Today we’re going to talk line changes. Specifically, we’re going to watch one of the worst hockey teams in the NHL make one, and I’m going to give their metaphorical puppy nose a solid thwack with a newspaper. Nnnnno!

Some golfers don’t like to watch other golfers with bad swings, as they’re afraid they’ll pick up a bad habit. If you fall into that category and also play hockey, I recommend clicking the “x” in the top right corner of your screen now.

Today I’m not running the goal first, because if I do, you’ll have no reason to read this post. You’ll just go “Yeah, I don’t need to read the rest of this to know what went wrong.”

Regarding line changes - you’re not supposed to change:

A) When you’re in your own zone.

B) When you’re heading back into your own zone. Or…

C) When your opponent has the puck

When you’re short-handed, you wait until the puck is headed the full 200 feet of the ice sheet, and then you platoon change. Maybe the forwards can both get off. Maybe just the guy closest to the bench. Maybe a d-man or two can get off as well. In any case, your opponent is about to have possession, so keep it safe and smart.

Here are the Edmonton Oilers. They are a hockey team in the NHL currently killing off a penalty versus the once-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The names of the hockey players killing this penalty are Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Nick Shultz, and one lucky unidentifiable guy. He’s big and has a 2 in his number, so I’m gonna guess Andy Sutton.

The Anaheim Ducks have some real offensive talent, so killing penalties against them isn’t easy. This group has had a long shift of hard work trying to do so, and fortunately, Ryan Smyth is about to get his stick on the puck to fire it down the ice.

See? Nice. Now they can ice it and change.

But wait! Didn’t I once write that Ryan Smyth has the worst shot in the entire NHL? (Yes, I did.)

And, unfortunately for the Oil, he flubs it just out into the neutral zone, where Cam Fowler (at least I think it’s Fowler) is parked and waiting. Here’s where the Ducks defender gets the puck.

The Ducks obviously want to keep the pressure on, so they regroup. Fowler makes a tight turn, and readies to move the puck up the ice.

What the defense are supposed to do on regroups is hustle up the ice, pivot to the inside, and start skating backwards. That way they have proper gap control, and aren’t sagged back in the zone so the forwards can do whatever they want.

Now let’s just take a look and see how the Oilers did in keeping that gap tight….

Gah! As Cousin Eddie would say….”You serious, Clark?”


How does one guy decide to change when the other team is clearly getting possession in the neutral zone? How do two guys make that decision? THREE? And the fourth guy – he sees everyone heading off and thinks, Yeah, this is a good call? That wouldn’t be a good call if the puck was behind the Ducks net.

Did nobody see Smyth flub it? Did nobody look to check if it was a good time to change?

I don’t care how tired they are – they’re professional athletes that do conditioning work constantly. Bagged or not, you can still stand around and influence the play a little. Anyway. That was ranty. Shall we watch it play out now?

They move in…

Ryan shows shot…

The dish…

And the goal!

The best part is that Khabibulin actually made the initial save, and it bounced in off Corey Potter who was scrambling to get back.

The moral of the story is that line changes on the fly are a judgement call, and sometimes a player or two will make the wrong decision.

But this….this was the “hitting every single powerball number” of bad decisions. Incredible to see that many happen at the same time.

Now, enjoy it in real time. It almost looks worse that way.

Comments (18)

  1. THE OWL. Definitely. At least one. Perfect example of what-not-to-do. Could be added to those teaching videos which are meant for juniors (I think?).

    Also, Twitter just exploded while I was here. It is the cleared-for-contact -day.

  2. Yes, that’s Sutton. The combined cap hit for those four Oilers is $17,375,000 this year, or about 27% of the cap. These guys are taking the Fail for Nail seriously.

  3. Khabibulin thought bubble, “I’m too old for this shit.”

    • The way he looked after that goal, it’s probably a good thing they all line changed or he’d have used his stick like a tomahawk on the fools who left him out to dry.

      The irony is that the idiots who left the ice won’t even get the minus, the guys who jumped on would have done.

  4. Wow, even my beer league team has never had that bad a change.

  5. Thank you for not covering the Caps this week.

  6. I will only take exception with your scenario B of when NOT to change.

    In men’s league, since guys NEVER like to go off the ice when the puck is moving out of their zone, because of course there is going to be a goal and they have to be part of it, I’ll gladly let a guy change heading back into our zone. Besides, they’re usually 10 strides behind the play and dogging it anyway.

  7. Clearly this is the worst line change by an entire team all year. However, certainly not the worst line change by an individual on the season. That belongs to Marty Havlat:
    What a coincidence… the Sharks were playing the Oilers. Clearly the Oilers bring out the line change fail

    • The Havlat one although is clearly only one-man achievement while in this Oilers example whole line takes part into attempt of showing best example on how-to-not-do-it.

  8. And the best part is that they all head off for the change with less than 10 seconds left in the PP. Puck ends up in the net with :02 left. Guys, suck it up for a few more seconds and you’re at even strength.

  9. This is probably the worst line change I’ve ever seen:
    That’s just careless, especially with the game on the line in OT.

  10. I take exception to this one Bourne. How much “analysis” really went into this? This is just terrible terrible hockey on any level.

    …j/k man. I always love these posts.

  11. Just gold. Pure gold. I am now heading into the archives to read previous posts from this series. Wow. So enjoyable.

    “The moral of the story” …..might also be, if you’re Ryan, maybe don’t feed Blake – the flubman got lucky here.

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