Craig MacTavish Line Blender – Just Add Ice


After rotating his lines around mid-game against Colorado on Saturday, Craig MacTavish has decided to employ new units for tomorrow’s game against the St. Louis Blues. I know that the concept of Craig MacTavish moving players from line to line with abandon is novel in these parts, so I thought it deserved full analysis.

The First Line: Patrick O’Sullivan, Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky

I like this line. Patrick O’Sullivan is a far superior player to Ales Kotalik at even-strength, and his 208 shots is well ahead of anyone else on the team, so it’s conceivable that he could be the triggerman that Ales Hemsky has needed for some time. This line will be run power-vs.-power, and I’d say this is an experiment that needs to be tried and has a decent shot at working.

The Second Line: Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner, and Ales Kotalik

Sam Gagner has been the Oilers’ hottest player offensively of late, and that’s going to be tested here. Robert Nilsson has had a miserable season (although he’s looked better since being reinserted into the lineup), and Ales Kotalik has started his inevitable slide down the roster as his limited offensive game becomes apparent. Still, Kotalik is supposedly more comfortable on right wing, and Gagner’s been red hot so this should give him the best possible opportunity to be come a factor at even-strength. Plus, if MacTavish holds true to form he will shelter these guys from the best players as much as possible, so while this isn’t my preferred second line it has a decent chance at working out.

The Third Line: Liam Reddox, Andrew Cogliano, and Fernando Pisani

Welcome back, Liam Reddox. This line is a rather bizarre combination that I haven’t understood for some time; they aren’t quite reliable enough for checking duties, and they aren’t offensively capable enough to be a scoring unit. It seems to me like a waste of Andrew Cogliano’s offensive game and Fernando Pisani’s defensive game.

The Fourth Line: Ethan Moreau, Kyle Brodziak, and Dustin Penner

This line features three players who could all arguably be playing higher up in the lineup, and I would imagine they will be Craig MacTavish’s first choice for defensive zone deployment. It seems likely that the coach plans to use these guys to help ease some of the defensive burden off of the shoulders of the Horcoff line. None of these guys will be putting up pretty point totals in this particular scenario, but Brodziak has had this duty all season and has done alright, while Ethan Moreau and Dustin Penner add some size and should be equal to the task of containing the opposition. This looks to me much more like a specialized defensive line than a typical fourth line.

This isn’t a bad setup, all things considered, although the third line doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and of course I’m still wondering what Ales Kotalik brings to the lineup. Neither Zack Stortini or Marc Pouliot made the cut here; frankly I’d prefer either of them to Liam Reddox or Ales Kotalik.

The good news for those two players (and of course Jean-Francois Jacques) is that it likely won’t be long before everything is shuffled again.

  • Hippy

    @ Chris:

    I think he's a long way away from bing a first-line centre in the pwoer-vs.-power mold, but if Horcoff is taking the toughs on a checking line, and Gagner's playing with competent wingers I think he could be OK in the role (at least, when the offense is coming like it is right now).

  • Hippy

    Well, I must not be joking as look what the organization has done this year to help improve the team, nothing. Therefore it only makes sense that they are happy with the coaching and the team in general. Listen, Dan Tencer likes MacT, Fred Stauffer likes MacT, no one in the local media will rip on MacT, so what does that mean? Everyone is happy with Mact, everyone that counts I mean. Katz for crying out loud must be happy with MacT cause he aint said a word.
    All the OIl need to do is add to their coaching staff to help out MacT:
    Steve Smith to help out Smid
    Coffey to help out the puck moving def.
    Ken Linesman to help out the forwards with some grit'
    Kent Nilsson to help out his son
    Semenko to help out Zack
    Pozar to help teach the young guys to take one for the team
    Kevin Lowe to show how to block shots
    Glenn Anderson to show Cog's how to cut to the net
    Messier to show Gagne how to play with jam
    Ken Reid to help out Fred Stauffer and Dan Tencer with the radio stuff
    I think this is the start of a winning coaching staff >@ Bruno:

  • Hippy

    look, if nobody else is going to say it, I will.

    We need to start dosing. As in, steroids. The whole team. Everyone. Even MacT.

    I'm not above cheating if it means beating Calgary.

    (is he "~"ing?)

  • Hippy

    If we can at least break out of our zone with some speed and not lose control of the puck as soon as they gain the blue line I will probably cry from happiness! But I think St. Louis will outwork us for a 4-2 win. I hate to say it, just no fire in this team no determination to keep fighting.

  • Hippy

    JW: I can see what you're saying but I'd be afraid a 18-10-34 would get close to nothing done offensively;)

    So, they would Have to be as good as the old Pahlsson line.