4LINE

Steve MacIntyre put the fear of God in every hockey player he ever faced with this stance. Holy hell, the man can punch. However, the first question an NHL team has to ask is "can he play the game at an NHL level?" In the time after Craig MacTavish stepped away from the Oilers and his return, how many fourth line players could do that?

Between 2000 and 2009, Craig MacTavish used varied talent on his 4th line. Shawn Horcoff played on the 4th line in MacT’s first season as coach, but so did Georges Laraque and Daniel Cleary at times. His Stanley run team had Laraque, Todd Harvey and a bunch of kids like Brodziak and Pouliot trying to find their way. His final team–2008-09–had MacIntyre for 22 games, but also Liam Reddox, Pouliot and Brodziak at times.

Bottom line: save for the 22 MacIntrye games at the end of his coaching time in Edmonton, MacT always tried to have a veteran NHL presence, at least two guys who could make and take a pass and he clearly valued a man like Georges Laraque who could bring the physical while also doing things that helped the 4line keep opponents at bay (BG’s legendary 40-second keep away antics deep in the opposition end was like a timeout in live action for the rest of the team).

Perhaps the poster player for the MacT 4line era: Marty Reasoner. Speed, smarts, veteran savvy.

MARTY!

Marty Reasoner was a first round pick back in the day and by the time he became a useful NHL player thoughts of being on the top line with PP time were long gone. However, Reasoner was solid to excellent during his time (both times) in Edmonton, and mentored a generation of Oiler youngsters, some of whom made it and others who did not make it.

In fairness to the Oilers, since Reasoner left the club has tried to add that kind of player (Colin Fraser, Belanger) but for the most part it’s been a mixed bag with little continuity (especially since MacT exited stage left).

  • Opening night 2005: Reasoner-Harvey-Laraque (MacT)
  • Opening night 2006: Reasoner-Thoresen-Winchester (MacT)
  • Opening night 2007: Cogliano-Jacques-Gagner (MacT)
  • Opening night 2008: Brodziak-Pouliot-Stortini (MacT)
  • Opening night 2009: Gagner-Moreau-Stortini (Quinn)
  • Opening night 2010: Fraser-Jones-MacIntyre (Renney)
  • Opening night 2011: Lander-Hordichuk-Jones (Renney)
  • Opening night 2012: Belanger-Petrell-Eager (Krueger)

The only exception to the "veteran rule" for opening night was the "Kid Line" in 2007 and a pretty interesting 4line to start the following season. Quinn tried to slip truculence onto every line and apparently didn’t know Gagner’s name for a time, but I think Renney had 2/3’s of a solid 4line in 2010 and 2011.

This season’s 4line should have been better based on the veteran content.

THE SOLUTION?

Jim Dowd played 70 games for the Oilers in 1999-00, scoring 5 goals. Picked him up in a deal that sent Greg DeVries away and lost him in the expansion draft in 2000 (Minnesota). Dowd played on a line with Boyd Devereaux and Georges Laraque and that 4line could rattle and hum. He killed penalties and he contributed a little on offense and he could win a faceoff and move up the depth chart and not look foolish. Jim Dowd was an extremely useful player, settled that 4line down for a season I’ll never forget.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

If we take MacT’s coaching style and apply it to the 4line (as we did at the top saying "MacT always tried to have a veteran NHL presence, at least two guys who could make and take a pass and he clearly valued a man like Georges Laraque") then we should expect:

  • a strong, veteran option at center (Dowd, Reasoner) who has enough skill to make plays and can move up the depth chart as needed
  • a veteran presence on the wing who can PK and move up the depth chart as needed
  • a physical winger who can play at pace, not turn over the puck in bad places and take and make a pass

Do the Oilers have that? Well, if they can invest Horcoff and Smyth on the 4line run Mike Brown out there as needed (depending on opponent) they can ice a line of some quality. However, it shouldn’t cost that much money to ice a solid 4line. Among the jobs Craig MacTavish has to tackle this summer, that 4line has been bleeding chances pretty much since he left, and the available roster solutions are mostly overpriced for the role they’re going to play. 

It isn’t job one, but it’s an issue.

  • Gret99zky

    The Oilers have the kids and high end skill….so keep the kids on this team (Hall, Ebs, RNH, Yak, J. Schultz) and do not trade these away.

    Unfortunately, that means Gagner and Hemsky are the primers for the needed good trades, along with packaging those inclusive of Omark, Teubert, Peckham, Eager, Belanger, etc, and even maybe Horcoff, Smyth.

    What this team really needs are bottom six prime year type players such as like from the past…..as Norm Lacombe, D. Lumley, K. Linseman, K. McLelland, M. Grier, D. Marchment, C. Muni, etc.

    We need a bigger 2nd line good face-of center and if it is either rookies….Barkov or Monaham….for the future so be it. I take them now on the team as rookies than what we got from Frasor, Belanger, Smithson, etc, any day.

    The new other goalie and defence(draft kids are soon coming)are easily managed if MacT gets it done. We only need one goalie and two top type guys for defence now which can be done as through free agency or trades.

  • Gret99zky

    We need to work our way up from the bottom to the top six re-tooling all the way.First we need to decide exactly what we want then we need to find the right men to fit that template.

    Hall-Nuge-Ebbs
    Mps-Gagner-Yakupov

    Everyone down the roster from here is now subject to random replacement as per the template we choose to support our core group.

    It is time to support the core, thank you to all the players who took us this far that we will soon be replacing,one day you will be able to say you played with Hall of Famers because a few will definately make it.

    We need toughness and offence.None of these guys needs to be long term contract concerns in our bottom 6 we are concerned with filling a dynamic template and there are always guys available to do that every couple of years.We need to remember our core is the top 6 and focus underneath them on ways to better prepare the opponent for them to do their jobs offensively.

    The 3rd line needs to be ugly toothless and tough as nails, larger and heavier than average to offset out top 6 and offensive minded so we are looking for men who voluntarilly changed their game from legitimate high offense to defense,Super-sized Sam Gagners exactly to a T.This lines offense must be catalysed this way.This line must be able to play better defense than the top 6 and take energy out of the opposition,no one way offense here,if we want more offense it must come from the 4th line.No one under 210 on this line if possible,we will sacrifice to get that size and weight , we need to support the top 6 in this spot by dragging the opposition into areas they dont want to…

    Comment stopped at 300-word limit. JW.

    • WordPress and Blogger and tons of other sites offer you the ability to write your own blog. Oilers Nation does not.

      I hate to be like this, but our comments sections are more functional when we don’t have people writing War and Peace here.

      • cabaj

        Hey willis no problems ,thanks for allowing me the opportunity to post freely for so long and for holding back the Barbarians at the gate.

        Dont worry about policing your blog, you have feedback to consider and decisions to make.I shall cease and desist posting NHS data and indepth analysis of the Oilers on and off-ice dynamics.

        Oilersnation is awsome and is one of the most tolerant sites out there,there are fewer lurking whiners here than some sites thats for sure, a local cadre or wee little gang rears its ugly head to peer pressure once in a while but nothng overwhelming.

        For anyone who is looking for a progressive cutting edge look inside the game of hockey there are few places better to hang your hat than Oilersnation,the contributors here offer many many years of traditional journalism and combined with Veteran NHL input from people like Struds this is an excellent well balanced informative site to spend your time visiting.

        Its a smaller Hockey community here in Edmonton than people might realise,Oilersnation is one of the anchors for our hometeam in cyber-space,a valued and much needed resource.I hope the influential Powers that be recognise and support this fact.

        Thanks for all the hard work,and all of the time and energy you fellas who contribute here are dedicated to providing to everyone,it is very much appreciated.

  • JSR

    As good as Smyth was in his first stint in Edmonton, his last two years here have not been good. He needs to hang them up on Saturday.
    Unfortunately, my gut tells me he is too stubborn to quit…

  • Mumbai Max

    If the oilers do what I think they’lldo, they will play with lines as follows:
    Hall rnh eberle
    Paajarvi gagner yakupov
    Mackinon/barkov horkoff hemsky
    Smythe lander hartikainen
    Brown

    I would prefer a smyth exit, but other than that, I can’t really nit-pick that roster. You could sign some help to give hartikainen and lander another year of development, but at some point you have to let them suffer growing pains in the bigs. Hemsky should be an oiler for life if he makes it past the draft. His value is decreasing with age, and so will his cap hit. The man is still a two way player (aside from this year),however, and can continue to help the team. Might as well hold on to gagner until a change is forced through the salary cap(prefrebly slightly ahead of that time using an unknown tool called foresight to maximize return).Defense is the problem that needs to be addressed, and I hope that they can do it without trading someone.

    • Gret99zky

      Those lines are almost identical to this years. Except for the shiny new draft pick.

      Oilers cannot improve by icing to same piss poor line-up year after year.

      Hopefully MacT has the berries to make some real changes to the bottom six.

      Moving Horcoff and Hemsky would be an excellent start to changing the attitude and culture of the team.

      I agree that Defense is the elephant in the room.

  • JSR

    What would you think of Anton Lander,Mike Brown and alternating a Ryan Smyth/George Parros(Colten Orr type) depending on who they are playing.They have to move out Belanger and say goodbye to Petrell.

    • Lowetide

      I’d like to see Lander spend the season in OKC, outside of callups for injuries. He’ll play plenty as the first C callup.

      I don’t think they need another Mike Brown, but an agitator would come in handy. Ewanyk may serve that role eventually.

      • Lowetide

        I don’t want another Mike Brown either(but I like this one) they need some one else who is bigger, meaner and also willing to drop the mitts,I am tired of watching this team get pushed around.

      • Lowetide

        Maybe not another Mike Brown……….but for the love of me I cannot understand what was going through the heads of Oilers management when the conversation came up on Brown.

        If you are going to get an enforcer, get an enforcer……..like Steve Mac! Why get a pint sized enforcer that gets his nose broken in a fight with someone smaller than him? Exactly what is his role on the team?

        I think having Steve Mac play every second game is better than an enforcer no one fears!