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The Stanley Cup – just win four more “Seven Game Segments”

April 13, 2015

Bob HartleyThe Calgary Flames qualified for the NHL playoffs last week to most people’s surprise – myself included. Head coach, Bob Hartley, is being praised for his decision before the regular season to break the schedule into seven game “segments.” As the Flames continued to be “in the playoff race” in late January & early February, Hartley’s seven game segment strategy became more widely known. While he and the players say they believed all season long they could make the playoffs, here are the benefits the coach identified of the seven-game-segment strategy:

1) With a young team, the players would have something measurable to work and play for in the middle of a long season. Another team with many talented, young players, the Edmonton Oilers have struggled with this the past three seasons as they battle the “long days of winter,” playing hard yet only earning a rare victory amidst many defeats and finding nothing (except personal pride) to really play for after Christmas. The Flames found themselves in that situation least season, giving rise to Hartley’s idea initially. The young team could feel a sense of short-term accomplishment, even if the long-term goal of making the playoffs was out of reach… as many expected it might be by mid-season. The young team would have a sense of accomplishing a goal as a team, even if it wasn’t the long-term goal.

2) The team would have something measurable to work and play for in the last two months of the season, even if the playoffs, the long-term goal, were no longer possible. Hoping for some improvement, but perhaps not being in the playoff race this season, the players could at least have a sense of accomplishment as they season ended. Rather than just individuals playing for next year’s contract or to pad their personal statistics, the team could show improvement in their goals as a team (ie winning 3 or 4 of the final 5 seven-game-segments, when they may have lost 4-5 seven game segments prior) from the start of the year.

Of course, as the Flames continued to win each seven-game-segment (they finished the regular season having lost only one seven-game-segment), they were in a playoff race and it was not difficult to keep the young team focused and motivated on the long-term goal – which many thought was at least one more year away (if not more). Now, as they begin the playoffs, one final benefit of the “seven-game-segment” strategy proves beneficial:

3) Now, for every “seven-game-segment” the Flames win, they move closer to the Stanley Cup! Every playoff series will be a best-of-7 and Hartley’s team has been thinking in these terms all year! An 82 game schedule does not break down easily into a mathematical segments (ie 8 X 10 games = 80; 9 X 9 = 81 games) and so the seven game segment strategy works ideally for a playoff team!

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