The lines they use
There's an excellent post over at Tyler Dellow's digs I wanted to quickly point out (and it's not the one about him shopping for slacks at Banana Republic).
Tyler's crunched the numbers to show how Oilers coach Craig MacTavish used his forward lines last season, but there's a ton of interesting info there about all 30 teams' coaching staffs. For one, well, we know that John Tortorella in Tampa loves to ride his No. 1 line, but it actually turns out his second forward unit plays the most minutes in the league as well. The Lightning third liners fall 27th, while the fourth line might as well not exist (or be all Belaks).
On the flip side, the Blues get sizable minutes out of their lower lines at the expense of the top three skaters.
Something like this is influenced by which players a team uses on its penalty kill; the Big Three in Tampa, for instance, all played considerable minutes while shorthanded. In St. Louis, Dallas Drake, Dan Hinote and Jamal Mayers — all pluggers — led the team in those minutes.
Playing on the power play would influence those numbers as well, but shorthanded ice time shifts a forward's numbers even more significantly compared to his teammates — mainly because only a few forwards are playing those minutes. There are really only about 40 forwards in the league who play three minutes a night shorthanded, but on the power play that figure jumps to more than 150.
There really aren't all that many players who fall into both categories anymore, but the ones that do — Mike Richards, Mikko Koivu, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Drury, Ryan Kesler, Rod Brind'Amour, Shawn Horcoff and Nik Antropov — would shift Tyler's charts quite a bit.
If you never play on the penalty kill as a forward, you'll spend about 13 per cent (eight minutes) of every game nailed to the bench. Lupul played just 2:45 all season last year in Edmonton on the penalty kill, around two seconds a game, and picked up about three minutes a game on the power play.
This year in Philadelphia, he's playing 2:20 more every game just on special teams, including 1:20 on the penalty kill, and my guess is that's where the perceived "rolling of the lines" comes in.
John Stevens doesn't use his pluggers on the PK. (And he apparently loves Lupul, who is among the league's top 50 forwards in total ice time this year so far.)
Anyway, that's all just a tangent. This is pretty interesting stuff, as it shows just how equitable the workload is spread on every team. There are certainly some surprises, with a few of what are known as "one-line" teams actually using their depth quite a bit.
Vancouver, for one, gets a lot of give from its third and fourth lines — although that may just be the shorthanded minutes talking.