The injury bug has hit the Golden Knights a bit over the past week forcing them to dig deep down the depth chart on the blue line. It’s given Nick Holden and Dylan Coghlan a chance to get into the games, and it’s also sent Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague up the ladder playing as the second pair.
Eventually, hopefully soon, Shea Theodore will be able to return but Brayden McNabb is expected to be unavailable through the rest of the month of February. That leaves some question marks as to who will be in the lineup and how they’ll be deployed.
When Theodore is ready, Vegas will have seven available defensemen with games under their belts this season. Obviously, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Theodore will be in the lineup, and with the way Zach Whitecloud has been playing, he’s a lock as well. That leaves Coghlan, Holden, and Hague as options for the final two spots.
The decision could come down to a non-performance related issue for Nick Holden though. Since Holden cleared waivers earlier this year they may want to protect him against having to clear again. The rule states that once a player clears waivers he must play 10 games and be on the roster for more than 30 days before he’s once again eligible for waivers.
Holden currently sits at six games played and has been on the roster for 15 days (assuming they did not shuffle him back and forth on off days). Thus, if they stick with him in the lineup, he could once again be waiver eligible as soon as March 2nd. That’s not ideal for Vegas as once McNabb is ready to return, Holden would once again be susceptible to waiver claim by any of the other 30 teams.
So, let’s say the Golden Knights opt to stick with Hague and Coghlan instead. That leaves the Golden Knights with three right-handed defensemen (Pietrangelo, Whitecloud, and Coghlan) and three left-handed D (Theodore, Martinez, Hague). However, Theodore has played most of the past two seasons on the right side, with Martinez since he was acquired from the Kings.
In Theodore’s absence, Martinez has played with Pietrangelo and it’s been the best Pietrangelo has looked. So the question becomes do you switch Theodore back to his natural side or do you play an all right-handed pair either atop the lineup or on the 3rd pair. Here are a few of those options.
Play Theodore on the left
Leave Theodore on the right
Load up with Theodore on the left
Go for balance with Theodore on the right
To me, both of the best options involve Theodore switching back to the left. He’s played plenty of games in a Golden Knights uniform on the left, most often paired with Deryk Engelland. But, since he’s taken his biggest leap offensively, and every game for DeBoer, Theodore has been on the right.