Welcome to the newest edition of “Point/Counterpoint,” where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes present both sides of one particular issue with their own unique view and flair.
This week Kim P and Craig F debate which mode is the most important part of a team: offense or defense.
Point: Offense is Most Important
By Kim P
Whenever the importance of offense vs. the importance of defense comes up, arguments can be made for either side. Some say that a team is only as good as their goaltending and defense, and while both of those things are incredibly important, having a strong offense is the most important.
I always like to compare goaltending in hockey to pitching in baseball. You can have a fantastic goaltender – an “ace pitcher” if you will — but if you have a poor offense that can’t score even against a mediocre goalie, something will eventually give for the other team. A team who is constantly firing shots at the net will wind up breaking down the defense.
Yes, you need to have a solid defense. Fending off an aggressive offensive attack is what everyone on the team is responsible for, not just those on the blue line. But when a team spends the entire game fending off an attack like that, they have little to no time to actually go on the attack themselves. They get tired and worn out and the defense breaks down, and the other team capitalizes.
Consider teams like the New York Rangers and the Nashville Predators. Both teams have solid defensive corps and terrific goaltenders (both of whom are Vezina finalists), but both fell short in the playoffs because they were outscored by the opponents who eliminated them.
And in the Stanley Cup Final, both Jonathan Quick (Kings) and Martin Brodeur (Devils) put on incredible performances in net, but in the end, the Kings’ revitalized offense overpowered New Jersey’s defense and goaltending, and it helped win them the Cup.
Until the Kings won this year, the last team to average under three goals per game in the regular season was Tampa Bay in 2004. Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston all featured a deadly offense to augment their defensive capabilities and prowess in the crease.
As important as defense is, teams can’t win games on it alone. A strong defense will get a team a lot, but it’s not everything.
Counterpoint: Defense is Most Important
By Craig F
Coming into this postseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Steve Sullivan, Jordan Staal and a seemingly-endless cast of offense-producers at all ends of the rink, how would the Pens not win? Six games later, they were sent home by our Flyers.
Meanwhile, the L.A. Kings, a team that was lucky to end up second-least in goals for, went 16-4 to take out the top three seeds in the West before beating the New Jersey Devils. Due to Quick’s amazing goaltending and strong defense from players like Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, and Matt Greene, the Kings were able to beat the Devils in the Finals with three victories where they only allowed a goal against and one shutout.
There is a reason why one of the oldest sayings in sports is “offense sells tickets and
defense wins championships.” It’s because it’s true. It is much easier for a team to
consistently produce strong defensive performances rather than produce strong offensive
performances. If a team builds its success around their offensive production, they are
playing with a lot of risk. Players can hit cold streaks and go forever without scoring
goals (look at Danny Briere this season) or they can sustain several injuries throughout a
campaign and never really find their groove (re: JvR).
If a team builds their team on defense, it is much easier for a team to succeed. Defense is
comprised mostly of discipline, willpower and desire. If a player wants to hustle back to break up a rush or wants to block a shot they will. Of course it won’t happen every time, but preparation and effort prevail more on the defensive side of the game while chance and streakiness play a huge role in the offensive side of the game.
Teams like the Rangers and Predators failed in the playoffs, but at least they made the playoffs with their plan of strong defense and little offense. Where are the teams with strong offense and little defense? The Toronto Maple Leafs finished 10th in goals for and 29th in goals against, while the Tampa Bay Lightning (who had a 60-goal scorer in Steven Stamkos) finished ninth in GPG and 30th in goals against. Both teams missed the playoffs by several points. Meanwhile the Kings, St. Louis Blues (21st in GPG, first in GAG) and Phoenix Coyotes (18th/fifth) all won at least one postseason series, if not more.
Teams don’t win games on defense alone, they win championships.