Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher says more defensemen = more options
Thought it was interesting when Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said coach Guy Boucher likes game-day rosters with seven defensemen instead of the usual six. The topic came up after Yzerman said he likely will carry eight defensemen on next season's roster, in part because wants to evaluate on the NHL level some of his younger defensemen -- such as Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby and Matt Lashoff -- who have one-way contracts and are under contract for only one year.
Boucher had a busy day Wednesday as he talked to various people with the team about how he wants things done and set up next season in the locker room and offices under the St. Pete Times Forum, so it took some time to track him down to ask about it. But Boucher has some definite reasons why he likes using seven defensemen (and, consequently, only 11 forwards instead of 12). It won't happen all the time, he said, but given how his own players are playing and the opponent, it really does create options.
First, injuries: "I always find defensemen are always the ones to fall quicker than forwards because they are more subjected to some pounding, so it gives you more liberty in terms of a buffer for injuries," Boucher said. "If you have a defenseman who is injured and wants to play and can play, though we're not sure to what extent, then having that extra defenseman gives you the liberty to feel it out and see if your guy is good enough for an entire game."
Next, the power play: "You can have a specialist if you want. Sometimes a guy who is a power-play guy has more trouble five-on-five. So, it gives us a liberty to have a guy like that in the lineup."
And flexibility: "When you have an injury during a game, you're down to five defensemen. If you have a guy in the penalty box, you're down to five defensemen again. So, if you have an extra defenseman it levels the playing field because you have six and aren't stuck with playing five for two periods or whatever it is."
As for using only 11 forwards, when there usually is 12: "It really depends on who is in my lineup. But you have a spot to fill there, a blank with whoever you want. So if somebody is playing great that night, you can have that guy get more ice time. You can spot your better players in that hole. It just creates an open spot, and you can create with some freedom."
How often will it happen and how will it work? We'll see. But it was an interesting discussion.