Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Patrick Roy has tossed another log on the fire that is Quebec's debate over the province's struggle to turn out top-end talent.

The coach-GM-owner of the Quebec Remparts pretty much tossed Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher, a former world junior bench boss, under the bus. In Roy's view, because Boucher had success with the Drummondville Voltigeurs (winning the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title in 2009 before leaving for the pros) playing a defensive system, it's spread throughout a copycat league.

The key parts from Roy's quotes in Le Soleil are that defensive systems have "perhaps delayed the development of some young players" and that the league-leading Remparts "are gonna play hockey as it should be played." Here is the original French from Kathleen Lavoie's column, ready to be copied and pasted into a translator:

«On a mis Guy Boucher en haute estime par rapport à sa façon de travailler, mais d'envoyer quatre joueurs dans le coin de territoire, ç'a peut-être retardé l'évolution de certains jeunes et peut-être amené un spectacle moins excitant pour l'amateur de hockey. Nous, les Remparts, c'est certain qu'on n'embarquera pas dans ce système-là. On va jouer le hockey comme il se doit d'être joué.»

Roy's comments are sure to strike up a furore. That '08-09 Voltigeurs team did actually lead the QMJHL in goals (345) and was not accused of playing overly defensively. Our own Mikaël Lalancette, blogging over at Métro Montréal, also points out there are far more likely culprits than Boucher.

At the same time the league which many commonly associate with all-out offence did not have a single 100-point scorer last season (top 2011 draft prospect Sean Couturier, coincidentally playing for Drummondville, tied with since-graduated Nicolas Deschamps with 96 apiece).

Many will also point out it is easy enough for Roy to wish the Q would revert to its bygone days as a freewheeling league. After all, his 15-1-0-1 Remparts can play it that way, with five skaters averaging at least a point per game, including New York Rangers third-rounder Ryan Bourque, a Team USA candidate, overages Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Joël Champagne and Czech newcomer Tomáš Filippi. (They also have the defence and goaltending part well accounted for, too.)

Roy might also be nostalgic for the QMJHL of his youth. He probably did well just to have a 4.44 goals-against average for the Granby Bisons in 1983-84, his NHL draft year.

Regardless, the legendary goaltender has a point. It is easier to teach defence than offensive creativity since in any team sport, it's easier to break a sequence than build one.

It was left to Volts CEO Dominic Ricard to offer an all-things-considered take. Ricard quite reasonably pointed out that QMJHL coaches have to mould their team's style and "talent is more limited" in the 18-team league than it was in the past. The capacity for firewagon hockey is a luxury for the few.

«La réalité, c'est que les entraîneurs adaptent toujours leur système en fonction de leurs joueurs. Ce qu'on vit dans la Ligue, c'est qu'il n'y a pas beaucoup de puissances offensives dotées d'un one-two punch. Le talent est plus limité.»

Trust the often-outspoken Roy to amplify things.

Is there a correlation between coaching tactics and the type of NHLers a league produces?

The Western Hockey League, at least in recollection, went through a phase of tight-checking hockey in the late 1990s and early aughties. Today, the Dub stands as a leading producer of good defencemen and hard-as-nails two-way players, but few elite scorers. (The San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau, who played in Seattle, was the only former WHLer among the NHL's top 20 scorers last season.) That will probably change in years to come since it has tweaked its game.

Together, Roy and Ricard's arguments raise some good questions. The QMJHL has become more competitive nationally in the past decade and a half (four MasterCard Memorial Cup wins across the past 15 seasons).

However, we are well into the sports-as-entertainment era. Coaches want to win and stay employed, but most metrics in any sport show fans are more receptive to seeing lots of action and scoring. It is fair to make a parallel between low scores and empty seats. Roy maybe just needed to find a better target, but he knows what draws a crowd.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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