"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Maybe the most overused, under adhered-to word in the hockey world is "accountability".
Every club talks about "holding each other accountable", but those words - like backchecking - are hard work. Humans don't really like hard work. Hockey people are human. Hard work is hard.
It's human nature to explore 'an easier way' to do things and in sports that translates into taking shortcuts which usually precedes something called 'losing'.
So just what is this accountability thing?
Accountability: Accountability is taking or being assigned responsibility for something that you have done or something you are supposed to do. (noun)
In hockey this would include things like: penalties, turning the puck over, shift length, and whining at officiating, along with other stuff.
Mike Babcock is an accountability coach. The Penguins seem like an accountability team. The Blues appear to have found this religion. And if you watched 24/7 Road To The Winter Classic you are very aware of the level of accountability the Rangers John Tortorella asks for and the manner in which he goes about getting it.
In other sports, Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys had it. So did Bill Walsh's 49ers, Lombardi's Packers and John Wooden's Bruins.
It really is a simple concept. Systems and expectations are not a sometimes thing, they are an every time thing.
Holding others to a standard requires confidence and drive, energy and brass. It's hard. But it's also rewarding.
Saying is not doing. Doing is doing.
The proof, you see, is in the pudding. And the pudding is a playoff spot.