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Best. Coach. Ever.



Did I over-PC my blog?  I think I may have.  Lord knows I’ve been tap-dancing around issues lately, and that’s no fun.  So let’s collectively loosen up.

Let’s start with an unedited fuck you to Jose Theodore, who is apparently unaware that he’s my fantasy goalie, and so posted a 26.09 GAA with a .400 save percentage last night with no regard for my fantasy team.  Thanks.  That’ll be really easy to bounce back from with CAREY FUCKING PRICE as my other goaltender.

Sorry about the language.

Moving on.


From the SPHL, here’s the type of person that made hockey so quittable for me:


Keep in mind that unless your coach has a YouTube worthy meltdown to get him fired, sometimes you’re just stuck with a dumbass for a coach.  On that train of thought, let’s put a positive spin on it…

The Best Coach I Ever Had

Still a taaad manipulative, but good at his job.

Still a tad manipulative, but good at his job.

The best coach I ever had was my coach for less than two months, Davis Payne.

After my senior year of college, I had a few classes to wrap up, so I wasn’t able to go anywhere to start playing professionally.  Fortunately for me, Davis gave me the chance to join the Alaska Aces and at least get my feet wet playing in the ECHL playoffs, since I was there anyways.  They let me miss games when I had tests to take, and took me on the road when I was able to go.  I felt like Mario goddamn Lemieux. “No, I’ll just play games, thanks”.

Certainly that doesn’t qualify him as a good coach though… this does:

We were prepared with Davis.  X’s and O’s-wise, I mean.

“Old school coaches” that GM’s and owners love to hire (“nobody’s slackin’ on our team!”) beat up the same tired mantra.  It’s about hard work.

Gotta be ready from the drop of the puck!  Finish checks!  Out-work ‘em down low!  Gogogo!  …Oh we lost?  We got outworked.  See you at practice tomorrow.

Davis would still preach hard work, but he prepares his teams too.  Before each game, the whiteboard was JAMMED with information.  Those crib notes included our opponents most used breakouts, their powerplay breakouts, powerplay setups, who to “key on” (who’s the most frequent PP shooter, stay in his lane), what their penalty kill setup is, goalie’s weakness etc.  Then, the list of all of our info… same stuff, other side.

He had it up as soon as we walked in the room, so guys could grab a coffee and study up before he came in and went over it all.

Between periods, he made adjustments.  “They switched from a box plus-one on the powerplay to an umbrella, here’s our counter-adjustment…”

And we had the confidence of absolutely knowing we were more prepared than our opponent, especially in the ECHL (the year before that season they won the Kelly Cup, and that year we went to the conference finals).  And having played for three other coaches in the ECHL, I can tell you that we were way, way (way), more prepared on that team than any other team I’ve been on since.

And so you work hard, but you don’t waste energy.  You’re in the right spots.

On that team, I never felt like I came to feel in the following seasons, like I was chasing the puck around like a cat after a laser pointer.  Ohthereitgoes!  Thereitisagain!  CrapIcan’tgetit.

Which is why I believe the style of coach needed in the NHL has changed, but some teams haven’t realized it yet.  Mike Kennan?  Gimme a break. 

If you think Mike Babcock has had so much success just because of Datsyuk and Zetterberg, you’re nuts (don’t forget he had, ahem, Chris Osgood in net).  Plenty of coaches have stars to work with.  “The wings dig up amazing talent” isn’t an infrequent comment.  My contention is that maybe they do, but also, maybe they just put them in the best situations to be successful, they way Bill Belichick makes good players great in New England.  No, no, it was that Matt Cassel has a rocket arm.  Was it?

So there ya have it.  Cheers to the Davis Payne’s of the world.


Davis is now the Head Coach of the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen, and in my opinion, a likely candidate for Andy Murray’s job next year.


In the eight playoff games they chucked me in, I think I had 3 and 2 for 5, but was semi-retarded the first few times I attempted his “layering” d-zone theory.  I was used to my college “cover their D” job as a winger, better known as “don’t let Alex Goligoski get the puck”, or the ”don’t ever let Matt Carle shoot” theory. 


20 Responses to “Best. Coach. Ever.”
  1. ms.conduct says:

    Ahhh, so that’s why Peoria’s such a pain in the ass for their given talent level… no offense Peo… and why the Aeros are, too. I get the impression KC is a similar kind of coach.

    Nice job on the FH rant, but then I’m a staunch supporter of f-bombs and other things that might set people’s teeth on edge.

  2. Josh Ciocco says:

    Just have to make a comment here—”the layering system” is what you used in Salmon Arm, very efficient and makes so much sense, but is that a coincidence? Garry Davidson coached us, andy murray was part owner and frequented our locker room. Im assuming Andy passed that sytem on to Gary. Alaska is affiliated with St. Louis-maybe andy implemented it there as well?

  3. jtbourne says:

    It’s possible. Murray was with the Kings then, right?

    PS, I never got traded to Salmon Arm, that was you, remember? Oh, and remember that time we played your new team after that and you ran me from behind? That was sweet. I was playing on percaset for a seperated shoulder at the time, didn’t know what it was (anti-inflammatory?) and was as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest (Bob Dever reference).

  4. zyllyx says:

    RE: Fantasy goalies, I think i have you beat. I started Steve Mason last night. #epicfail

    As for coaches, I’d have loved to have been on the ice when Wayne Gretzky was “coaching” the Coyotes. I have this idea that he was out there saying something like, “Okay, when I scored my millionth goal, I did this and this and this. See if you guys can’t try that in the next game. Golf? Okay!”

  5. Frank says:

    one of the most frustrating things about following a minor leauge team (the Aces in my case in Anchorage) is that you want the players/coaches to succeed….but if they are too successful, they go onto better things and leave the team you are following. Davis Payne is a perfect example of that…..

  6. Miller Time! says:

    Jose Theodore and Carey Price your 2 goalies? Were you not allowed to draft a goalie till all other goalies were taken? I can’t believe with such a hockey mind as yours you’d pick that shit bourne. Dissapointing. Mabey stick to Football, you’ve been doing well as on late. haha

  7. RewskiUVA says:

    Do you know how to pronounce Jose Theodore in french?


  8. dertshoot says:

    Do Vandy Next! Do Vandy Next hahaha!

  9. Neil says:

    I read the title of this piece and got excited, I assumed it was going to be about you and me working on your shot when you played with the Lakeview Lakers, but I guess you meant “coach” in more of a professional context, I was more of a trainer or iconic figure.

  10. John says:

    Great post. A good/smart coach is a helluva thing to come across at any level. Payne sounds wonderful. Strategy instead of misguided sweat. Feel free to explain the “layered defense” that he coached if you care to.

    I think many possibly promising careers are curtailed by knucklehead coaches…starting at the pee-wee level.

  11. J.B. says:

    JB…from another J.B., thought you might see this more that I am a fan of your writing and less that I am stealing your material..

  12. andy says:

    Jose Theodore? Dude! Man. I mean, he joins my small category of really good looking goaltenders (many have nice eyes, but … yeesh, keep that mask on!) but I never considered picking him up as my fantasy goaltender. Oh, I picked Tim Thomas, yeah, and Dwayne Roloson, but Dwayne has actually been doing pretty good lately. (But Price! I can almost forgive Theodore, but Price? After the way he folded like a cheap lawn chair last year … and it’s not his fault! He’s a great goaltender, honestly. But I think he’s not handling the pressure very well. I salute you for going with him, because I never would have. Now I would have grabbed Nabokov if I had gotten an earlier seat in the fantasy draft, then Emery. Did anyone see Anderson coming?)

    Although it’s all the Flyers players, and Rene Bourque who have been pushing up my fantasy team standing. Go guys, go! (Am I bragging? Oh, a tad. But not really. I picked Bourque because I thought he was the best player on the Flames last year, next to Ignla and Kiprusoff.)

  13. Jamie says:

    Very interesting perspective on coaching, refreshing to read. What exactly is the “layering” system in D-zone coverage? Thanks in advance…

  14. Kevin Croxton says:

    I guess I’ll get sucked into commenting on this article. No doubt that Davis was the best coach I ever had. Like you say in your article he knows how to prepare and how to make in game adjustments. Another thing he was really good at was when we were up big in a game he would take that time to really coach during the game. He wouldn’t just be sitting there content with blowing out a team but he took advantage of that time to make his team even better. The first couple of times it was a little odd to have a coach that would take out the board and give you pointers with 7 minutes to go in a game we were winning 6-1. I think this is part of what made him such a great coach. We definitely didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things and I think Bourney was waiting for me to comment on this article because I was dumb enough one time to speak my mind in a one on one meeting only to get Davis so fired up he broke a pen in two and kicked me out of his office. I thought he was going to punch me in the face. Probably not the best career move I ever made! I do think he’ll be in the NHL someday and he deserves it with all the hard work he’s put into coaching. I feel that he is ahead of his time in the sense that he’s not an old school Mike Keenan type that players no longer respond to and he knows how to get the most out of his players.

  15. Kimbi Daniels says:

    Love it Crox! I guess I should have told you that “free thinkers” are not thought of too highly in Pro hockey. My best meeting didn’t end with a broken sharpie, just a 30 minute stare off that led to me being late for warm up. I’ve played for guys striving in the NHL but none as good as Davis. There are lots of good X & O guys but he has the ability to communicate, inspire, and motivate which is now essential with you “young guys”! Great read Justin.

  16. jtbourne says:

    Well said Kimbi, and thanks for commenting! (readers, “hockeydb” search Kimbi. Quite the hockey resume)

  17. AcesFan says:

    Davis Payne just announced as interim coach of the Blues.

    Woo hoo!!!

  18. Peter Ettinger says:

    Great Blog Justin and and so nice to see Davis Payne getting his well deserved shot.

    Best of lock with the writing.

  19. Christopher Gent says:

    Nice analysis JT. Darn near prophetic on Coach Payne taking over. I am glad to hear someone has said this long before he was named coach in STL.

  20. pt says:

    what is the layering defense all about?

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