The line combos, the line combos…it’s always the same complaint isn’t it? Since the advent of the internet I feel like I read the same complaints about the Rangers year in and year out. There’s always a stretch of games at some point during the season where either the fans, the bloggers, or the beat writers don’t like what they are seeing and the result is people crying about line combos. It’s as if they know nothing else.
Well, maybe it’s about time we explained why coaches actually shuffle lines around. Notice I said coaches and not just John Tortorella.
Every coach in the NHL tweaks their lines when things aren’t quite right. Renney does it, Boudreau does it, Quenneville does it, Blysma does it, they all do it. So here’s a quick lesson on why and when line tinkering may be appropriate.
Lesson #1 – You Start From Scratch Every Season
It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Every season you start fresh. New players come in, old players get kicked to the curb, and coaches have to take time figure out how all of these pieces fit the puzzle.
Do we want our third line to be a shutdown checking line, or are those spots going to be for 1st liners in training?
Is our first line Wolski or Dubi with Richards and Gabby? Well, it has been neither. Dubi is off to a slow start again and Wolski’s been playing with his rubber ducky. Point is, it generally takes 15 games or so to figure out what’s working and what needs to be trashed.
Lesson #2 – Fix The Problem
There’s an old saying, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Well what about when things are broken, or in hockey terms, when certain members of your roster aren’t producing? Coaches have to tinker with lines, tactics, and roster spots in order to win.
Nothing is worse than seeing a coach trot out the Redden’s and Rozi’s hoping that they will magically turn back the clocks. You have to replace guys who aren’t playing well. Sometimes it’s for only a few shifts, other times it’s indefinite. You have to play the hot hand.
If Brad Richards and Gabby are flying and Dubi isn’t, guess who is getting yanked? Someone has to be able to keep up with those two. Some nights it will be Stepan, other nights it will be someone else. Until Kreider is ready, or Hagelin, or whoever. There is going to be a rotating door at LW. Get used to it.
Lesson #3 – Cover Up Your Weaknesses
Breaking up Richards and Gabby is far from ideal, as those two should be spending time together to develop chemistry. With that said, opposing coaches aren’t dumb. The drawback of concentrating all of your offense on to a single line will simply cause coaches to assign their best checkers to smother this duo.
This is why the Dubi-Arty-Cally line NEED to get going. But if they remain flat (hello Arty) and the game is close, breaking up Richards and Gaborik here and there is just one of those necessary evils that you must do to spread the coverage.
If your secondary scoring threat is an inconsequential one, then a change has to be made and ultimately it is Tortorella’s job to continually cover up those weaknesses.
Now I know you may not agree with these ideas, but at least they are tactical ideas. So please, before you 40%’ers moan about how Johnny Boy has got to go, please enlighten us with an intelligent alternative.