In the new NHL speed is the key. Speed in hockey, however, means using a lot of energy. Previously, defensemen in the NHL were more about size than speed, but that logic is now obsolete now that those big slow defensemen can’t hook or hold those quick and agile forwards. Defensemen have to be as agile and fast as their forward foes. That means the line-ups may go through some changes in the NHL.
Normally, there are 4 forward lines and 6 defensemen. Coaches like Glen Hanlon are starting to experiment with 7 defensemen. That would allow faster changes for the defensemen, fresher legs and more ice time for talented forwards.
This gives coaches more options on defense and could make little changes on the blue line that could allow teams to better match their defensive talent versus the opposition’s offensive talent. Many teams stick with the same pairings and very rarely do those pairings change through out the game. Coaches could now sort of mix and match defensemen and as the other team makes changes on their forward lines, they could match that on their defense.
Ice time of the blue liners will be cut short since there are more of them cramped on the end of the bench. But the up-side is fresh legs on changes. Defensemen would be fresher too towards the end of the game where in close games, their legs will need to be dependable.
That leaves two extra forwards in a sort of half line which could create problems to this theory. Instead of a Line 1 through 4, there will be mixing and matching forwards through the lines. That could be confusing for players and coaches to keep lines straight and who is going when. If the coaches don’t keep a close eye on getting the right players out with the right match-ups, it can quickly get confusing and could lead to a too many men penalty.
If the players and coaches can keep their lines straight, this could prove a successful strategy. And if that theory becomes successful, then it might prove to be popular. It would put 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on the roster. Three full lines with two forwards and one defenseman to move around. Who said strategy in hockey is dead?