Bill Guerin was a second-year NHLer 15 years ago when Jacques Lemaire took over as head coach of the New Jersey Devils and installed a new defensive system. Two years later, Guerin and his teammates were the owners of Stanley Cup rings.
"On his first day, Jacques showed us his new system," Guerin said after practice at the Coliseum today. "It had never been done before. All we did was practice it and practice it, every day until we started to get it right.
"We worked all the time on our positioning, our angles. It didn't happen overnight. But Jacques changed the game, we won a Stanley Cup and the system is still being played today."
Guerin's Devils team was 41-27-12 that first season under Lemaire, then won 47 regular season games and the Cup in Year 2. No one is saying the Islanders can replicate that feat, but it makes it a whole lot easier to buy into a new system when your captain can look you in the eye and say, Been There. Done That.
"It's a challenge, but it gets easier the more you commit to it and the more you work at it," said Guerin. "It means watching a lot of tape and seeing where you did well and where you messed up. You're rewarded for committing to the system and executing it."
sleep 5Gordon has stated since the beginning of the pre-season schedule that his teams have won the games when they nailed the system and lost the games when it got away from them. Guerin said that's inarguably been the case in the Islanders' 2-3 start to the regular season.
"All you have to do is look at the last two games," he said. "In Tampa Bay, we played it well and won. In Florida, we were a step behind most of the night and lost. The results of Scott's forecheck system are like when you're trying to make a play on offense. When you execute it, you can see how it works. If you don't execute, you don't succeed."
Guerin made a point to say, "Without question, everyone is behind Scott." But what happens during those stretches when the system goes off the rails? Recalling his time with Lemaire, the Islanders captain said, "It's the coach's job to enforce it."
The only way a coach can effectively enforce is through the distribution of playing time. With only 12 healthy forwards currently on the Islanders' roster, the first sign that Gordon has decided he's given everyone enough time will be a call to Bridgeport.
ETC: Absolutely nothing to report from practice today. Same lines, no news, no injury updates. Media at practice today: Arthur Staple of Newsday and two guys from Switzerland to talk to Mark Streit.