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Razor with an Edge: Maniple vs Phalanx

by Daryl "Razor" Reaugh / Dallas Stars

This will be the most insightful, creative, and bang-on assessment/preview of the Stars-Blues series you will ever read, hear or stumble across.


From moi?!

No way, this is about "Hoplites".

Say whaaaaaaa?

Very simple (At least for you historians out there, and those with access to Google)...

The Blues employ a phalanx system. The Stars are maniple oriented.


The "phalanx" was a Greek military system and here is your Phalanx primer:

Greek hoplites fought in a tightly-packed rectangular formation called a phalanx. Within the phalanx, each man’s shield overlapped that of the man to his left, and he partially sheltered behind the shield of the man to his right. The hoplites in phalanx deployed typically in anything from 6 to 12 ranks deep. Five deep in the Blues case.

The Classical Age hoplite phalanx relied on a tactic called othismos (the push of shields) or, with the Blues, the murdering of excitement...and some opponents, a shoving contest in which the hoplites braced and pushed their opliti-grecishields into the backs of their comrade in the rank in front of them in the phalanx; and the weight of the phalanx as a whole attempted to bowl the enemy over or push them back. Watch for this after whistles In this formation only the first and perhaps the second rank could actually use their spears (or swords). This will be the 4 or 5 Blues who will break from all the defending and chest thumping and try to score; the rest merely added their weight to the shoving contest. Pushing the enemy back was more important than actually killing them during this initial phase of the melee. Once large formations of soldiers began to stumble backward, they lost cohesion and began to crumble. So the point of othismos was to drive the enemy backward, and eventually to shatter their formation. Once shattered and routed, the hoplites would pursue, cutting down the fleeing enemy from behind. Backstabbers. It was during this later phase of the fighting that the most number of casualties were inflicted and sustained. Again, backstabbers.)

The "maniple" was the Roman tactical system. With this they attacked in waves.

Some Maniple knowledge for you:

The basic unit of the Roman army was the legion, essentially a division of 4,500-5,000 men. The smallest unit of the legion was a century -- comprised of about 60-80 men. Each legion contained 60 centuries headed by a centurion. Roman tradition dictated that the centurions be promoted from the ranks based on their courage, experience, initiative and skill. Jamie Benn is the Stars centurion (duh). Centurions were responsible for the training and conduct of the men beneath them. They combined the functions and prestige of a modern company commander and senior sergeant.

In the early days of the Republic, the centuries were paired into groups called maniples. The legion's thirty maniples were then arranged, widely spaced, into three lines of ten maniples each. In the first line, called the hastati, the men stood three deep and forty across. The second line (principes) stood twelve wide by ten deep. The maniples of the third line were smaller than the first two and stood six wide and ten deep. In battle formation the hastati extended across the line of battle. The principes and triari stood to the rear but not directly behind the hastati, instead they were offset diagonally creating a checkerboard effect. Think neutral zone defense in hockey. (Or "Trap")

The manipular formation was small enough to allow the army some articulation (the word maniple comes from the Latin for "hand," while phalanx derives from the Greek word for "finger"). Tactically, the units were small enough to maneuver on the battlefield with minimal training and were effective at flanking movements which the typical phalanx of the Alexandrian (Hitch's) system could not match.

The manipular legion served the Romans well for over two hundred years, but it suffered from tactical and organizational problems. The same dispersion that allowed a maniple the flexibility to flank opponents, proved to be vulnerable to direct onslaughts. i.e. that final 15 minutes of Game 6 vs. the Wild. The small size of the maniple proved to be too "light" and a clever enemy could isolate and overwhelm a single maniple. (beware, John Klingberg) Stars support will be essential. The other problem was that none of the legion's subdivision lent themselves to detachment for special duties. This is counter to how the Stars break down into power play and penalty killing, so...not applicable. Stars 1, History 0).

Hitchcock's Blues are a big, structured block of defending. They do their best work without the puck. It's a methodical, tight, fletcherizing style that frustrates an opponents ability to get interior on them - to breach the phalanx in front of their goal. It should be noted, Hitch is not Leonidas. Not the same bone structure...

The Stars under Lindy Ruff have developed a more mobile style of defending. Lacking a ton of size they trade aggressiveness for brawn. The "fourth guy on the attack" has them outflanking opponents with defensemen on offense. Tight gaps and maneuverability are the hallmark of their defense and they use four lines of speed to "track" back and support the defense corps. Lindy is Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus.

And so, as I'm sure you know, this is essentially the 171 BC Battle of Pynda, but waged on a frozen pond in 2016, for a trip to the Western Conference Final.

"Come back with your shield - or on it."


This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Daryl Reaugh's posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars.

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