Using your best players in all situations

pavel buchnevich chris kreider

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/AP

Throughout the preseason, we’ve seen some changes to deployment that we aren’t necessarily used to. Even strength ice time is tough to gauge right now with the roster so full of players that aren’t going to be on the regular season roster. However it’s been on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill, that we’ve seen some changes.

The first and most obvious is the regular usage of Chris Kreider on the penalty kill. It’s something that’s been highlighted a lot, but we’ve never seen him in a penalty killing role before. On paper it certainly makes sense, since Kreider’s speed is incredibly dangerous. He can take Michael Grabner’s spot as the dangerous speedster that generates offense while shorthanded.

However it goes beyond Kreider’s specific toolset that allows him to be dangerous on the penalty kill. It happens to be coincidence that he’s one of the fastest players in the league. The overall strategy appears to be David Quinn using his best players in all situations. Kevin Hayes was used regularly on the PK in games this preseason as well.

This is a strategy we see successful teams use regularly, where the best players are used in all situations, including the penalty kill. Again on paper this is a fairly obvious strategy, as your best players give you the best chance of winning. For a player like Kreider, it means being used on the penalty kill regularly.

As Quinn eases rookies and younger players into the lineup and into the rigors of the NHL game, it’s fair to expect players in roles we haven’t seen before. Hayes and perhaps Mika Zibanejad on the penalty kill may be something we see a few times. I’d throw Mats Zuccarello into this mix too, although he did see some PK time last year.

I’d also expect to see Filip Chytil on the powerplay –also a given– since he’s one of the better offensive players. Ditto Pavel Buchnevich. However if no one else really sets themselves apart from the rest, I can see Jesper Fast getting spurts with the man advantage.

Using the best players on the roster in all situations is a recipe for success. We are seeing a little bit of that in the preseason. What does remain to be seen is whether or not roles will change as kids progress and perhaps overtake others on the roster.