Editor's Note: Wes wrote this up in March, but it's never been more topical than right now with the league expected to formally approve 3v3 overtime tomorrow.
The NHL is moving towards 3-on-3 overtime. Everybody's favorite commissioner announced earlier this week that two proposals will be presented by the league. The first would mirror what's been done in the AHL this season: a seven minute overtime with the first three minutes played 4-on-4, with a switch to 3-on-3 after the first whistle. The second proposal would drop 4-on-4 play altogether in favor of the new alignment.
But that's news, and boring.
It's Friday, the Stars won last night, and a small bit of celebration is in order. Instead of pondering the impact of this change on the NHL's shootout-enforced pseudo-parity, or wondering if 3-on-3 play is, in fact, even more of a gimmick than the shootout certain corners of the hockey world hate so much, we should focus on something fun.
Let's talk line combinations!
One would think 3-on-3 play presents a serious advantage for the Stars. This is, after all, the second best offense in the entire league (3.06 Goals-per-game). It's also a roster full of speed, skill, and power. Pick three, throw 'em out, end the game. Right?
So let's do that. Here are a few of the combinations we came up with:
1. The Three Amigos
Let's get what I think is the most obvious combination out of the way first. Jason Spezza (38 assists), Tyler Seguin (32 goals), and Jamie Benn (66 points) are the tip of Dallas' offensive spear. They've also played as a unit at various points throughout the season. Sure, the lack of a defenseman is a little odd, but it's not like the Stars are a grind-it-out sort of team these days. Why not wait for an offensive zone faceoff, rely on Spezza to win the draw, and see how quickly two superlative playmakers can get Seguin's cannon unlimbered?
This combination would be a bold move, and would be an all-in on offense. Better hope they don't get an odd-man rush against. While Seguin and Benn have the wheels to get back, the Stars goaltender better be prepared to make that stop with these three on the ice.
2. Speed Kills
Seguin stays in our up-tempo unit, but a relatively measured style of play costs Spezza his spot. Instead, he's joined by Trevor Daley and Cody Eakin. A weird grouping, I know, but I want Eakin chasing pucks all over the ice. Once he causes a turnover, his linemates can be halfway down the ice in an eyeblink. Yes, Daley has some warts defensively, but the frenetic nature of 3-on-3 hockey is going to play to his strengths rather than his weaknesses. With this unit I see a rush out of the defensive zone, a shot, and then Eakin banging in a rebound.
3. The Slicker the Better
Or the Stars can slow things down, rely on puck movement and positional nous. Here comes John Klingberg, who cannot be rattled. I'm also going to roll the dice with Ales Hemsky, who could score, or just skate seven minutes worth of offensive zone laps. Spezza rounds out the set because I like the idea of seeing how many passes this trio can complete before someone bunts the puck into an empty net (probably by accident). Klingberg or Spezza is going to score from about five feet, but the real treat is the Keystone Cops routine they're destined to produce out of the other team.
4. Or We Just Hit Them
Just because there are fewer bodies on the ice doesn't mean we can't cause a little mayhem. I want meat, potatoes and offensive touch. The Captain centers this line, and the combination of his lethal release and rampaging-bull physicality will be hard to match. Alex Goligoski steps in to provide defensive support. I like Goose's compete level, veteran savvy, and ability to get the puck up the ice. Brett Ritchie rounds out the trio. The rookie's job is to win battles along the wall and in front of the net. Many teams can match the skill level of this unit or the size, but how many can go up against both?
5. Release the GoATs
We hop into the Wayback Machine for our last unit. I think 3-on-3 would have rather suited Mike Modano's style of play. Especially the Gainey/Hitchcock tutored version that beat you in both zones, out of both zones, and everywhere in between. He'd need a quarter step, then boom, vapor trail. Old friend Sergei Zubov gets the nod on defense. Giving Zubov the sort of space 3-on-3 affords is fundamentally unfair, like watching Deep Blue play chess against my dog Sully. For funsies, Seguin comes back out to finish the line. I would sell my Joe Nieuwendyk-autographed jersey to see Seguin one-time an in-his-prime Mike Modano pass.
Those are just the first five combinations that spring to mind. I didn't touch on the pitbulls, couldn't find a partner for Brett Hull, and avoided novelty plays like Sheldon Souray. Hopefully you, our loyal DBD readers, will fill the comments section with combinations of your own. I promise a podcast shout-out to anybody that comes up with a plausible, defensible unit utilizing the once-in-a-lifetime gifts of Derian Hatcher (a great player but historically ill-suited to 3-on-3 hockey).