One of the hardest things to figure out when it comes to coaching is getting line combinations that all click or have chemistry.  There are some player combinations that are like gasoline and water, while others are just silky smooth.   It’s a process and you have to have a lot of patience, as it can take awhile.  

Two years ago, I was coaching a Peewee team here in Minnesota.  My players consisted of all forwards, not one player on the team had defense as their preferred position.  Not an easy problem to solve.  Defense was like a demotion in the eyes of the players, everyone what’s to score the goals.  Not an easy challenge to over come.  

At the beginning of the season player/parent/coach meeting, I had total transparency with the group.  I told them that everyone was going to have a rotation at “D” until I found out what combinations made us the best hockey team.  

It was a long process, as we didn’t have the final line-up determined until the end of January, a couple weeks before our district tournament started.  There were some ugly games along the way, but we pressed forward, thinking that’s another combination that didn’t work, so we were getting closer.  

It was weird how it happened.  It went in parts, one line of forwards just connected with each other, so we kept them together.  Then a set of defensemen played great together.  Then we stopped trying to do the whole team at once, and worked on getting another line locked down and we continued this process till we agreed that this was the combination’s that made us the best team.  We went on to take second in the State Tournament, losing to a phenomenal Edina team.  

The point is this; it takes a long time in order to get your line-up set for playoff hockey.  And even then, coaches have to make adjustments mid-game due to penalties; injuries or they are just flat.   Players have to realize that they can never be married to a position.  Their not forwards or defenseman, they’re hockey players.  

I have one more suggestion I’d like to give you.   Here in MN, there can be up to 3 birth years playing on the same team.  If you have a number of first year players on the squad, and one of them just is struggling, try pairing the player with an older one, or second year.  The extra year of experience for the second year player, can give the first year a little more time and space, because they can do most of the heavy lifting.  Being the first fore checker on the puck, winning battles in the corner, allowing the first year to get used to the pace and added size of the older players.  

That’s all I got for now.  Thanks for reading it and have a great season!!  LP

Lance Pitlick
August 21, 2014 — Lance Pitlick

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