Grading Each NHL Team's Offensive Lines Looking Ahead to 2012-13

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJuly 27, 2012

Grading Each NHL Team's Offensive Lines Looking Ahead to 2012-13

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    OK, we're in late July, but the hockey world is always busy as teams prepare their rosters for the upcoming season.

    Here is an offseason look at each team's forward lines as of right now. The combinations are of course unofficial and have been taken directly from the August 1 issue of The Hockey News so please do not tell me these line combos are incorrect or unlikely. Of course, they will change by training camp due to trades, signings, injuries and surprise performances, both good and bad, in training camp.

    Each grade was given by me and that too is subject to change before the season actually starts.

    The teams are presented in alphabetical order for the purpose of this article.

    Feel free to give your opinions, that's always part of the fun.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Line 1: Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry

    Line 2: Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne

    Line 3: Matt Beleskey, Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri

    Line 4: Brad Staubitz, Brandon McMillan, Devante Smith-Pelly


    The top two lines are solid assuming Selanne continues to produce and Koivu stays healthy. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Ryan which would change a lot. Youngsters like Smith-Pelly and Bonino are being counted on to step up.

    Grade: B+

Boston Bruins

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    Line 1: Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton

    Line 2: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin

    Line 3: Jordan Caron, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley

    Line 4: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton


    There is still a lot of depth and talent on this roster and most of these players won a Stanley Cup in 2011. Players like Campbell, Thornton and Kelly know their roles and do them very well. Seguin is still up and coming. If Horton stays healthy, there is a lot of talent and depth here.

    Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres

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    Line 1: Thomas Vanek, Corey Hodgson, Jason Pominville

    Line 2: Ville Leino, Steve Ott, Drew Stafford

    Line 3: Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Corey Tropp

    Line 4: Nathan Gerbe, Luke Adam, Patrick Kaleta


    The Sabres are hoping that their trade for Hodgson pays off offensively. Management shook things up by trading Derek Roy and adding Steve Ott. Buffalo needs bounce-back years from Leino and Ennis. The potential is there for this to be a very good group but there are a few "what-ifs" hanging out there.

    Grade: B

Calgary Flames

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    Line 1: Alex Tanguay, Michael Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla

    Line 2: Sven Baertschi, Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler

    Line 3: Curtis Glencross, Mikael Backlund, Lee Stempniak

    Line 4: Blake Comeau, Blair Jones, Tim Jackman


    The Flames have some solid talent on the first line although Cammalleri needs to be a good replacement for the departed Olli Jokinen if this trio is going to work. Will Jiri Hudler pick up his point production with additional ice time? The wings on the third line are strong and the fourth line has grinders that are capable. It remains to be seen if the second line can produce enough consistent scoring for this team to succeed.

    Grade: B-

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Line 1: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin

    Line 2: Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose

    Line 3: Jiri Tlusty, Zach Boychuk, Tuomo Ruutu

    Line 4: Drayson Bowman, Tim Brent, Anthony Stewart


    This unit has been upgraded substantially during the offseason. The two Staals and Semin are as talented a trio as almost any team can put together in the league. Skinner needs to bounce back from his sophomore slump. Ruutu and Boychuk add grit but the Canes may need a little more sandpaper in their lineup before the season ends. This group has the potential to be very productive.

    Grade: A-

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Line 1: Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa

    Line 2: Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Viktor Stalberg

    Line 3: Dan Carcillo, Dave Bolland, Andrew Shaw

    Line 4: Bryan Bickell, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik

    The Blackhawks still have a lot of talent on the top two lines and will have even more if Saad is ready to be a full-time NHLer. Bolland remains one of the better third line centers in the league. If he stays healthy, Carcillo is a solid grinder/agitator. Even the fourth line is capable.

    Grade: A-

Colorado Avalanche

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    Line 1: Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny, Steve Downie

    Line 2: David Jones, Matt Duchene, P.A. Parenteau

    Line 3: Chuck Kobasew, Ryan O'Reilly, Jamie McGinn

    Line 4: Cody McLeod, John Mitchell, Milan Hejduk

    There is plenty of talent on the Avs, but a lot of it is still young. When players like Stastny, Ladeskog, Duchene and O'Reilly reach their primes, Colorado could have one of the more talented groups in the league. Parenteau is a good addition for the power play and is a good set up man. A little more grit may be needed with this group that is still a year or two away from reaching its full potential.

    Grade: B

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Line 1: Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard, Cam Atkinson

    Line 2: R.J. Umberger, Artem Anisimov, Derek Dorsett

    Line 3: Nick Foligno, Mark Letestu, Brandon Dubinsky

    Line 4: Colton Gillies, Derek MacKenzie, Jared Boll

    The Nash trade gave the Jackets more depth across the lineup, but they lack a big time goal scorer they can rely on. Guys like Brassard and Umberger need to step up their scoring and Anisimov needs to flower into a legitimate top-six center. If Dubinsky bounces back from a subpar 2011-12, this unit may not be as bad as people think, but they have a long way to go. Most scouts are not sure where the goal scoring will come from.

    Grade: C+

Dallas Stars

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    Line 1: Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr

    Line 2: Ray Whitney, Derek Roy, Michael Ryder

    Line 3: Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler, Brednen Morrow

    Line 4: Toby Petersen, Cody Eakin, Tomas Vincour


    The Stars made a lot of changes and still have some very talented players available. Roy had an off year in 2011-12 but if he returns to form it will be a big help to this unit. Veterans like Whitney and Jagr should boost the power play if they still have another good year in them. Nystrom is unlikely to match his offensive total but he and Morrow are solid third line players. This group looks like it has been upgraded over a year ago, but many of these veterans are stopgap measures.

    Grade: B

Detroit Red Wings

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    Line 1: Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen

    Line 2: Gustav Nyquist, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi

    Line 3: Danny Cleary, Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson

    Line 4: Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Jordin Tootoo

    The loss of Hudler will hurt this team although Samuelsson is a good re-addition for the third line. Bertuzzi is just average at this point in his career. This group is steady now, but there are no standout snipers in the lineup. Datsyuk needs to stay healthy and bounce back offensively. Gustav Nyquist would be a big addition offensively if he's ready for prime time.


    Grade: B+

Edmonton Oilers

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    Line 1: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov

    Line 2: Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle

    Line 3: Ryan Jones, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky

    Line 4: Ben Eager, Eric Belanger, Darcy Hordichuk

    After drafting first overall so often recently, the Oilers are stacked with a lot of young offensive talent. Nail Yakupov is just the latest in a string of young forwards who can become stars. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a good rookie year while Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall continue to develop. Ryan Smyth provides veteran leadership and grit. In a year or two, this will be one of the best forward units in the league.

    Grade: B+

Florida Panthers

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    Line 1: Tomas Fleischmann, Stephan Weiss, Kris Versteeg

    Line 2: Sean Bergenheim, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jack Skille

    Line 3: Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, Peter Mueller

    Line 4: Jerred Smithson, Shawn Matthias, Tomas Kopecky


    The Panthers overachieved according to many experts last season and it will be a tall order to replicate last season's success. Fleischmann, Weiss and Versteeg make a solid first line but the second line is questionable. Sean Bergenheim is a grinder who belongs on the third line. Weiss needs to have a big year. If Jonathan Huberdeau is ready to step up, he could add some offense, but a huge contribution from him is probably a year or two away.

    Grade: B-

Los Angeles Kings

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    Line 1: Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams

    Line 2: Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter

    Line 3: Simon Gagne, Jared Stoll, Trevor Lewis

    Line 4: Dwight King, Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan

    This group won a Stanley Cup last year for a reason. Kopitar is the most talented overall player in the bunch. The addition of Carter gave the Kings two very steady scoring lines. If Gagne is healthy, it gives Los Angeles a lot of depth. King and Nolan added youth and size. This is a very solid unit with size, talent and grit.


    Grade: A

Minnesota Wild

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    Line 1: Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley

    Line 2: Devin Setoguchi, Mikael Granlund, Pierre-Marc Bouchard

    Line 3: Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck

    Line 4: Darroll Powe, Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell

    The Wild struggled to score last season but the new additions of Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter should boost the club's offensive production. Koivu is an underrated setup man. If Grandlund is ready to break out, the Wild should have a very productive top six. Heatley and Setoguchi should be even more productive this year. Konopka and Clutterbuck give the Wild some toughness and grit.

    Grade: A-

Montreal Canadiens

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    Line 1: Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Erik Cole

    Line 2: Rene Bourque, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta

    Line 3: Travis Moen, Lars Eller, Brandon Prust

    Line 4: Colby Armstrong, Louis Leblanc, Ryan White

    The Canadiens are starting to rebuild but they are not where they need to be just yet. Plekanec is steady but better off as a second line center and Desharnais may not be quite ready to be a first line pivot just yet. Prust will add size to the third line and Eller and Moen make up a solid third unit. There is some scoring prowess here but not quite enough to put the Habs near the top of the league in offensive production.

    Grade: B-

Nashville Predators

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    Line 1: Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat

    Line 2: Gabriel Bourque, David Legwand, Patric Hornqvist

    Line 3: Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad, Matt Halischuk

    Line 4: Brandon Yip, Nick Spaling, Craig Smith


    The Predators seem to view forwards as interchangeable parts. They can roll four lines and while none of them are outstanding, they can all wear down opponents. Radulov's short reappearance in Nashville didn't work out so again, the Preds will be without a sniper. They do have depth and size. Gaustad is a center who can win big faceoffs and kill penalties. There are a lot of players who will score between 15 and 25 goals on this roster. This is a solid but unspectacular group.

    Grade: B

New Jersey Devils

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    Line 1: Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus

    Line 2: Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson

    Line 3: Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, Steve Bernier

    Line 4: Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, Cam Janssen


    The loss of Zach Parise is a big one for the Devils; he was their captain and spiritual leader, but the cupboard is far from bare. Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of the most dangerous snipers in the game and Adam Henrique is a rising talent. Players like Jacob Josefson and Ryan Carter need to continue to develop and Elias and Clarkson both need to have one more good year left in them.

    Grade: B

New York Islanders

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    Line 1: Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo

    Line 2: Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes

    Line 3: Matt Martin, Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter

    Line 4: Eric Boulton, Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom

    The Islanders have more talent up front than most people may realize. John Tavares has increased his point total each year and Matt Moulson has become a steady 30 goal scorer. Brad Boyes is not a bad gamble. The keys to success are the development of players like Okposo, Grabner, Bailey and Nielsen who must continue to improve. Nino Niederreiter disappointed as a rookie and is probably a year or two away from being more than a third line plugger. The potential for a good lineup is there, but a lot of youngsters need to step up for this grade to improve.

    Grade: B-

New York Rangers

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    Line 1: Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik

    Line 2: Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan

    Line 3: Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin

    Line 4: Mike Rupp, Jeff Halpern, Arron Asham


    The Rangers have a nice stable of talent here with two snipers in Gaborik and Nash and a veteran pivot in Richards. Stepan and Kreider are young and talented and Callahan is the grit and work ethic. Even the Rangers fourth line has solid role players like Halpern, Rupp and Asham. Gaborik is out early in the season, but Nash should more than pick up the slack. The Rangers are solid and deep right now.

    Grade A-

Ottawa Senators

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    Line 1: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson

    Line 2: Guillaume Latendresse, Kyle Turris, Jakob Silfverberg

    Line 3: Colin Greening, Jim O'Brien, Chris Neil

    Line 4: Zach Smith, Mika Zibanejad, Erik Condra


    Assuming Alfredsson comes back for another season, the top line remains strong. The development of Silfverberg and Turris are keys for this team to have enough scoring depth. Chris Neal remains a solid gritty player but this team needs a little bit more depth to compete with the big boys.

    Grade: B-

Philadlephia Flyers

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    Line 1: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek

    Line 2: Matt Read, Daniel Briere, Wayne Simmonds

    Line 3: Ruslan Fedotenko, Breden Schenn, Max Talbot

    Line 4: Kyle Wellwood, Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo

    The Flyers have a lot of talent here. Giroux is one of the league's best young forwards. Voracek needs to take his game to another level if the Flyers hope to be among the league's best up front. Simmonds is underrated and Read continues to be a good young forward. Fedotenko is a solid role player who adds playoff experience as does Talbot. This team is deep and talented, even without Jagr.

    Grade: A-

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Line 1: Steve Sullivan, Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata

    Line 2: Mikkel Boedker, Anoine Vermette, David Moss

    Line 3: Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon, Lauri Korpikoski

    Line 4: Andy Miele, Kyle Chipchura, Paul Bissonnette


    The Coyotes are still unsure if they will have Shane Doan back and they have already lost Ray Whitney. There is still some talent here, but unless Doan returns, the Coyotes are a step below where they were last season when they went on their run to the Western Conference final.

    Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Line 1: Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis

    Line 2: Matt Cooke, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal

    Line 3: Eric Tangradi, Brandon Sutter, Tyler Kennedy

    Line 4: Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, Craig Adams


    If Sidney Crosby plays more than 70 games, the Penguins have as deep and talented top-six forwards as any team in the league. Brandon Sutter has big shoes to fill as the third line center. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke add grit. Overall, the Pens have a lot of scoring ability and a good amount of sandpaper, the key is that they stay healthy.

    Grade: A-

San Jose Sharks

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    Line 1: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski

    Line 2: Ryan Clowe, Logan Couture, Martin Havlat

    Line 3: T.J. Galiardi, Michal Handzus, Adam Burish

    Line 4: Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins, John McCarthy

    The Sharks should have a lot of firepower among their top six forwards if GM Doug Wilson decides to keep this team together. Marleau has been an underachiever in recent years. Couture continues to develop. Burish is a nice pickup for the third line. San Jose will be relying on some younger players to populate the fourth line. Expect a shakeup here. Overall, this group has been less than the sum of its parts. The talent grades out higher, but the production is reflected in the grade.

    Grade: B+

St. Louis Blues

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    Line 1: David Perron, David Backes, T.J. Oshie

    Line 2: Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko

    Line 3: Alex Steen, Vladimir Sobotka, Chris Stewart

    Line 4: Jamie Langenbrunner, Jaden Schwartz, Matt D'Agostini


    The Blues play a defense-first system but still have enough talent to put the puck in the net. The top line is very good as is the second group if Tarasenko is ready to become a full-time NHLer. Jaden Schwartz is a very talented player who can become a top six forward in a few years. There is a nice balance of creativity and grit here even if there is no big time sniper.

    Grade: B+

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Line 1: Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell

    Line 2: Ryan Malone, Vincent Lecavalier, Brett Connolly

    Line 3: Benoit Pouliot, Nate Thompson, T.J. Wyman

    Line 4: Tom Pyatt, Adam Hall, B.J. Crombeen


    Stamkos is the most dangerous goal scorer in the league today and St. Louis never seems to age. The second line is a good one if Lecavalier can stay healthy and still has something left in the tank. The big question is in the third and fourth line. Is there enough depth here for the Bolts to sustain this team if injury hits? Do they have enough toughness up front after Thompson, who is a limited role player?


    Grade: B

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Line 1: Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel

    Line 2: James van Riemsdyk, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin

    Line 3: Clarke MacArthur, Jay McClement, Matt Frattin

    Line 4: Mike Brown, Dave Steckel, Leo Komarov


    The addition of van Riemsdyk gives the Leafs two solid lines even if they still lack a true No. 1 center. There is more offense here than there has been in recent years, but how tough will Toronto be to play against? Clarke MacArthur remains underrated. Grabovski, Lupul, Bozek and Kulemin must all produce solid seasons for this unit to reach its full potential offensively.

    Grade: B

Vancouver Canucks

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    Line 1: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alexandre Burrows

    Line 2: David Booth, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond

    Line 3: Chris Higgins, Manny Malhotra, Jannik Hansen

    Line 4: Andrew Ebbett, Maxim Lapierre, Zack Kassian


    Two healthy Sedins and a healthy Kesler would make this an excellent top six. Malhotra remains a great faceoff man and penalty killer. Higgins and Hansen round out a very solid third line. If everybody is in the lineup and ready to play, this group can put up plenty of points and play well in their own end as well.

    Grade: A-

Washington Capitals

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    Line 1: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer

    Line 2: Brooks Laich, Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson

    Line 3: Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Joel Ward

    Line 4: Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault, Wojtek Wolski

    The Caps have talent and depth but players like Ovechkin and Backstrom need to play to their potential for this group to shine. Ribeiro is a solid pickup to help the second line and second power play unit. Ward, Wolski, Chimera and Hendricks are grinders that play their roles well.

    Grade: A-

Winnipeg Jets

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    Line 1: Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen, Blake Wheeler

    Line 2: Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Nik Antropov

    Line 3: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jim Slater, Spencer Machacek

    Line 4: Chris Thorburn, Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen


    Adding Olli Jokinen to be their first line center is not the best fit and leaves the Jets without a true top line pivot. Antropov's game really fell off last year. There is some good young talent like Kane on this team and in the organization, but the Jets are a year or two away from having a top flight group of forwards.

    Grade: B-