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Friday, November 6, 2015

Lombardi, Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay Lightning (and Bernie Sanders?) … and some Grocery Opera … and an AJ+ Replay ...


Okay, so what the hell is Knucks going on about now, yous ask? Well, he’ll tell yous …

I still consider myself a neophyte when it comes to NHL hockey. That said, I’m learning … and mostly I’ve come to the conclusion that much of Vince Lombardi’s world view, as much as I might disagree with some of it, is pretty much spot on when it comes to a few things: one of which is a sense of socialism that this world, certainly this country, can use more of.

But more on that later … for now I’m discussing last night’s Tampa Bay Lightning performance in a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabrettes (a.k.a. Sabres) … I’ve read a ton on Lombardi, and have reread the same materials more than a few times. I saw the entertaining play on Broadway a few years back and I must’ve watched the HBO documentary a dozen or so times, each time finding myself in tears at the end.

Lombardi was a supremely religious person. I’m not, but I have more respect for his following the words of his Jesus than I do for most clergy. Lombardi had a gay brother and never permitted gay bashing jokes in his locker. He was also an activist against the racism that permeated the early NFL years. Yous can read about that when/if you want. I’ll give a few suggested readings later on.

The thing I most respect about his coaching ability was the breakdown of wins vs. losses. Lombardi was a stickler for execution and graded his players’ performances after each game. If someone did their job, they received a C. The theory being: they did what they were supposed to (paid) to do. He was most often critical of his team after wins, rather than losses, pointing out mistakes that could have cost his team the win.

What’s this have to do with hockey, yous ask?

By the way, yous ask a lot of questions …

Last night my Bolts beat the Sabrettes 4-1, but it was an incredibly poor performance, including in the first period when we scored 3 goals. In that same period, the Sabrettes held the advantage in puck possession on our end of the ice. The second period, quite frankly, was the poorest play I’ve seen this year by our Bolts. They may well be suffering a finals loss hangover, but memo to Bolts: you don’t pick it up soon and you’ll be watching the playoffs this year.

Yes, it’s very early in the season and hockey doesn’t really get started until the new year, so I’m told, but stranger things have happened. Just ask the L.A. Kings …

Our third period last night wasn’t much better than the second; a little better, but not much. Last night’s game puck (if there is such a thing) belongs to our goalie, just back from blood clot surgery, Andrei Vasilevskiy (yes, I used the Lightning roster page to spell it correctly). Now, we’re a team loaded with talent, but for some reason, so far this season we’re just not playing with the same intensity as our foes, not through three periods. Our first period last night, when we had 9+ minutes of puck possession, we were awesome. Callahan set the pace very early on with 3 hits within the 30 seconds or so he was on the ice. We scored three goals in beautiful fashion, and then for much of the rest of the period, the 10+ minutes the Sabrettes maintained puck possession, we seemed to sit back on our laurels. The second period, as I stated above, was an embarrassment, the third period not much better. All hail our goalie. The boys should be buying him dinner for the rest of the month the way he played last night.

One can only hope our coach, who has been juggling lines like a Nervous Nellie of late, make the best of last night’s overall piss-poor performance and do a little Lombardi/Tortorella impersonation. Torts may have been crazy at times, but there’s no lack of respect for his coaching from what this neophyte can tell. Defense first is something I believed in as a football player and coach. You shut a team out, you can’t lose. You score 49 points, you can still lose. Just ask the Moonachie Blue team (a.k.a. Giants).

My advice to Cooper is: settle down coach. Let the lines get reacquainted with each other. Mixing and matching over and over does nothing good in the end (see Finals results from last year). On each line, this neophyte sees the need for a) one aggressive forechecker who will dig for pucks and fight for position in front of the net (Callahan/Palat/Killorn/Boyle/JT Brown/Paquette/Condra), b) forwards with speed and skill (Stamkos/Kucherov/Drouin) and c) a center who can win face-offs (Boyle/Johnson/Filppula) … and our entire team needs to hustle … we should always hustle. Our team is very talented and can fill rolls accordingly, but Stamkos should never be separated from Callahan, nor should Palat fill in the Drouin roll (thus, upsetting the triplets line).

But my beef with last night isn’t so much about scoring as it is about a lack of intensity. I can see how much luck plays a part in every NHL game; from pucks that find the back of the net because it bounced just right, or went off a defenseman’s skate, or another players butt … to penalties missed and/or non-penalties called … to saves a goalie makes blindly because his arms/legs are flailing at the exact right time. The bottom line is the harder you play, the more likely you are to catch some of those lucky breaks (i.e., pucks on net, etc.) … and sometimes you won’t and that’s part of the game, but last night’s performance, outside of the 9+ minutes in the first period, was an embarrassment for our team, and if not for Vasi we may well have lost that one 5 or 6 or 7-3.

And our power play last night … oh, man, I could smell it from Fords, New Jersey.

So maybe it’s time to light a fire under our Bolts, Coop. And guys, maybe it’s time to get over the hangover. Follow the play of your leaders … they NEVER take a shift off.

On to Vince.
I highly recommend the Dick Schapp/Jerry Kramer book, Instant Replay, from many moons ago. Although filled with some not necessarily gospel truth about what Vince may have said from time to time, it does feature many direct quotations from players and coaches alike.

Another fine read was First Season, by John Eisenberg, in which Eisenberg tells the tale of Lombardi’s ability to turn the worst team in the league into an NFL dynasty.

Get it here:

They didn't name the Super Bowl trophy after Lombardi for nothing.

A Lombardi HBO preview …

And here are some famous quotes by Lombardi: Teamwork (from which one could argue the man was a pure socialist) …Now, there are some Lombardi quotes (and philosophy) that I don’t happen to agree with, so make no mistake, these are cherry-picked.

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

“Success is based upon a spiritual quality, a power to inspire others.”

“There is no substitute for work.”

“Unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body, his heart – what’s life worth to him?”

“Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”

“Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.”

“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.”

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. “

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

“Once you have established the goals you want and the price you’re willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure and the temporary failures.”

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.”

Amici, if you can’t find socialism in Lombardi’s words, you aren’t looking very hard.


The Grocery Opera … Compliments of Mr. Don Kirdendall … you gotta love it.


Replaying this one … because it’s important.