I will admit initially that these were my initial thoughts as well. SN could continue to carry along Frenchie Beauchemin, while CP could adopt-a-Vishnevski and help ensure that some Norris would be along the blueline at nearly all times.
But now, given a few days to debate with my PS2, I’m wondering again. Why exactly is it a bad idea to play the horses together? If we were any one of 29 other teams, common convention would be to take the top 2 blueliners and paste them together to make a ‘#1 tandem’. And we know that CP and SN can do a lot to help their defensive partners, what would happen if they brought out the best in each other?
It’s not like there’s a lot of redundancy in style, either. CP is the slow-but-sturdy traditional defenseman, adding a lot of punch and power with some blueline bombs. SN is the quick-but-everywhere roamer, without a big shot but extremely intelligent on the puck. Team Canada found this to be quite a desirable tandem, and for sure I think we could also.
The only problem being, that’s $13 M being spent on your blueline for half the game, what happens in the other (non-Norris) half? While Beauchemin/Vishnevski/O’Donnell/Dipenta are all NHL-calibre serviceable defensemen, how will their (easier?) minutes fare when left to their own devices?
I think the question of sharing icetime has more than one right answer, by the way. We’re probably in good shape no matter how Carlyle plays the studs; neither CP nor SN has missed the playoffs in more than a decade. Still, I’m not sure that separating the horses should be a foregone conclusion; there is plenty of upside to controlling the 30 most important minutes of a game.
At any rate, that is the #1 question I have going into next season: how much icetime do SN and CP end up sharing? Tell me what you’d do as a coach, and later I’ll tell you all how wrong you all were.