At the Blades' kickoff party last week, General Manager Krista Patronick said that the team would need to rely on speed and play-making ability this upcoming season. The new roster, released Wednesday morning, bears those comments out.
Of the 25 player roster, 18 are forwards, equaling six full lines.
With two goaltenders on the roster that leaves room for just five defensemen. Two of the five are returning players from last season, Dru Burns and Tara Watchorn, so the Blades will have a veteran presence on the blue line, but the odd number of defensemen likely means the team will rotate defenders. If there are no set pairings, it will make building familiarity between defensemen difficult.
"It was just kind of how the roster shook out with natural defensemen," said Patronick of roster configuration. "We have some really versatile forwards, though, who will probably play back to supplement our defense as needed."
Luckily for the Blades, one of the five returning players from the Clarkson Cup winning team last year is goaltender Genevieve Lacasse. Any team with strong presence in net can't be completely counted out, and both Patronick and Lacasse have said that the Blades will need to rely more on her than in previous year.
Along with Burns, Lacasse and Watchorn, returning from last year are forwards Ashley Cottrell and Megan Myers. They'll join a new group of forwards who Patronick identified for their speed and play-making ability. Expect the Blades to look for quick transitions, building up speed in the neutral zone, looking to create odd man rushes.
The big question that has existed about the Blades for a some time now is how they'll handle the numerous departures in the off-season. Their perceived underdog status creates adversity, which Patronick said will help form the team bonds necessary for success.
"Anytime you have a lot of new girls on a squad it's going to be a challenge because they have to get to know each other on and off the ice," she said. "It's a process and it takes work to form those on-ice and off-ice bonds but they realize that and they've been putting the work in. I think that going through challenging situations as a team also helps them bond, so no matter what the outcome is, they will form a camaraderie as the season starts."