Back in December I posted something about how the over-information effect may've been clogging defensemen's heads with too many thoughts. At that time, it was Ian Cole discussing how sometimes the defense has been told too many things to do that they just don't know what to do, period. At the time, Cole said this:
"They’ve said a lot of things that I agree with," he said, "(and) they’ve said a lot of things that you know ... I think that you as a player are told so much that trying to remember every single thing that they’ve said and apply it ... sometimes I start to overthink what’s going on in every given little tiny situation because I’ve been told so much. So, I think being able to pick through and take the general points and try to apply those in the smartest way possible is what you’ve got to do."
After the Blues' 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night - which was, mind you, one of the flattest games that they could play at the worst time of the year to play flat - T.J. Oshie spoke with Jeremy Rutherford.
"I didn’t think the flu would be good for me," he said, "but coming back in tonight and not having to sit through all the meetings and same old practices, it really felt good to get out there. I was excited again to do something as simple as change well for the next guy coming out.
"I can’t put one finger on it. I’ll just say it was nice for me coming in tonight. I was mentally fresh. Physically, I didn’t feel my best, but I think I was so sharp our there that my game looked a lot faster."
On Monday morning, Oshie, when asked about the possibility of the Blues clinching, had joked, "We’ve got enough to focus on with Hitch’s video."
That's basically what Cole said. Same substance, different style. Should Oshie've said it? Not outside of the room, especially as a member of the leadership of this team. To his credit, Hitch suggested that maybe if the guys are getting too much info he'd scale it back a bit,
"That’s something we’ll talk to the players about, if they think there’s too much information, we’ll adapt," he said. "I think sometimes when you’re slow in your head, any information you’re getting is too much information. We’re playing slow. Everything we’re doing is slow. We’re surprised by pressure, we’re surprised by getting checked, we’re getting beat on board battles."
The thing here, is that Hitchcock appears to be missing the point. The players being slow in the head and playing slow on the ice isn't creating a problem with absorbing the information. Trying to absorb information is more than likely causing the players to be slow on the ice. As Cole said four months ago, the players aren't operating on instinct. They know what they need to do; they're having problems processing how exactly they need to do it.
The slowness and the hesitancy I see on the ice, which is present from nearly the get go (no first period goals in ten games is great evidence of that), sets the tone for the entire game. I should not be able to accurately predict the end of a hockey game between two statistically well matched teams after 20 minutes of play based on observation alone.
Being a coach is the same as being a teacher. As most of you guys know, that's what I get paid the big bucks to do. I've been guilty of explaining a task to students and then watching as they sit there, blank, trying to process the instructions and doing them totally wrong. Usually it's high achieving students - the ones that you automatically assume "oh, they'll get it!" - that have the biggest problem with information overload. It's not that they don't understand the task, or the outcome that needs to happen. It's that they want to make sure that they're doing what you've told them to do correctly, so they over-think.
I have had to tell students in the past to literally "stop thinking, just do, and see what it gets you." That's what the Blues need to do if they want home ice in the playoffs. The coaching staff needs to have enough confidence in the players to be able to tell them that they need to "just do." It's counter-intuitive, but the players and staff will probably be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.