2018-19 and beyond a balanced view of forward lines

I just caught up on the most recent posts/comments. The 150+ comments related to "Trading Jeff Skinner would be a big mistake" were excellent for thought generation.

As I mentioned before, and Squeaky83 and 42ofakind took up the idea, the hurricanes have the opportunity to succeed by relegating the first, second, third, fourth line mentality to the trash heap of history.

By balanced, I mean that all four lines are on the ice for 11-13 minutes of even strength time with the remaining ice time determined by special team assignments. So below are a few loosely connected ideas that all start from the "balanced" perspective.

1) Svechnikov is the only pick at 2OA that makes sense and he changes almost everything.

2) The prospect pool is in really good shape. A balanced approach can both help develop some of the prospects and determine which prospects make sense to include in a trade.

3) The special teams both need improving. While most fans consider things like goals, total points, and intangibles like unselfishness and leadership when considering trades, getting both the PP and PK above league average should be a primary focus of any trade.

4) Scoring lines are generally driven by two of the three players (e.g. Ovechkin/Kuznetsov or Backstroke; Laine/Ehlers; Stamkos/Kucherov).

5) Planning on having more than 3 rookies in the opening-night lineup is likely folly (I think grizzledbear has rightfully made this point several times).

Forward Lines

With these five points in mind, I think it makes sense to think of the forward lines as two scoring lines, a power-possession line, and a combo line.

The first scoring line should obviously contain Aho and Teravainen. Even though they are both young, they have enough familiarity that pairing them with a rookie makes sense. During his 10-game tryout, Zykov complemented Aho's creative ability. So scoring Line 1:

Zykov/Aho/Teravainen This line would allow Aho and Teravainen to use their skills to break down the defense while Zykov uses those defensive breakdowns to score goals in close--much like all three of his goals during his 17-18 tryout.

The second scoring line needs to be focused on Svechnikov from day 1. He needs a center who can generate scoring opportunities while being sound defensively so as not to put too much pressure on the rookie. While Staal is the best defensive choice, he is not a great passer. Elias Lindholm is a solid defensive player who has displayed the ability to be a "set-up" center given offensively talented line mates. So scoring Line 2 (given the current roster, though I lean toward the camp that thinks trading Skinner for a player like Tyler Toffoli works better):

Skinner/Lindholm/Svechnikov This line has a center who can distribute the puck and two wingers who are the best shots on the team. Perhaps as early as 19-20 the second scoring line features Necas centering Svechnikov.

The power possession line begins with Jordan Staal. For all their deficiencies the past few years, the Canes have never looked overmatched defensively when Staal is on the ice. His experience allows for two less experienced line mates who are aggressive on both the forecheck and backcheck. So the power possession line (hat tip to Squeaky and 42):

Foegele/Staal/McGinn A line with three physically aggressive forwards who are adept at stopping the opposition from moving the puck while also being strong at keeping the puck once they have it.

At this point there are three rookies, which means Necas/Wallmark/Kuokkanen/Saarela will get more development time in Charlotte, though I could see Kuokkanen or Saarela in Zykov's spot on an all-Finnish first scoring line. So the combo line will be:

Martinook/Rask/Williams. This line contains veterans who can be defensively responsible, fill in if there are injuries on the other lines, and provide depth scoring. Of course trading Rask might mean Martinook plays center with a newcomer as LW.

Power Play

Based on the players slotted on the balanced lines above:

PP1=Aho, Teravainen, Lindholm, Svechnikov This gives Svechnikov more opportunities to use his offensive skills while also highlighting Lindholm's strengths of passing from behind the goal and providing a net-front presence for shots from the point.

PP2=Staal, Williams, Zykov, Skinner (or his trade replacement) This unit has three players who can pressure the short-handed defense by getting in front of the goalie. It will represent a contrast to the first unit's puck movement.

Penalty Kill

PK1-Staal and Martinook. The newcomer has been a PK mainstay the past 3 seasons

PK2-Lindholm and Foegele/McGinn. Either Foegele or McGinn can provide high-energy pressure on the point during the PK

The PK could use one more capable forward, which is another reason that I think trading Skinner might make sense. The other reason a trade is not out of the question is that Skinner's power play scoring is average and could be replaced by either the newcomer or McGinn (whose 2 goals and 1 assist in limited PP duty this past season could indicate he is a PP threat).


Again much of this comes from other comments the past week or so.

A player like Nicolas Roy would be great on the power-possession line. His size allows him to be disruptive when checking and to maintain possession once he has the puck. Clark Bishop is a player whose skills are under-rated who could be a contributor in the NHL in a balanced line-up where one line focuses on puck possession.

Lucas Wallmark is a strong two-way player who could easily play on the combo line if one of the regulars gets injured--or in a year or two when Justin Williams retires.

Both Janne Kuokkanen and Aleksi Saarela figure to slot on either of the two scoring focused lines.

For me one of the greatest advantages of thinking differently about the nomenclature of forward lines is avoiding the idea of slotting call-ups directly onto the "fourth" line and limiting them to 7 minutes--a fate that both Necas and Wallmark suffered last year.

To conclude. With the second overall pick the Canes are immediately upgrading their forward lines and their power play. The upgrade brings an opportunity to think about the entire forward lineup in ways that make it easier to create lines and develop prospects. As the organization imagines a better future, it should imagine that future always having forwards on the ice who are performing their ideal role such that each Canes' line has a match-up advantage in one or two key areas.