The problem that the Anaheim Ducks have waited to happen has finally occurred, as the team’s defensive core has finally gotten back to full health (now that Sheldon Souray was lost for the season after surgery). With Luca Sbisa back in the lineup, the Ducks now have seven healthy defenseman in the NHL, as well as Sami Vatanen in the American Hockey League.
Enjoying a breakout year – when he has been with the team – Vatanen has displayed his offensive prowess with Anaheim that has also landed him on team Finland for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Vatanen is the third highest scoring defenseman on the team, and has done so in only 39-games. At 22-years old, there is little left to be learned at the AHL level, having him play for Norfolk is a nice but unnecessary insurance policy to have.
Even with the talks of a potential trade, it would still land the Ducks with more than enough defenseman only instead without the advantage of being able to send a player to the AHL as they can with Vatanen.
So if the Ducks want to get the most out of their defensive group without sacrificing the chemistry the team has shown, what is an alternate to the situation? Simple, utilize all of your defensive depth at one time.
It is a system that is employed every now and again – even by the Ducks this season – in which you dress seven defenseman instead of the traditional six.
The reasons can vary from trying to protect a young player by putting an insurance defender in the lineup in case he struggles to protecting an injured player returning to the lineup, in essence limiting his minutes or it can be as simple (as it would be in the Ducks’ case) you have too many defenseman.
Calling up Vatanen and keeping eight defenders on the roster seems like a lot, but utilizing seven defenders a night and rotate the last blueliner in would put each of them in a better position to succeed. No more losing Vatanen’s power play ability by rotating him out – he can remain your seventh defender every night.
This would allow him to play in power play situations and keep a penalty kill specialists in the lineup as well.
In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins deployed this lineup during the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings – a series they won. Of the seven defenders to play in game one, Sergei Gonchar led in ice time with over 23-minutes. On the opposite side of the scale Phillipe Boucher only played 11-minutes, with the other five scattered in between.
The downside to playing seven defenders is that it could become taxing on the forwards, as with only 11 – there would be a lot of double shifting. It would also mean that a forward would have to go – now, as they are currently carrying 14.
Tim Jackman might be the guy to go, even with the energy he brings at the bottom of the lineup, being an in season acquisition – he could be deemed expandable.
Based on the fact that Ryan Getzlaf is a forward that is very capable of playing upwards of 25-minutes a night, he and Corey Perry are perfect if needed to double shift to make up for the lack of a 12th forward.
How would you feel about the Ducks using a seventh defenseman on a more regular basis? Would that make a move to bring in someone outside the organization unnecessary, or do the Ducks still need an upgrade via trade?
Anthony is the Editor of Pucks of a Feather. You can reach him by email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.
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