Nine is a good number of personnel to have if you’re managing a baseball team, but if you’re counting defensemen on an NHL team, it’s best to stop at seven or eight.
Virtually unprompted, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was quick to note this morning that his blue line numbers nine (Carlyle had been asked where Francois Beauchemin will ultimately land in the lineup, and we’ll get to that in a bit). When the topic was brought up again later in his post-practice presser, Carlyle said that he has never dealt with that many defensemen as an NHL head coach.
The closest comparison he could draw was from his days as head coach and general manager of the Manitoba Moose, preparing for the AHL and IHL postseasons with a surplus of blue-liners.
“Some days the coach’s job is expanded a little bit, and changes on a day to day basis,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have enough, and when you have a wealth of them it’s a pain at times, but it’s one of those pains that you’d rather have too many than too little.”
Needless to say, it’s an not ideal scenario. General manager Bob Murray would probably like to move one-way contracted defensemen Sheldon Brookbank and/or Paul Mara – who have each played just one game since Dec. 18 – before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. (Vancouver, maybe?)
In the meantime, Carlyle is rolling seven defensemen and 11 forwards, and the Ducks’ 2-0 record since Beauchemin arrived looks none the worse for it. The coach has taken advantage of the odd number of defensemen by having Beauchemin trade partners for three periods in both Calgary and Edmonton.
It’s a nice luxury to have, as long as Beauchemin is being fitted for the best defense partner.
“Right now we think that we’d still like to give him an opportunity to get his feet wet, a little bit more immersed in what we’re doing and how we’re playing,” Carlyle said. “I find that he’s a little more rigid than what I remember, as far as straight-legged in some situations shooting the puck. I think he’s kind of lost some of his confidence in that area. We’d like to rebuild that with him. We’ve had some conversations with him. We went through shifts with him. We’re spending some time … to allow him to get comfortable and feel comfortable out there.”
Beauchemin didn’t sound too worried.
“I felt pretty good in the first two games,” he said. “It’s obviously always easier when you win and things are a lot looser. … Personally, I felt good. It’s only going to get better as time goes on.”
Much has changed since Beauchemin patrolled the Anaheim blue line from 2006-09. Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are both gone. He’s wearing a new number (24) and his locker is on the opposite side of the dressing room from where it used to be – unless he can convince Lubomir Visnovsky to trade.
But Carlyle’s system should still be familiar and the team’s identity – for all its personnel turnover – hasn’t changed, Beauchemin said.
“The identity is the same. We’re a physical, fast team and solid defensively. You don’t have Scotty and Prongs anymore, but offensively it hasn’t changed.”