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.