I think it was Vincent Damphousse who had an interesting comment yesterday about trying to reduce Andrei Markov’s icetime. He said that Jacques Martin, when his team was killing a penalty, would send out as his first option Hal Gill and Josh Gorges, they’d take the big bite of that sandwich, and those are hard minutes.
On the contrary, powerplay time is relatively easy on a defenceman, so a vet like Andrei can easily play a lot of PP time as he’s done the last few years, and not suffer much fatigue relatively speaking.
So that would be one way to go, and we’ve batted that around on social media, that Andrei shouldn’t kill penalties anymore. Trouble is, as Vincent said, that Michel Therrien’s best option for the PK is still Andrei and P.K., they’re his best defencemen for killing penalties also. He doesn’t really have a trusty Hal Gill on his bench.
Now, we can argue with Vincent that Jacques Martin didn’t have a P.K. at the height of his powers or a healthy Andrei either, and that if he did they might have been killing penalties under his watch too, but the point is well taken. Our #5-6 defencemen have to be trusted to kill penalties.
Right now, with a projected Emelin/Beaulieu-Gilbert third pairing, I don’t know that we’re there. Certainly if Greg Pateryn can assert himself, his skillset might make him dependable on the PK, and same for Jarred Tinordi, his great size and reach make him a potentially difficult d-man to play against when on the powerplay.
But until that happens, Michel Therrien will be tempted to use and overuse his first pairing.
Another consideration that Vincent had is that when a game is out of reach in either direction, Michel Therrien should almost bench Andrei, drastically limit his minutes to reduce wear and tear and risk of injuries. But that got me to thinking, when is a game ever out of reach. 3 or 4 goal margins are rare in today’s NHL, this isn’t the eighties, so while the concept is sound, I’m not sure how useful it is.
The only conclusion becomes that the best way to reduce Andrei's fatigue as the season wears on is to use discipline, to draw up the plan based on these strategies and stick to it, not deviate based on the short-term.