Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Benching Doesn't Help A Team Win

In his tenure as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, I have never seen Terry Murray bench as many players as he has so far this season. Yet in spite of all this effort to bring attention to what specific PLAYERS need to work on, the TEAM isn't any better. That got me thinking about whether the benching strategy really works.

Given the team's recent struggles, I see the point of needing to shake things up. If someone is making unnecessary mistakes or not working hard enough, benching is a way to get the player's attention and point out the behavior you don't want replicated. But here's the problem -- EVERY PLAYER on the Kings roster has had some games this season where mistakes or poor work ethic were an issue. So why hasn't EVERYONE on the roster been benched at least once?

If you're Richardson, Sturm, or Ponikarovsky, you should be pissed off Wayne Simmonds hasn't been benched yet. His play at times has been as poor as any other formerly high performing forward. In the defensive corps, Davis Drewiske is probably riding the pine wondering why he's always the odd man out while he watches Doughty and Johnson create turnovers.

Hockey teams are like most groups. When everyone gets treated fairly, people find ways to work together and solve problems. If there are perceived favorites or cliques, people get pissy, sniping starts and the focus becomes laying blame on someone else. So when coaches bench the same guys over and over, they start feeling like there's no way out of the doghouse, and the intended message gets lost. Most importantly, the coach loses their credibility with the team by creating a culture that magnifies mistakes at the expense of rewarding correct behavior.

If you believe, like I do, that hockey is the ultimate team sport, benching individuals serves no purpose. If you want guys to work together, bench an entire line!

The sooner Coach Murray and the Kings embrace the concept that whether you win or lose, you do it TOGETHER, the sooner our TEAM fortunes will turn around.


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