There’s a great Mark Twain quote about weather in New England, but it sort of applies to how the Caps organize their forwards. If you don’t like the lines, just wait a few minutes.
Barry Trotz’s forward lines, which I’ve been tracking all season, get announced once or twice a day– at practice or morning skate and during warmups before games. And each time they’re followed by a chorus of criticism from professional and amateur hockey watchers, including me.
There’s always something to rail against: the guy on Alex Ovechkin’s opposite wing, who’s getting stuck on the fourth line, which pairings don’t work, who deserves a scratch but isn’t getting one, and who deserves a sweater but isn’t getting one. It’s instant fodder for content, fresh grist for the anguish mill, and an easy conversation starter.
But it’s also sort of cheap. Because there is no optimal line combination for Barry Trotz. If twenty of us were to make up our ideal lines, I doubt any two would match. There is no magic Rubik’s cube of forwards that make everyone love him and shut up. It just doesn’t exist. The lines are a loser every time, and Trotz, a coaching veteran with three decades of experience, knows it.
Every day he’s got to set back a rookie or piss off a forward. He’s got to give a sweater to a player he’d rather see traded, and maybe he’s thinking about how great some other player on some other team might be in that same spot. Even MacLellan has limited control over his roster considering the market forces and freak injuries that determine it.
That doesn’t mean we should hush up about the lines. I think we’ve got an exceptionally informed and passionate community here. We all know what it means for Evgeny Kuznetsov’s development when he takes shifts with Jason Chimera, and we should talk about it. (Though I bet Barry Trotz probably already knows as well.)
While it’s good for us to discuss and debate it, I’m going to always try to acknowledge that the lines will never be totally perfect and they’ll never be totally broken.
In this week’s snapshot, we explore the great space between those two extremes.
Let’s do the numbers. These are current as noon on Sunday, February 15th, though you’re not reading this until Monday or Tuesday because of the late games. The sample is restricted to 5v5 hockey when the score is within one goal. There’s a glossary at bottom with an explanatory video.
|Shot Attempts||Goals||Rel. Possession||5v5 TOI/GM|
|Johansson||+15 (356-341)||-2 (21-23)||+1.5%||11.7|
|Fehr||+16 (358-342)||-2 (16-18)||-0.1%||12.8|
|Beagle||+13 (302-289)||+5 (20-15)||-1.8||10.6|
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