The Tampa Bay Lightning carrying nine defensemen: It's okay. Really.
Much has been made of the Lightning’s defensive situation. In stark contrast to last season, they seem to have more than they need, instead of always needing more. In fact, they still do have more than they perhaps need. They’re carrying nine defensemen going into the opening night of the 2009-2010 season.
Typically, on a 23-man roster, a team will carry 14 forwards and seven defensemen. Sometimes teams will go with 13 forwards and eight defensemen, but not often. The Lightning currently have 12 forwards (four complete lines with no extras) and nine defensemen (three 2-man tandems with three extra). Plus the two goaltenders, of course.
This might be cause for worry in some circles. I’m not sure that carrying only 12 forwards is that great an idea, to be honest. But having more defensemen than forwards is far better than having that situation reversed.
The biggest reason, of course, is the fact that few forwards are able to play the position of defense. Off of the Lightning’s current roster, probably only Vincent Lecavalier is able to play like a true defenseman. Martin St. Louis is a very good defensive forward, but he would not be able to play as a defenseman. However, it’s relatively easy for a defenseman to be converted to a winger. Putting Victor Hedman on Lecavalier’s right wing isn’t that bad an idea, if you think about it.
It's the out-of-the-box kind of thinking that is getting people worried. I mean, you still have 23 guys on the roster. And over the years in this league, plenty of defensemen have been converted to wingers. So, really, what's the big deal?