Since the evolution(no pun intended) of increasingly pinched offset heads over the last ten years our game has changed appreciably. The days of pick and roll, tick-tack-toe, and set plays have taken a back seat to the power cradle sweep. The new heads have allowed average players to do things they could never have done before. ie. cradle through ten defenders before cranking a 100 mph shot on the run while fading away from the goal. Much to my delight, I watched an old school style player recently and was reminded how much fun our game was to watch and play. Bucknell's Chris Cara has one of the most balanced games in the nation with 29 g, 36 a placing him fifth in the nation at press time.
We often write about what players can do with the new heads, but we rarely write about what a player can't do with one if it has the seemingly requisite deep pocket with pinched offset head technology. Put the standard bag on a pinched offset head and many facets of a players game disappear. No longer can a player get off a quick pass or shoot in a hurry. Cradling in an upright position becomes awkward. Chris Cara uses a Brine Cyber(an offset head fairly wide for today's standards), but the way he has it strung is the key to his game. His pocket depth is very shallow except for the very bottom. To attain this affect he loosens the bottom string that holds the mesh by the stopper so that when cradling upright the ball settles nicely. The rest of the pocket remains tight allowing a quick release and more passing opportunities(no whip). Look at the picture.
Cara's upright cradle, pocket style, and approach to dodging allow him to dismantle defenses the way it used to be done before pinched offset heads. His entire came is based in solid fundamentals which offset heads have taken a toll on.
Chris can't use the power cradle with this style pocket, but by cradling upright he can keep his stick near his ear making it difficult for a defenseman to get a check in without hitting his head. By using body position and foot work the key is not to cradle through a stick check, but to avoid taking them. He approaches the cage with the stick by his ear; if a slide comes he can push the ball forward without cocking it back. Some guys out there are bringing the stick to their behinds and releasing by their ears because their sticks have warped their natural throwing motion. There's just no time for that in certain situations. When he gets past goal line extended one of two things can happen. Either he'll shoot from point blank range or he'll feed a teammate for a good opportunity. Either way, a quick decision is made easier with a stick that allows for a quick release.
It's not the stick that's making the player in this situation rather it's a player knowing what he wants to accomplish and how he wants his stick to help him. Cara is a dangerous player because he has mastered the fundamentals. He's not big enough to overpower anybody and frankly doesn't have blinding speed. What he does have are options. He has no distinguishable difference between right and left hand, the ability to shoot or pass in an instant, and the knowledge of the game(when to pass, when to shoot, and most importantly when to pull it back out and reset).
Don't take this the wrong way, I've gotten used to the offset game. I'm not condemning it. I just don't think it's for everybody, especially the youth. The pinched offset head fosters permanent bad habits that warp the game. I like big outside shots and the ability to crank on the run. What I don't like is what seems like a distinct lack of passing to break down defenses. I've seen games where the entire offense comes from middies dodging from the top of the box and shooting without ever really beating their man. There is a place for players who like a lot of whip, specialty players not beginners. A player should be able to decide to go that route after learning the basics. What scares me the most, is that Cara's style stood out to me. I realize now just how much the game has changed.
I'm not saying offset heads are ruining the game. I'd just like to see a more balanced game, kind of like Chris Cara's.