Grading Each NHL Team's Offensive Lines Looking Ahead to 2012-13
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Columbus Blue Jackets
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.
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.
Detroit Red Wings
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.
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.
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.
Los Angeles Kings
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Jersey Devils
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.
New York Islanders
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.
New York Rangers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Jose Sharks
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.
St. Louis Blues
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.
Tampa Bay Lightning
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?
Toronto Maple Leafs
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.
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.
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.
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.