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Video focus increased in shortened season

A vital part of each coaching staff in the sports landscape goes widely unnoticed.

The individuals you hear about are the coaches themselves – in this case for the Nashville Predators, it’s Barry Trotz, Peter Horachek and Lane Lambert. Who you rarely hear about is the video staff and what they do to help prepare the players and coaches for every single game.

Meet Lawrence Feloney, the Predators’ video coordinator.

A normal home game day for him is a 16-to-18 hour shift. Feloney will arrive at the arena around 6 am and won’t leave until 10:30 pm or midnight. He may sneak out to grab a quick lunch, but the bulk of his day is spent preparing for that night’s game.

Feloney will meet with the coaching staff before morning skate, then prepare special teams and systems video for the team for when they get off the ice. Once the players leave the arena, he’ll spend two-to-three hours pre-scouting upcoming opponents. Later in the afternoon the focus shifts back to final preparation for that night’s game. When the game is going on, Feloney (and his assistant, Zach Ziegler) is downloading the game into the system as its happening, and is on a headset with the coaches behind the bench.

As he puts it, “It’s a full day.”

When the Predators are on the road or when there’s travel after home games, it becomes even more of a grind for Feloney.

This 48-game season, compared to a normal 82-game campaign, actually hasn’t been too different for the video staff. While the turnaround on video preparation is quicker, the amount of teams they have to worry about is sliced in half due to the Predators only facing Western Conference teams.

“We’ve played some teams two or three times, so we’re able to use our last games against them a little bit more for teaching purposes,” said Feloney, who also mentioned the coaching staff views the opponent’s previous three games in addition to their head-to-head meetings.

Feloney says the span of three games in four nights is the most demanding. However, the increased frequency of back-to-backs has made game preparation trickier in some aspects. For example: when the Predators played Edmonton on March 8th, not only was that the second game of a back-to-back for the Oilers, but it was the front half of a back-to-back for the Predators, so that 48-hour period added a layer of difficulty for the video staff.

Luckily for Feloney and Ziegler, their March 9th opponent (Minnesota) had played their previous game on March 5th, so the breakdown of their film and scouting report was mostly done two days before the Edmonton game.

With less time to practice, teams are leaning a bit more on video work to make adjustments to their own game or to get ready for an opponent – and that’s where the tireless work of Feloney and Ziegler comes into play.

“Everything is magnified and everything has taken a heightened importance with it being a shortened season,” Feloney said.

“It’s been insane,” head coach Barry Trotz said of the schedule and focus on video. “I think it’s the same with all coaching staffs, but with our travel schedule we’ve used a lot of film and have shown a lot of film.”

“It almost seems like these guys are going nonstop because we do a lot of video. They’re definitely earning their keep this season, for sure,” goaltender Chris Mason said of Feloney and Ziegler. “I think the coaches try to help out with it because it’s definitely a huge task.”

The Predators use a video system called XOS Thunder, something that many football teams and about half of NHL teams use to break down film and data. XOS Thunder has partnered with another program called Hudl, a fantastic user-friendly tool for organizing video and making it available to players and coaches anytime, anywhere.

“Hudl has made it easier on us video guys, and XOS has made it easier on us with stats,” Feloney said. “Three or four years we’d have to go back and physically cut all that data. Now those stats have made our job easier and it’s allowed to do more in other areas. It’s not like we’re doing less, we’re just focusing more on other stuff.”

When they’re not at the rink, players can easily watch game film on their iPad or computer through Hudl, which is a lot easier than before when the video staff used Dropbox to share footage with players and coaches.

Hudl is used by football teams of all levels, too, and has the same advantages of not having to be in a team facility to view film.

“After every game we push out all the player shifts,” Feloney said. “We can adjust the stats in the video, so all the time-on-ice stuff gets labeled on our video and all the players can come in in the morning and sit in the lounge at Centennial or here at the arena and look at their shifts because it’s all generated automatically. They can also watch it through Hudl on their iPads or PCs or Macs [at home]. A lot of guys use iPads because the user interface Hudl has created is real easy.”

On game days, Feloney will download specific pre-scouted film for certain players. For example: Feloney will deliver an iPad to Paul Gaustad hours before puck-drop so he can watch film on the opposition’s centers and their faceoff techniques on Hudl. Feloney will then do the same for goaltenders and any others who want one last view of that night’s opponent.

Perhaps the Predators’ biggest advantage to using Hudl is being able to share video throughout the system with prospects around the world or with scouts on future draft-eligible players.

“It’s been a tool for our players, but it’s also been a tool for our scouts and management because you don’t need to be connected to our servers here,” Feloney said. “Glen Sanders, who is our scout in the Western Hockey League, can easily get on and look at video we posted with amateur content on draft-eligible guys. Or if there is a college free agent, Paul Fenton could easily go on.

“Zach has been really good at getting European video. Marek Mazanec, our Czech goalie prospect, his games are streamed online. So Zach can capture the game, share it to Mitch Korn [on Hudl], and Mitch can go on and do his voiceover, put little notes and then share that with Marek and provide with some things to work on.”

Korn, the Predators’ goaltenders coach, uses those same tools with Pekka Rinne and Mason. Coaches have the ability on Hudl to pause the play and telestrate, insert a spot shadow, record a voiceover message or add a textbox with notes/pointers. And as Feloney mentioned, Korn can do all of that for any of the Predators’ goalie prospects.

“It just helps to be able to visualize it. When you give up a goal, it helps seeing it and having it stopped,” Mason said.

Feloney said of Hudl: “It’s making film available to players in whatever avenue they want to view it. If they want to come in and have their cereal in the morning and watch it in the lounge, it’s available there. If they want to watch it first thing in the morning the next day, it’s available to them.”

While Hudl and XOS Thunder have made it easier on the video staff, the work Feloney and Ziegler put into their craft makes the coaching staff’s lives easier as well.

“They are unbelievable. They provide us with everything we need and then some,” Korn said. “Those guys are great, and they’re great people, fun guys. We spend so much time together in such tight quarters that’s really a pleasure. They’re so upbeat – it’s awesome.”

That effort from Feloney and Ziegler doesn’t go unnoticed by the players, either.

“They work just as hard as anyone else,” Mason said. “We appreciate the stuff that they do because it’s such an integral part of our preparation and our success and just being ready for teams. They definitely don’t get any accolades in media circles but they are really appreciated inside this dressing room, that’s for sure.”

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