As you know by now, GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau, in their infinite wisdom and grace, have chosen to retain eight NHL-caliber defensemen on the active, 23-man roster, going into tomorrow evening's season opener in Boston: Mike Green, Tom Poti, Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Brian Pothier, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine, and Tyler Sloan. We don't mean to be flippant -- it's been a difficult decision for sure, with important, and unfortunate, salary cap and waiver wire implications.
That leaves, even with the possible game-to-game decision to dress seven blue liners, at least one healthy D-man in the press box per game. Remember the logjam that existed when Steve Eminger was here? It was nearly a nightly drama during the regular season as to which rear guards received a sweater, where Emmy was often a healthy scratch, and those lineup headaches continued into the post-season. Not an ideal situation in which the coaching staff finds itself, again, but, for now, a necessary one.
Losing a quality defenseman to waivers (to which all of the above would be subject) at this stage of the campaign would be considerably more damaging to a Stanley Cup hopeful than losing someone like Chris Bourque (painful though it may be, but we expect one of Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr to return before too long). Both the Penguins and Red Wings utilized eight defensemen throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
And we know that injuries happen: Just take a look at the Caps' nightly D corps throughout December of 2008; or revisit the historic injury woes of this season.
But who should sit most often during this embarrassment of healthy riches on defense? (Erskine-Pothier and Sloan-Schultz were your third and fourth pairings at practice this morning.) One would surmise dressing Erskine against "bruisier" teams like Boston and Toronto upcoming, and favoring Schultz, for example, against a squad with a dangerous power play. Overall, looking at performances on defense from this concluded pre-season and team needs, who should be the most frequent scratch this month?