essentially what initiative is, and the idea is incredibly important. For centuries military commanders have emphasized gaining the initiative in battle. When the Russians gained the initiative at Stalingrad by encircling German forces they hastened the defeat of the Nazis. After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee stopped attacking the North, and began responding to their attacks instead of seizing the initiative through offensive maneuvers. We know what happened there too.
Obviously, hockey isn't warfare, and it's nowhere near as serious. I think, though, that you're kidding yourself if you see a sport where the outcomes are routinely decided based on territorial advantage, fire superiority, or a quick strike here and there, but don't recognize some parallels. Among those parallels is the value of initiative. What does the military say about initiative?
Initiative sets or changes the terms of battle by action and implies an offensive spirit in the conduct of all operations. Applied to the force as a whole, initiative requires a constant effort to force the enemy to conform to a commander’s operational purposes and tempos, while retaining freedom of action. … Applied to individual soldiers and leaders, initiative requires a willingness and ability to act independently within the framework of the higher commander’s intent.
--US Army Operations Manual, 1994
Effort. Work. Make the enemy conform. Operate independently within the framework of a system. The Stars did none of these things against the Panthers. The Panthers were given the initiative from the get go, and the Stars were systematically dismantled by a team led by a top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. They let the attack be taken to them instead of attacking. They were reactionary. The Stars were flat-footed, outworked, and openly disgusted with their play after the game for a good reason. If you want to see tabular representations of why they were disgusted follow the jump.
You might be surprised to see that the Panthers only out-chanced the Stars 17-7. I was at first, but after considering the results for a moment I was reminded of the impact of the score and game situation on shot totals. Trailing teams outshoot their opponents, while leading teams get outshot. The effect becomes more extreme the closer we get to the end of the game and as the lead gets larger.
Except, that didn't fully apply in this situation. Part of that effect is hidden since this is scoring chances instead of shots, but that isn't the entire issue. Between the chance generated by Sean Bergenheim with 15:16 left in the second period, and Evgeni Dadonov's sheepish goal the Stars outchanced the Panthers 7-6. They were down, stabilized the game, and attempted to generate something. Unfortunately, the Panthers started the game with 9 straight chances before finally allowing Toby Petersen to generate one for the Stars with 14:15 remaining in the second period.
And that brings us back to initiative. The Panthers had it, and they took advantage of it. But, they didn't necessarily take it from the Stars. The Stars run an opportunistic system. They get in their zone, and they wait for chances to strike instead of making chances for themselves. They accept icing the puck, and give away territorial advantage willingly despite generally being poor at taking faceoffs. It's a treacherous way to play, and with both their top defensive forward and top defenseman out they're getting killed.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Stars were outchanced 3-16 at even strength. That's all I have to say about that <End Forrest Gump voice>.
No one is going to look pretty the day after a beating like the Stars took last night. The best player on the ice for the Stars last night was probably Sheldon Souray, and that's only because I didn't notice him. When you lose like THAT, and don't notice a defenseman they were probably doing alright comparatively. He, Robidas, and Petersen were -2 chances to "lead" the Stars.
Adam Pardy and Mark Fistric were a particularly futile defensive pairing. I brought this up a few days ago, and the fears I expressed came to fruition. This season they've been rotating in and out of the lineup riding shotgun to Alex Goligoski. Now, they're out there together, but neither guy has a skill set remotely similar to that of Goligoski. What you saw was ugly. I counted four times where Pardy was either skated around or grossly out of position leading to a chance. I want to say two goals were scored right in his face (Dadonov and Weiss, perhaps?). Last night they were -7 and -9 at even strength in scoring chances. The 6-0 loss is definitely not all on their shoulders. It was a particularly poor performance, however.
No, I'm not going to take this opportunity to praise the work of Goligoski.What I will say though is that I can't imagine a good scenario where Pardy and Fistric are in the lineup together again. Philip Larsen was recalled a few days ago, and he has a similar enough skill set to Goligoski that he will do well. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of him over the next month.
Adding Steve Ott and Larsen to the lineup for Friday should be a pretty sizable shot in the arm for the Stars. Despite how ugly the past few games have been, the Stars are still first in the Pacific with some correctable flaws. If they come out Friday and take the fight to Avalanche there is no reason why they can't get back on track. They have the talent to be a playoff team, and in the recent past they've shown that they have the work ethic to get the most out of that talent. Now, they just need to get into the habit of putting their foot on the gas early to gain the initiative and dictate the style, flow, and tempo of games. Once they consistently figure out how to do that they'll be fine.
(If you're interested in a long paper written about initiative at Fort Leavenworth in 1994 then click here)
Leave a comment here or @JoshL1220 on if there are any scoring questions.