The New Jersey Devils have made some questionable lineup decisions this season (and the one before...and the one before that...), but the infuriating one that always seems to come back time and time again is the idea to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. I understand that often it happens due to injuries, but is our forward pipeline really so thin that we don’t have anyone that could slot in for an injured forward?
We watched the strategy blow up in New Jersey’s face in Ottawa on Tuesday; while some of the blame can certainly be placed on the goaltenders, I would argue that maybe 1 out of the 7 defenders that we played looked good for an extended period of play at most. Today, I take a look at why 11/7 isn’t a good thing, despite the team having some (limited) success with it.
We Don’t Have That Many Good Defenders
Would anyone honestly have a problem if John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Will Butcher, or even Andy Greene sat for a game? I know it is almost unheard of to bench a captain in the NHL, but I think the team needs to lighten the load on Andy as his game continues to slow down with age. A night off here and there could be beneficial and keep him fresh, enabling him to play more like the Greene of old on nights when he is in the lineup.
John Moore is on this team to help produce offense, but in 52 games played he ranks 5th out of all defenders (ahead of only Greene, Mueller and Ben Lovejoy) in points per game; that puts even Steven Santini in front of him! For a guy in a contract year that looks lost in his own end on a lot of goals against, Moore should have a seat once in a while, especially when you consider that we’ve scratched a better defender in Damon Severson a couple of times this season.
Forwards That Could Be Playing
While the Devils have a lot of their highly touted young forwards already playing in the NHL this season, it doesn’t mean they’re completely devoid of players that they could bring up from Binghamton to replace an injured forward. John Quenneville was already called up and awaits his first taste of NHL action. Additionally, Nick Lappin looked decent enough during his first stint this season that I wouldn’t mind seeing him back in a bottom 6 role.
I also think that Quenneville and Lappin should already be with the team because Drew Stafford and “conditioning stint” Jimmy Hayes hasn't been all that good for the Devils this season. Hayes just doesn’t look like an NHL player anymore due to his lack of speed and while Stafford has netted 8 goals this season, his hockey IQ in every other situation (and many shooting situations too) looks to be shot. If the idea is to try and trade this pair, well all I can say is good luck Ray Shero; waive them, ice the best team, and be done with it.
Let’s Not Burn Anyone Out
This section applies specifically to one Taylor Hall. Playing one player short at left wing means that the Devils have been double shifting (for the most part) their left wings/left handed shooters. The obvious double shift player that comes to mind is Hall as he is far and away the team’s most dangerous scorer. My worry that arises from Hall seeing so many minutes is the wear and tear of the hockey season catching up with him.
Not just Hall, but this statement could apply to any of our contributing forwards that are seeing a lot of extra ice. Maybe Miles Wood winds up getting injured, or Kyle Palmieri goes down again. I reiterate that I understand injuries have caused the situation, but I’d take the above mentioned Lappin call-up over playing just 11 forwards.
Defense & Your Take
While 11/7 was successful for a few games, the Ottawa game this Tuesday showed that not only does this formula not always work, but the team still needs to work on improving their defense, whether they go with 6 or 7 defenders. How do you feel about 11/7? Are you more favorable to it than I am? Do you think it depends on who the 11 and 7 are for it to be successful? Should the Devils rethink who their 12 forwards are on a nightly basis even with the players that are on IR? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!