Every coach at every level in the sport of hockey wants to balance minutes equally across training. In a perfect world, the coach could just sit back and roll four lines keeping everyone fresh and ready to perform at the highest level on their next shift.
But, the NHL is not a utopia, and the divide between high-end players and everyone else often causes an imbalance in ice time.
I don’t know if you should have guys in 20 (minutes) who are attackers. Do you get the most out of them if they are over 20 every night for 82 games? We’ll see how it goes and how the guys who are used to it handle it. If they can pull it off and give you maximum play, I’ll change my thinking. -Bruce Cassidy
The same goes for the other side of the coin.
No one should spend less than 10 minutes per night. If this team works the way we see it, I think the 4th line would be closer to 12 minutes because they’re going to play against good people, get D-zone starts and play on the PK. -Cassidy
Historically, VGK used their 3rd and 4th lines to check roles, but would often see their use undercover with offensive zone starts and/or favorable matchups. Cassidy wants his 3rd line of William Karlsson, Brett Howden and Michael Amadio to function as a strong defensive line, with the 4th line also taking some of the toughest minutes.
It’s the defense, it’s the penalty kill, the hard minutes. We have to be careful with the guys during the year because of fatigue, injuries and maybe age. -Cassidy
The challenge for Cassidy, however, will be the ability of players in the bottom six to withstand the rigors of what he called “stressful minutes”.
Karlsson is obviously used to playing a good game from 200 feet and was tasked with anchoring the Golden Knights defensively in all situations. But Amadio, Howden, Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier, Paul Cotter and, to some extent, Nic Roy didn’t.
Cassidy wants and needs his last six to start penalty time if he wants to keep everyone between 10 and 20 minutes. He thinks he’s got enough guys who can do it, and if not, he’ll find them.
I do (I think we have enough guys in the bottom six who can kill on penalties) and we’ll build a few if they don’t. It’s part of our job as coaches. Part of the reason you do this is that they also feel like part of the team. When everyone feels like a bigger part of the team, then they will play better as a team. Now they have to do the work so there will be some growing pains for the guys we build there but hopefully we’re teaching them right and they’re committed to it so we can lighten some of the minutes of a few other guys. -Cassidy
At 5-on-5 though, the new head coach expressed concerns about 4th-line play after an up-and-down effort in the preseason against Arizona.
Right now, our 4th line is nowhere near where it needs to be if it’s going to bring important minutes to our team in terms of that type of stopper role and identity line. We still have a few games to figure that out, but for me right now it’s something we need to fix. -Cassidy
It’s clear that Cassidy has a plan for how he wants his team to look like and how he plans to roll out the lines to make it happen. For now, the question remains whether or not the Golden Knights have the personnel to do so.
There is still time to find out, but that time is running out quickly.