March 05 2009 02:23PM
Let the line juggling commence!
In the wake of the Flames busy deadline, many are wondering what's going to happen with the various line combos. I figured I might as well throw my two cents in.
On forward, there's no question in my mind that Jokinen was acquired to be the club's #1 center - meaning, he's going to play with Jarome Iginla. I've written elsewhere that Keenan was clearly dissatisfied with the prior situation, frequently rotating a number of pivots through the number one slot between Iggy and Cammalleri (Lombardi, Conroy and sometimes Langkow or even Boyd).
Book it, even with the injuries depleting the rest of the roster. The questions that remain are: what does the rest of the lineup look like AND what will the match-ups be?
With Langkow, Bert and Bourque down, the second line is probably going to be a rotating hodge-podge of players in the interim. Boyd, Lundmark, Moss, Glencross and Conroy will all likely swim around together in a kind of 2nd/3rd line stew. Nystrom will also likely do duty here, although I think he'll be limited to a bottom 6 role.
If you pressed me, I'd guess:
Which, minus Moss, is a little scary but should be decent enough if carefully managed. That leaves:
and it wouldn't surprise me if this trio faced some stiffer competition in the short term. I assume Iginla's line will face the big boys, while Lundmark and Boyd will be reserved for the softest competition possible.
None of this is ideal. Jokinen is well known as a scorer, but the truth of matter is he's never done much at ES against anyone of note. In 06/07, his ESP/60 was 1.73 (worse than Bert but slightly better than Boyd) and he was playing middling competition for the Panthers in the SE Division. This season, his ESP rate is the same (1.72), again against sub-par opposition. Jokinen was also a minus player in both situations.
The point is, Jokinen hasn't been an ES outscorer during his career and he hasn't exactly played against heavy hitters. Most of this damage comes on the PP, and even then he's never been terribly efficient (PPP 4.88/60 in 06/07, 4.27/60 this year). Unless Jarome and Cammalleri can carry Jokinen at 5on5, he's likely to be a liability, at least until Langkow returns and Keenan can get some other trio out there against the big boys.
On defense, things are a little less clear cut. Leopold was a very capable shut-down defender during his time here, but he hasn't been employed in that capacity in Colorado and one wonders if he's able to play that role anymore. The temptation for fans and pundits is to pair Leo with Reggie again, but Im willing to bet Keenan will stick with his favored pairings going forward (Regehr-Aucoin, Phaneuf-Vandermeer, Sarich-X) and will rotate Leopold through the bottom two duo's the same way he did with Giordano (who Leo is technically replacing). Keenan doesn't have the same familiarity or golden memories of the Regehr-Leo pairing as many of us do, so he probably won't be impelled by sentimentality to give it another shot. At least, not right away.
As for who gets the boot upstairs this evening, I would guess Adam Pardy - the rookie played just 12:43 against the Sens whereas Vandermeer as up around the 20 minute mark.
Regehr-Aucoin Phaneuf-Vandermeer Sarich-Leopold
That's just me guessing, of course, so we'll see how it goes this evening.
Update - Inside the Flames reports that the lines at the morning skate were: * Michael Cammalleri-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla * Curtis Glencross-Craig Conroy-David Moss * Eric Nystrom-Jamie Lundmark-Dustin Boyd * Andre Roy-Warren Peters-(Kris Chucko, who is en route from Quad City)
* Robyn Regehr-Adrian Aucoin * Jordan Leopold-Dion Phaneuf * Jim Vandermeer-Cory Sarich