Should NHL Teams Dress A Seventh Defenceman

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Dressing A Seventh Defenceman Has To Be More Important Than Any Forth Liner !!! 

There are many brilliant coaches in the NHL that prepare their teams for every situation imaginable except for one.  Injuries.  How many times have you been watching a hockey game and your favorite team finds out that one of the defencemen got dinged in the first period and won’t be available for the rest of the game?  Now you have to roll five defencemen and hope the rest of the defensive corp doesn’t get nicked or get into penalty trouble.  Of course this scenario is only relevant for teams that have good depth in their defensive corps.  

Why? Oh Why? Oh Why Don’t Coaches Dress A Seventh Defenceman? 

Dave Tippett280For those of you that know me, you know I have very little use for the “forth line”.  Now, I having nothing against the actually men that play on the forth line.  I just think they are a bunch of interchangeable pieces that have very limited value. 

I like to see my teams better players get more ice-time.  I’m funny that way. 

Now in previous rants, I have acknowledged that in certain situations the forth line can be and should be let off the bench. 

1.)  If you are protecting a lead in the third period, the forth line can eat up some minutes by playing strictly a defensive role

2.)  If the team needs an odd shift to create some energy. 

3.)  If retribution is needed as most teams have a forth liner that doesn’t mind chucking ’em. 

4.)  If the team is playing their third game in four nights etc.

Too many times teams are caught short on the back end because of an injury or penalties.  The third pairing on a hockey team is a heck of a lot more valuable than your number tenth, eleventh and twelfth forward. 

If you really think about it, isn’t a teams seven best defenceman probably a better hockey player than a teams twelfth best forward?  The beauty of the seventh defenceman is that he can probably be taught to play forward and contribute the paltry forth line minutes required.  I don’t think a teams twelfth best forward could give a team the required third defence pairing minutes. 

Is it just me or does this make too much sense?  Am I under-valuing the contributions of most forth liners? 

I don’t know what the league average is for forth line ice-time and to be honest I don’t really care. My eyes tell me I’m seeing TOO MUCH of certain players.  I’m hoping this is just an aberration because of the extenuating circumstances of the past two seasons. 

The lock-out shortened season of 2012-13 created a compressed schedule so the NHL owners could cram a few extra games in and force coaches to bless us with more forth line minutes.  At the time when the lock-out was coming to an end, fans were so hungry for NHL hockey they would have accepted fifth liners.  The 2013-14 season isn’t much better with a compressed schedule to accommodate the Olympic break. 

Maybe next year things will get back to normal and forth liners will not be seen and not heard.  

I must apologize to the Forth liners.  It really is nothing personal.  I just want to see more Doan, Ribeiro, Vrbata, Hanzal, Vermette, Boedker etc.  There’s a reason these guys make $4 – 5 million a year and you make league minimum.  This is who the hockey fans pay top dollar to see.  Sorry!!! AND please don’t say that these guys are really important because they are your teams best checkers and penalty killers. 

I’ll take Hanzal and Vermette killing a penalty any day !!!

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