Down three games to nothing last year, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella made the bold decision to scratch former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards from the lineup. Two games later, his team was eliminated and he was looking for a new job, with his inability to use the team's second-highest-priced asset effectively playing at least some small part.
An NHL coach's job is not an enviable one in the postseason. Difficult choices have to be made, and by definition, they don't work out for 15 out of 16 teams. Which coaches have made the biggest gambles so far?
To answer that, I went team by team looking at the biggest differences between player usage in the regular season and the playoffs. Zone deployment, quality of competition and ice time in each manpower situation were all compared on a player-by-player basis to find the 10 boldest lineup decisions. They included:
- Healthy scratches and/or underutilization of star veterans
- Increased usage of depth-line players, especially against top-line opponents
- Selection of the backup as the starting goalie
Each of these 10 choices have been subjectively ranked, along with an idea of what the alternatives were, and how the decisions have worked out so far. Let's begin!