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Wanted: High Hockey IQ

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning
There’s a popular expression in hockey that goes like this: “Hard work will beat talent but talent plus hard work can’t be beat.” A less-than-committed effort can result in a loss, even for the most talented team. But talent will win out if both teams are exhibiting the same work ethic.

This is a true statement, but it doesn’t mention one other important component for a team’s success, which is revealed in this second hockey truism: “Hockey is a game of mistakes.”

With each passing second that he is on the ice, every hockey player is faced with a decision. Pass or hang onto the puck? Dump it in or carry it across the blue line? Where to shoot? Attack the puck carrier or sit back? During the course of a 60-minute game, literally thousands of decisions are being made on the ice. Some are good ones, others less so. A key judgment error at a crucial time could lead to an opposition scoring chance – and potentially a goal. It’s true that sometimes a goal comes from a great play from the scoring team and the surrendering club did nothing “wrong”. It also could happen because of bad (or good, depending on your point of view) luck. Maybe a shot glances off the stick of a defending player and finds the upper corner of the net. Then there’s the chance that the “mistake” is a physical one – a goalie misses a shot he could have stopped or a defenseman’s inability to handle a bouncing puck leads to a turnover. But most of the goals that we see are the direct result of mental mistakes. It’s virtually impossible to play a mistake-free game. Hockey is a fast sport and players must make these decisions in a split-second. What might have been a good choice can turn into a suspect one moments later. It is a game of mistakes. So the team that makes fewer – and less egregious – mistakes often will come out on top. So it’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing hard … and intelligently.

Therefore, it’s understandable why the Lightning are placing such an emphasis on building a team with players who have a high “Hockey IQ”. General Manager Brian Lawton and Head Coach Rick Tocchet have repeatedly mentioned this term in describing the sort of player they want on the team. Someone with a high Hockey IQ has an ability to effectively read situations on the ice and make these proper decisions. As an example, Steven Stamkos has a high Hockey IQ and that is one of the reasons why the Lightning are so excited about having him on the team. He was able to excel in the second half of last season not only because he got stronger and more confident. His high Hockey IQ helped him absorb what the coaches were teaching and translate that information on the ice.

So as we approach June’s Entry Draft and July’s free agency period, expect the Bolts to target players who meet the club’s Hockey IQ standard.

Here’s a question from Brett Leblanc …
Hi Dave
I was wondering if Evgeny Artyukhin's contract is up this year? He is my favorite player and I just wondered if he would be with the team next year? GO BOLTS GO!

Thanks for the question, Brett. Evgeny has one year remaining on his current contract with the Lightning. And you’re not alone in your opinion of him!

Again, please submit questions to

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