Looks like the Canucks are just rolling their lines: 1, 2, 3, FORE!

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Ok, look, I know there’s the old saying that you gotta dance with the one than brought you, but Willie Desjardins is taking this to extremes. Just because you gotta dance with ’em, doesn’t mean you should be doing the Box Step, Willie!

I mean, I love the idea that this team is actually deep enough that you have the option of just rolling four lines. But that doesn’t mean you should do it no matter what the context. It doesn’t mean that in a close game your most dominant line should be getting as much ice time as the possession sink hole coming up behind it.

Now, to be fair, Willie did in fact change up the line deployment in the third. But the adjustment was to give the Sedins LESS ice time, not more. Really. This happened.

This was posted by God over at HFBoards this morning and I just about fell out of my chair when I saw it:

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That is OCD level line rolling right there. Until the game is tied and then inexplicably the Sedins start missing their turn. Like WTF?

I get that you want to keep players fresh and not push them to the point of fatigue. Take Calgary, for example. Hartley was riding Wideman and Russel pretty hard all game, and they wound up at 31 and 29 minutes, respectively. That’s insane, and sure to come back to bite them in the ass if the series goes six or seven games. But what was Willie thinking? Did he think it was going to overtime, so lets hold back on the Sedins to they’re fresh?

The problem is that if Desjardins keeps up with this deployment strategy, it might be over before the effects of fatigue have any impact at all. Sure, slow and steady wins the race, but this isn’t a race. It’s a best of seven, and the first team to four games wins:

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But even if you’re trying to protect a lead, why on earth are you putting the worst the guys that consistently get hemmed in their own end out there at the expense of the guys that consistently hem the other team in their own end? Here’s the shot attempts chart from War On Ice:

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There’s a 25 shot attempt swing between the Sedin line and the Bonino line.

Now go back and look at that shift table again. The Sedin line and the Bonino line actually had the same number of shifts in the third period. But look at the shift lengths. Bonino’s line was constantly getting stuck out there for extended periods.

It’s one thing to roll lines, it’s another to adjust to the situation and ensure that you are taking full advantage of every opportunity to increase your chances to succeed. It’s crazy not to lean on the Sedins when the game is on the line. Whether it’s for offense or for defense.

You know what else is crazy? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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  • yugret

    If the Canucks need 20+ mins a night from the Sedins to beat the freaking Calgary Flames they definitely aren’t going to beat Anaheim or Winnipeg. May as well keep the Sedins fresh.

  • RandomScrub

    Ha! That straightjacket mockup is hilarious. Great read.

    And to yugret, I don’t understand this rationale… do the Canucks want to win the series, yes or no? Did they win last game, yes or no? Are the Sedins more likely to score and less likely to be scored against than the Bonino line, yes or no? If the answers go yes, no, yes, then who gives a crap about the next series right now? They need to win this one first.

    What would you be keeping the Sedins fresh for if they lose this series? What’s the basis of your point that if they can’t beat Calgary without the Sedins playing 20+ mins then they couldn’t beat ANA or WPG?

    I see it as being entirely possible that they both a) need the Sedins to play 20+ minutes to beat Calgary and then b) could very well beat either of those teams in a seven game series nonetheless, also likely with the Sedins playing 20+ minutes per game. What evidence do you have otherwise?

    Don’t get me wrong, the Canucks would be underdogs against especially Anaheim, but upsets do happen…

    • yugret

      If the Canucks are significant favourites vs. Calgary but significant underdogs vs. the other Western teams, as the advanced stats imply, then it makes sense to choose a strategy which leads to a marginal increase in their chances in the rounds to come at the expense of a marginal decrease in their chances in the current round.

  • yugret

    I agree so hard with everything here.

    I think the one thing we all need to agree on is that, unless Bonino, Higgins and Vrbata get any better, the Canucks have no chance anyway.

    I don’t think the Canucks lost because WD didn’t play the Sedins enough, but I think they could have won if he did.

    I think the Canucks lost mostly because their 2nd line was god awful, and you can’t win when a line you depend on so much is so bad.

    That being said, WD made no adjustments. That’s why I will continue to criticize his decision.