CASE STUDY: The Torpedo System
(As a pre-note to this post, the Torpedo System is one that uses four forwards and one defenceman. The forwards are split in two positions: Torpedoes and halfbacks. I have written about the Torpedo System and am a big fan. Here is a great story of a season with the Torpedo.)
I “met” Jeff German on July 23, 2015. He wrote an e-mail to me explaining that he was the Head Coach of the Newark Generals JV hockey team in Ohio and competed at the club level in the Columbus High School league.
“I bought and read your Torpedo Hockey dossier and was really excited about implementing it. I took it to my assistant coach and he was immediately drawn to it. Last year we played an aggressive 2-3 and a passive 2-3 wing lock. We had great success but our goal production was really down. Overall we were 37-9-4.”
He went on:
“Can you tell me how to best implement the Torpedo with the highest efficiency and could you direct me to some drills that will, perhaps, shorten the learning curve? I am really looking for a quick list of do's and don'ts.”
I gave him my list:
1) DO engage parents in your plan and the system.
2) DO explain in simple terms what each position's "mandate" is. e.g. Torpedoes are to forecheck and score!
3) DO sell the system as a skill/individual tactical development and a high scoring system.
4) DO try to change the names of positions to Torpedo, Halfback and Defenceman,
5) DON'T over "X and O" the team. Let it flow and try to cultivate players moving to space rather than being in their "position".
6) DON'T worry about defence. Hard work, puck pressure and good man on man defensive skills will suffice.
7) DO practice offence and power play ALL THE TIME! (Goalies will hate you!)
8) DO modify your own drills to take into account new positions.
9) DO make sure that everyone can be good on one on one rushes as both defencemen and forwards.
10) DO emphasize scoring goals.
Jeff and I wrote back and forth throughout the entire 2015-16 season (well, mostly Jeff giving me updates!). I loved hearing the progress the team was making and how they were doing. After their first game on October 22 - a solid win - Jeff wrote “My takeaway is that the team felt the system was easier than they thought it would be.” This says a lot about the Torpedo System as it is much more seamless and intuitive than most coaches expect.
By December 8, the Generals were 10-0 (12-0 overall) and had outscored their opposition by 61-15. Coach German had made a few tweaks to the system (which I thought were brilliant) and clearly the team was rolling by January 5, 2016 when they won the Cleveland Invitational Tournament and their 20th game making them 20-0. Jeff wrote in his P.S. “I shared your book and concept with a friend of mine who is coaching a High School team that is 0-13. (They have) no ability to defend. He implemented the Torpedo and won his first game 4-1. As I told him, we didn't invent this, but we had the guts to think outside convention and feel this has made the difference.”
I will let Coach German tell of his team’s end of season:
February 23, 2016 - “This past weekend our Newark Generals JV High School Team won the Columbus Blue Jacket Cup. We ended the season 37-0-0. We are on our way to states to compete against the best talent in the Great Lakes Region. While these boys worked hard and are very talented, I attribute much of our success to the Torpedo System. Thank you for taking a system that I was aware of but thought it was too complex to run at this level, and write a great book simplifying it for any age group.”
March 4, 2016 - “We took the Torpedo to States and beat the top team from Toledo 4-3 (in game 1), but the score was much closer sounding than the game actually was. We outshot them 41-16. Game 2 (saw us tie) Holy Name 2-2 after going down 2-0. We played well in the 2nd and 3rd. Not so well in the 1st. Game 3 (had us facing) defending State Champs, St. Ignatius, their coach introduced himself and congratulated me on the best system of hockey and the best team of boys playing that system he has seen in years. Sounds great right! Well, I immediately said to myself "(Shoot)! he watched (our) game on Friday and figured it all out." Turns out I was right. His team was a buzz saw and we couldn't event contend. We lost (badly). Going 1-1-1 wasn't enough to get us into the semi's (and) we went home.
Our team went 38-1-1 this year. Largely due to (the) Torpedo System.
Here are some stats you might like to know (especially considering the topic of your recent blogs):
38-1-1 Playing the Torpedo exclusively including PK and PP. 232 GF. 59 GA. 5.8 Goals a game for, 1.47 Goals a game against. AVG Shots for - 46. AVG Shots Against - 17. 168 PIMs (least penalized in the league by a wide margin)."
Coach German and I have written back and forth the past weeks about the Torpedo - and hockey in general. At the end of March Jeff wrote:
I hope you will write more about the Torpedo. I have been asked to blog about our team, but I am hesitant as many of my competitors wonder how we do what we do, so I am not in a big hurry to write my blog about it. You on the other hand can use our team as a case study. I read about it in June and implemented it in September. I am looking forward to reading it. You deserve a lot of credit for taking Anatoli Tarasov's complex ballet and putting into a system coaches can teach to teenagers. That is the big takeaway here. And, the way our players took to it. It was easier than any other system (1-2-2 and 2-3) I have ever coached.
“I am sure the Torpedo System was important in your success, but I would suggest that your ability to teach and "sell" the system was key as well. Not to mention all of the other little things it takes to keep a team on the right track, focused, energized and motivated. Truly, unless you have 15 Wayne Gretzky's playing for you, the coach needs to take a lot of credit for your season.”
“Thanks for the kind words on coaching. We take very little credit. These kids are remarkable. While we have no Wayne Gretzky's, of that I am sure, we do have a team full of kids that would skate through a wall for us.”
I interviewed Coach German by e-mail about his experiences this season. He sent back a terrific set of answers that I believe needs to be read in its entirety rather than me picking and choosing the best and most pertinent parts. If you are at all interested in the Torpedo System you must read Coach German’s answers. They are insightful and will undoubtedly make you think twice about how you are coaching your system play. You can read the transcript by clicking here.
In recognition of their great season, you can receive a 25% discount by using the discount code NewarkGenerals.