Lindy Ruff has been nothing if not adaptable in his lengthy NHL coaching career, changing his game plan to fit the pieces at this disposal and persisting though 15 seasons with one team because of it.
So without one set style of play, with no real signature brand, Ruff's tenure as the Dallas Stars' tactician began Thursday with much intrigue where "systems" were concerned. He wasted little time on the practice ice with the white board by all accounts, and he wasted little time in explaining his goals to the media.
"Playing more puck pressure, being more aggressive with our defense and spending more time in the offensive zone," explained Ruff simply.
The plan appears to include a lot of what Marc Crawford referred to as "activating the defense", and Shawn Horcoff indicates that Ruff feels this is an essential element of generating offense.
"We're going to be aggressive," Horcoff added. "We're going to turn pucks over. We are going to attack and when we do attack we want that fourth D to join because everyone in the league back-checks. You need to drive the net and get pucks to the net. We're going to drive and that D is going to be the one that is open in those holes to create some offense for us."
Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley can provide what they're looking for, but balance on the back-check and recovering above the puck will be key. How the defensive pairings shake out in the coming weeks will be of particular interest if offense threat from the blue line is to be emphasized.
Defending has not yet entered the public conversation.
"We are going to be aggressive out there and go for it," Jamie Benn said. "We want to have a puck possession game." We want to make plays, be aggressive in the offensive zone. We want our D-men to pinch in the offensive zone when it is the right time, and the accountability for the players to be in the right positions, and trust your teammates out there."
If nothing else, it should be an exciting brand of hockey to behold. It may even be somewhat resemblant of Glen Gulutzan's more "direct" style of hockey - A narrative that was all the rage in April as the Stars charged hard back into a playoff spot before fading in the final games.
Whatever the style, Ruff and staff don't have long before preseason play arrives Sunday.
"We're trying to implement how we want to play in a very short period of time."
He indicated film work is being done before on-ice sessions, and the scrimmages are taking place daily in an apparent effort to get the work in more game-like conditions.
"For the most part, I thought we had some real good shifts in the scrimmage," Ruff said after Thursday's session. "We created a couple of great opportunities, and scored a couple of goals on having real good net-front presence, where the goaltender is fighting to see the puck. When you start scoring the ugly goals, I know you are getting to the right place."
Beyond X's and O's Ruff wants his guys to do the hard work, to compete, and to do things at high speed.
"I'm big on a lot of pace," Ruff told media yesterday. "If you practice at high speed, you'll play at high speed."
So Stars fans left impressed at the intensity of the on-ice sessions. Of course, it's all been said before.
"We'll practice that way -- pacey -- all the time," Former head coach Gulutzan said in September of 2011 in PEI. "If you want to play pacey you have to practice pacey. The two have to be together."
So words are nice, and they're all we have at the moment. The proof, of course, will be in the box scores.
Intrasquad scrimmages continue today at 11:45 in Fort Worth, and tomorrow morning at 10:00am. A "controlled scrimmage" (special teams play emphasis?) will be held Tuesday morning in Frisco at 10am. All practices and scrimmages are open to the public and will continue to be upon return to Frisco next week.
More from Defending Big D:
- Dallas Stars Training Camp: Observations From Day #1
- Dallas Stars Training Camp Update: Rich Peverley Sidelined With EKG "Blip," Aaron Rome Out Until October
- DBD's 2013 Dallas Stars Training Camp Preview
- Dallas Stars Daily Links: Stars Training Camp in Full Swing
- Lindy Ruff: Jamie Benn May Still See Shifts at Center