The Philadelphia Flyers used the dump-and-chase method to limited success over the last decade. The philosophy needs a makeover.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. The influence to shift the paradigm is controlled by who possesses the power. Usually, to wield power, a complete evolution must happen.
Previously, I criticized Michel Therrien in detail. His powerplay is predictable, leading to one of the worst conversion ratings in the last decade. Reading the powerplay offense from behind the opposing goal instead of the blue line increases high percentage shots while decreasing neutral zone turnovers. Reshuffling that deck only presents a solution to one-third of hockey scenarios.
Another constant over the last decade has been the ineffectiveness of the dump-and-chase method.
Unless a line of forwards is leaving for a scheduled line change, pushing the puck into the offensive zone must be the course of action. The Philadelphia Flyers possess players who can skate with the puck into the slot to create a high percentage shot. Whether the planned action is an untimely line change or a decision to dump-and-chase is a matter of poor decision-making during the offensive transition. Teams who score at high rates allow forwards to cross into the offensive zone to shoot at the goaltender. Arguably, the Flyers have three lines of forwards who would benefit from that style of play.
Through four head coaches, Philadelphia kept with the dump-and-chase method in varying frequencies. Offensive possession is a metric that can take pressure off of the Flyers’ defense too.
The Archaic Dump-And-Chase
There are times when the dump-and-chase does work. As in any game plan, different ripples in adjustments are valuable to gain leverage. In 2020-2021, Philadelphia played the same divisional opponents eight times. In the games the Flyers lost, they were overwhelmingly handled in puck battles, on the forecheck, and burnt during the defensive transition. Add the inability to adjust on top of the powerplay and penalty kill, and you have a sixth-place team who dropped three straight games to the New Jersey Devils in seventh.
While a two-hundred-foot game is crucial, it is not the almighty way to play hockey. Opportunistic vision is vital to winning games. Strip away the additional opportunities given to the opponent to recover the puck behind their net on a dump-and-chase, and the focus is between the faceoff zones. Resetting in the defensive zone or neutral zone before entering on offense becomes more efficient.
Too many shots come from the outside due to the dump-and-chase, along with the reliance on a successful forecheck. Most passing for Philadelphia takes place between players along the blue line. As a result, many shots on goal aren’t coming from high percentage areas, meaning the through percentage takes a fall while opponents pad defensive stats (blocked shots or forced takeaways into breakaways.)
Getting pucks deep is a great idea when you’re able to win puck battles against any team with confidence. Winning ice position becomes the thesis to sustaining offense.
The philosophy has become too conservative, especially from a franchise that trails early more times than not.
Revitalize the Flyers By Resetting
When playing a team that isn’t physical, the dump-and-chase tactic could be effective. The Flyers have increased the physicality in the later parts of this season but sacrificed the quality of play.
In all likelihood, Philadelphia should adopt the reset method first. First, Alain Vigneault would have to allow his player to play the game they’re meant. As much as Vigneault wants Travis Konecny to become a two-hundred-foot player, he isn’t natural and would fit a reset scheme. The forward lineup is built for speed and space by way of puck placement. Additionally, Vigneault could use those traits to his advantage, stalling for a line change to take advantage of tired opponents.
Scott Laughton consistently has breakaway opportunities at a man disadvantage, so imagine him after a lead pass on a transition reset.
Short-shifting worked in brief moments. Nicolas Aube-Kubel notched a beautiful assist this season on a James van Riemsdyk goal. Considering his offensive production, Aube-Kubel benefited from short shifts once Wade Allison joined the roster. Those kinds of opportunistic plays maximize the bottom six forwards who usually would offer a defensive role.
Offensive defensemen are in their glory when resisting a dump-and-chase method of play. They can occupy the blue line for containment while using their vision to create scoring chances in transition. Puck possession becomes paramount in the offensive and neutral zone considering the Flyers’ defensive pairings.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre