On having more franchise defensemen than you have franchises

A general sentiment on the Ducks’ HF Boards goes something like "Since CP and SN are each capable of playing half the game, Carlyle should split them up and have nearly all of his 60 regulation minutes covered (except maybe in 5-on-3 situations or late in a close game)."

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.

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