Lady Luck and Markus Granlund

Kent Wilson
November 24 2014 01:30PM

I argued many years ago that an NHL prospect needs at least two of three things to break into the league: talent, opportunity and luck. The reality is a bit more complicated, of course, but as a simple rule of thumb it tends to hold. 

The first two factors are self explanatory. Luck, the third, is the tricky one, both to obtain and understand. My consideration of luck as a key factor in getting kids to the show was based on the illustrative example of David Moss some years ago in Calgary. I think it's an illustrative example of what's happening with Granlund currently and why it will likely mean he's destined to stick in the big league.

The Case of David Moss

During the Flames over long dry spell of bad drafting, David Moss was one of the rare exceptions. A 7th round pick, Moss gradually worked his way through college and the organization's farm ranks to become an everyday NHLer by the age of 25. 

Moss' journey to the NHL is an unlikely one given his draft position and the fact that he was never a particularly compelling player (from a flashy skill perspective). When he got the call-up from the club in 2006 due to injury, he was one of the better farm players in Omaha, both because he was already in his mid-20's and because the team was not blessed with a lot of great prospects at the time.

So the situation meant there was opportunity. What sealed his status as an NHLer, though, was an outburst of good fortune.

During Moss' first three NHL games he scored three goals, including a game winner. That seemed to confirm he was NHL quality in the hearts and minds of the fans and coaching staff. Moss stuck around and played 41 games for the parent club that year and thanks to War-on-ice we can see he enjoyed a PDO of about 103. His personal shooting percentage settled in at 14.3% that season - his highest ever and well clear of the 8% career rate he's establish over some 440+ games as an NHLer so far.

Moss never played another game in the minors. And, to his credit, he proved to be a useful player when he wasn't riding the percentages, which is a big reason he has stuck around so long. That said, it's entirely possible Moss never would have broken into the league beyond a cup of coffee without a kiss from lady luck. There are a lot of David Moss type guys who spend their career in the minors or Europe because they just can't get over the threshold. Opportunity and fortune conspired to get him over the hump.

The Case of Markus Granlund 

Something similar is going on with 21 year old Markus Granlund currently. Pressed into action thanks to a swath of injuries, the Flames rookie already has nine points in 11 games, including 3 goals. Prior to the win over the New Jersey Devils, he had five points in the previous three games. Everything Granlund seems to touch turns to gold. His success is so pronounced it has some Flames fans suggesting Mikael Backlund is expendable. 

The source of these results can be found in the underlying numbers. Although Granlund is currently under water possession wise, he neverthless enjoyed an incredible 21.74% on-ice SH% through his first 10 games of the year and a mind boggling PDO of 111.7 (for context, anything over 102.5 is typically unsustainable). That means every 5th puck shot at the net with Granlund on the ice at ES so far has gone in, a rate is way, way above of the NHL-mean of about 8%. For comparion's sake, Sidney Crosby's on-ice SH% this year is just over 9% and he's a generational offensive talent. 

Regular readers will remember that Sean Monahan went through something similar through his first 10-15 games last year as well, which is partially what convinced the Flames to keep him in the big league rather than return him to junior. Incidentally, Monahan's on-ice SH% so far this year is 7.75%, which is instructive to anyone thinking Granlund's current outburst can simply be extrapolated upwards. 

Conclusion

When healthy bodies start to return to the Flames line-up, Granlund will probably be one of the kids who sticks because of his incredible run to start the year. Of course, none of this is to say Granlund is actually a bad prospect who will collapse once the percentages regress. He has NHL calibre tools, 3 years of pro hockey and, at 21, is playing in a role that should be well above his clearance level right now. Like Moss, it's possible (probable, even) he could develop into a useful NHLer, even if he's getting a hand-up from the hockey gods to start. 

The role of luck is important to note for two reasons: 

1.) Granlund won't look as impressive when the pucks start going in at a normal rate for him. Expectations for rookies in town seem to be reasonably muted these days so I don't expect a grand inquisition once that happens, but it's worth bringing up.

2.) Much more importantly, Granlund doesn't replace Mikael Backlund in the Flames line-up, so those notions should be stricken. No forward on the Flames drives play like Backlund currently. The day Granlund becomes as capable a two-way player as Backlund is the day we can all high-five and discuss maybe moving Mikael, but that day isn't here yet (and is no guarantee to ever appear). 


39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 everton fc
November 24 2014, 09:15PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

Well said. Couldn't agree more. Hence my Dumba proposal.

Or maybe when the Pens trade Sutter to Edmonton for Perron, we could flip Granlund to the Pens for Pouliot.

I would love to see a prospect swap with Granlund while he is hot and get back a blue-liner with like you say, has Granlund's ability and upside.

The Dumba proposal is an interesting one. Intriguing. I like Pouliot, too. How do we get both?!

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#52 McRib
November 24 2014, 09:16PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

It's been a wild ride for Adirondack so far. First 10 games, almost nothing goes right...next 10, almost everything. Usually teams get those in smaller batches, but it's a pendulum for the Flames farm club right now.

How has Addys PDO looked of late? It seemed like our goalies struggled early to go along with a new coach and a lot of new players keeping advanced numbers down. Everyone is raving about Utica, but if I am not mistaken they had the opposite PDO numbers to start as Jacob Markstrom's Save Percentage was lights out early on. I think I read somewhere that Addys Fenwick Relative is now in the AHL Top. 10-15 and going up.

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#53 Walter White
November 24 2014, 09:26PM
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Should have traded Backlund last year when he was hot; just like the great Walter White told you to......When are BB and BT going to start listening to WW???!

WW

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#54 chillout
November 24 2014, 09:58PM
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Wow so many doctors and gm's on here today. Hey Montana waiting to hear which no heart attitude problem you think we should trade for today.

Love to hear how bad backlund is just cause he Is injured.

Great player that would be extremely valuable to any team. Can play any teams heavies and dominate possession, with the right line mates pretty sure he'll get the points. You guys will see

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#55 Mort
November 24 2014, 10:37PM
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@Walter White

Maybe they'll start listening to WW when WW says something smart.

M

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#56 Walter White
November 24 2014, 10:52PM
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Mort wrote:

Maybe they'll start listening to WW when WW says something smart.

M

Like trade Backlund when his value is as high as it will ever be?....

WW

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#57 Baalzamon
November 24 2014, 11:24PM
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everton fc wrote:

The Dumba proposal is an interesting one. Intriguing. I like Pouliot, too. How do we get both?!

How about neither?

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#58 Jake the Snail
November 24 2014, 11:39PM
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Parallex wrote:

I wouldn't bet on Bennett instantly getting top six minutes, Monahan basically got 3rd line minutes/comp last year and I'd expect Bennett to get the same in his rookie season.

I just hope that he can suit up for Kingston as soon as possible and then join Adirondack for the playoffs.

I believe Bennett was to come to Calgary for rehab with Flames trainers...may suit up with the Flames for a game or two when fully recovered.

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#59 the-wolf
November 25 2014, 06:29AM
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Walter White wrote:

Like trade Backlund when his value is as high as it will ever be?....

WW

Why would you trade Backlund when he's our best possession player and one of the few players we have in the 25-29 age range? Even if his offense never gets any better, he's still the best 3rd line C in the league who's capable, thanks to his skating, IQ and at-least-not-stone-hands, of playing one the top 2 lines? You win with players like that.

Monahan, Backlund, Bennett at C.

Colborne, Poirier and Granlund down the RW.

Gaudreau, Raymond, Ferland down the LW.

Jooris, Bouma, Knight on the 4th line?

You also have Bollig, Stajan, Hudler because there will always be injuries.

Klmichuk and sMith are still years away. Ditto Janko.

Also leaves prospects like Reinhart, Arnold, Agostino and Hanowski.

Man, where are all these guys going to fit?

That leaves a "something for now," "something for the future," trade idea with the Pens. Glencross and Baertschi as the odd men out? Would the Pens do that for Pouliot who's putting up a p/pg in the AHL?

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#60 the-wolf
November 25 2014, 06:34AM
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Great article Kent. As usual, the voice of reason.

Unbelievable how many people on here think Granlund is better than Backlund based off of an 11 game sample size. Isn't possession the Flames' biggest issue right now? But, that's the bandwagon crowd for you. Poor Granlund if he ever slumps. It'll be the Baerstchi or the Gaudreau after his first 5 games treatment for him.

Seriously, 11 games?

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#61 the-wolf
November 25 2014, 06:36AM
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Johnny Goooooooaldreau wrote:

Apparently I missed the note from Oxford about the definition of "great" changing.

The next time any of you feel like writing that Backlund is "great", I want you to pause, take a deep breath...... and punch yourself in the face. HARD.

He is not "great", and will NEVER be "great".

I would trade him today for a right shooting defenseman under 24 who can play in our top 4. TODAY or any day. Jooris has shown more than Backlund and I have total confidence with the eye test that he can be our 3rd line center moving forward.

NO PROBLEM.

The time to be aggressive looking for a top 4 Dman is now and Backlund is the piece to use.

Read again what you just wrote.

Then consider the value of what you're asking for (a top 4 D).

Then reconsider the value you put on Backlund because apparently it's actually quite high.

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#62 MontanaMan
November 25 2014, 06:41AM
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chillout wrote:

Wow so many doctors and gm's on here today. Hey Montana waiting to hear which no heart attitude problem you think we should trade for today.

Love to hear how bad backlund is just cause he Is injured.

Great player that would be extremely valuable to any team. Can play any teams heavies and dominate possession, with the right line mates pretty sure he'll get the points. You guys will see

Well Mr. Chillout, I never said we should trade for someone with no heart and an attitude problem, unless you didn't write what you meant. It's not personal chillout, it's called an opinion and Backlund does nothing for me. He's in a contract year, he's never produced points, yes he can check other team's top lines but calling him a "great player" is laughable and borderline fraud.

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#63 the-wolf
November 25 2014, 06:43AM
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piscera.infada wrote:

"Rabble, rabble - fire that coach, stupid Treliving - rabble, rabble."

It sounds like Backlund is out indefinitely. Abdominal injuries are very hard to recover from. You basically have to do nothing at all with your core muscles - which is impossible to do as a human. It's basically a week to week thing, plus conditioning time.

You talkin' to me?

Haha....I was hugely concerned about the baby Flames' start. Probably more than I should've been. High expectations and all. It's great to see them turn it around. Of course, I believe I only asked for the coach to be fired if it went for 20 games like that.

As BT....thumbs up for Hiller and Raymond, thumbs down for Bollig and Engelland. 50/50 then. Soemtimes though, I think his best moves so far are the ones he hasn't made. Status quo can be very good and so I'll give him another thumbs up for not having to come in and 'put his stamp' on everything and move out 90% of the prospects and/or players that weren't 'his.'

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#64 PP
November 25 2014, 07:48AM
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Lots of talk about the underlying possession numbers, let's take a look at them. To note, there isn't a single Flames player this season above water in even strength possession numbers, so wouldn't be too tough on Granlund, who is still learning the ropes and, luck or not, has performed probably better than most expected under demanding circumstances and match-ups. Granlund, Backlund and Stajan have all played 11 games this season. Here is the breakdown of their even strength corsi stats this season:

Player....CF CA

Backlund..117 134

Granlund..109 158

Stajan....94 114

If you adjust those number for time on ice, Granlund had on average 3 shots more against per 15 mins of icetime than Backlund. Backlund was playing hurt and that probably affected his numbers, but considering his rookie status, Granlund hasn't done that bad, and probably has room to improve as he gains experience. Backlund has an edge on other centers in face-offs (Backlund FO% 63.3% won 106 lost 54, Monahan FO% 51.6% won 170 lost 155, Granlund FO% 42.9% win 61 lost 80, Jooris FO% 34.8% win 33 lost 65) and hopefully can recover to his previous season form, but possession wise, the change in team performance upon his arrival might not be as drastic as most believe, if he continues to perform at the level he was performing when he left. Anyway, no one is going to replace Backlund in the near future, he has a spesific tool set that Flames need and will benefit from going forward.

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#65 Loxeus
November 25 2014, 07:59AM
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@Baalzamon

I'm not sure what we would stand to gain from getting Pouliot either. I think people are trying to get a bit too creative with our assets now that they are soaring in value. We still have to be strategic and in my mind this equation is not at all balanced:

Granlund (21 years old, high potential as a 2nd line winger, proven chemistry with our young players already (see J. Gaudreau), easily ends up higher than +0.5 ppg player at his prime) ===////=== Pouliot (28 years old, proven 3rd liner, complete gamble if he fits in on the team chemistry wise, proven 0.5 ppg player at his best).

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#66 piscera.infada
November 25 2014, 08:08AM
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the-wolf wrote:

You talkin' to me?

Haha....I was hugely concerned about the baby Flames' start. Probably more than I should've been. High expectations and all. It's great to see them turn it around. Of course, I believe I only asked for the coach to be fired if it went for 20 games like that.

As BT....thumbs up for Hiller and Raymond, thumbs down for Bollig and Engelland. 50/50 then. Soemtimes though, I think his best moves so far are the ones he hasn't made. Status quo can be very good and so I'll give him another thumbs up for not having to come in and 'put his stamp' on everything and move out 90% of the prospects and/or players that weren't 'his.'

Not talking to you. There was a very strong undercurrent of "thought" on here that when Adirondack was in the dumps "Treliving gassed Ward and hired this bozo who can't even coach to save his life, ergo Treliving has no idea how to hire an AHL coach, ergo he's a horrible GM, ergo all our prospects will be ruined, ergo rebuilding in perpetuity". "It certainly couldn't be a new coach, new city, new travel, et cetera, ad nausea".

I understand you didn't say that, and I was with you on giving the poor first-time AHL coach some time to work through everything. I certainly don't see anyone making similar claims to the one above any more. It actually seems Huska has done a very good job at this juncture, judging from the fact that a large number of his best players aren't even on the roster.

As for Treliving, I'm not sure what you expected from him coming in. It definitely didn't seem like a situation where he was going to come in and dismantle everything just so he could get "his guys". Nor, did he ever say that they would be doing anything other than staying the course.

I understand why Burke ruffles people's feathers, and therefore dislike him as a GM, POHO, human, whatever. What I don't understand however, is why there is such a strong willingness to display nothing but disdain towards Treliving simply because they don't like the 'gent who hired him. I've been extremely pleased with Treliving. He signed a bad contract I definitely wouldn't have (Engelland), he traded a third for Bollig (meh, I'm not sure it's a sink or swim move anyway), there was a goalie and a Hunter Smith picked in the second round (it's not possible in anyway he listened to his scouting staff there, just like Feaster did with Gaudreau, Poirier, etc.). The thing with Treliving is, he's always said the right things. He's not sticking his foot in his mouth and spouting off about the "best players not in the NHL". He certainly doesn't appear to be the greatest GM in the league 7 months into the job, but he is certainly competent, with a lot of room to improve, and the support system to make it happen.

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#67 Baalzamon
November 25 2014, 08:22AM
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@Loxeus

To be fair, you're thinking of the wrong Pouliot.

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#68 T&A4Flames
November 25 2014, 08:29AM
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Walter White wrote:

Should have traded Backlund last year when he was hot; just like the great Walter White told you to......When are BB and BT going to start listening to WW???!

WW

Hey WW, I've got a suggestion for you.. You've been referring to yourself as "the great" Walter White quite a bit recently. Why not change your handle to that and then sign off with GWW, you know, and be just that much more annoying.

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#69 chillout
November 25 2014, 08:32AM
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@MontanaMan

Well then how come every single one of your trade thoughts involve no heart attitude problems?

What do you mean Backlund has never produced points? He's been .5/game the last 2 seasons.

So what would you rather have? A guy that gets 10 more points than Backlund that nobody can stand isn't particularly great possession wise and only gets offensive zone starts? Or Backlund?

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#70 Jeremy
November 25 2014, 08:43AM
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This is the Pouliot being referred to. 12 points in 14 games this year in the AHL From Wikipedia. Derrick Pouliot (born January 16, 1994) is a Canadian ice hockey defenceman. He is currently playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. Pouliot was selected 8th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and signed an entry-level contract with them the following September. From Hockeys Future. Pouliot is an exceptionally mobile offensive defenseman with elite vision and puck-distribution. He has a blistering shot from the point, can transition the puck with his head up, and can play a lot of minutes in all situations. He is not a physically imposing presence on the ice, but is extremely strong and not shy from battling for the puck in corners. He possesses a strong, wide base and is difficult to knock off the puck. He is also an explosive skater who is able to quickly rush the puck up ice. Perfect fit for the Flames.Sounds like another Brodie or Giordano.

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#71 Kevin R
November 25 2014, 09:11AM
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piscera.infada wrote:

Not talking to you. There was a very strong undercurrent of "thought" on here that when Adirondack was in the dumps "Treliving gassed Ward and hired this bozo who can't even coach to save his life, ergo Treliving has no idea how to hire an AHL coach, ergo he's a horrible GM, ergo all our prospects will be ruined, ergo rebuilding in perpetuity". "It certainly couldn't be a new coach, new city, new travel, et cetera, ad nausea".

I understand you didn't say that, and I was with you on giving the poor first-time AHL coach some time to work through everything. I certainly don't see anyone making similar claims to the one above any more. It actually seems Huska has done a very good job at this juncture, judging from the fact that a large number of his best players aren't even on the roster.

As for Treliving, I'm not sure what you expected from him coming in. It definitely didn't seem like a situation where he was going to come in and dismantle everything just so he could get "his guys". Nor, did he ever say that they would be doing anything other than staying the course.

I understand why Burke ruffles people's feathers, and therefore dislike him as a GM, POHO, human, whatever. What I don't understand however, is why there is such a strong willingness to display nothing but disdain towards Treliving simply because they don't like the 'gent who hired him. I've been extremely pleased with Treliving. He signed a bad contract I definitely wouldn't have (Engelland), he traded a third for Bollig (meh, I'm not sure it's a sink or swim move anyway), there was a goalie and a Hunter Smith picked in the second round (it's not possible in anyway he listened to his scouting staff there, just like Feaster did with Gaudreau, Poirier, etc.). The thing with Treliving is, he's always said the right things. He's not sticking his foot in his mouth and spouting off about the "best players not in the NHL". He certainly doesn't appear to be the greatest GM in the league 7 months into the job, but he is certainly competent, with a lot of room to improve, and the support system to make it happen.

Actually, at the start we had in Addy, I had some huge concerns myself. Not so much about the coaching decision, it was that we had such high expectations for our young guys because many of them were sent down, including Baert, the start had me wondering if we had over rated our prospects. But they seem to do what our young guys being called up are doing with the big club, & that's great. The more players that seem to get called up, the more guys we didn't think about are stepping up & playing great. What an amazing year.

I look at the Oilers, last 5 years they drafted 1st overall 3 times in a row, 7th & then 3rd. My Lord, even their 2nd rounders are like late 1st rounders. So many of their guys need the press box to get the Sven & Johnny perspective to get things back into context & they have no one to call up. Where is the depth of young guys that play hard like our kids to get that chance to play in theNHL? I think their management needs some press box time.

I do think we need to get a good D prospect. I doubt Baert can get Poulliott, Pens are pretty high on that kid, was part of the J Staal return. But maybe Dupres (sp?) would be in that trade wheel house.

My fear is that we are floating on the bubble come late January & the decision to to sell(but never a buyer) gets awful difficult. Is a few picks worth not having guys like Wideman & GlenX & ensure some kind of semblance of depth? Never thought we would be even close to that position going into the year. I see some heated debate coming in the New Year. Should be fun.

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#72 Parallex
November 25 2014, 09:46AM
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Jake the Snail wrote:

I believe Bennett was to come to Calgary for rehab with Flames trainers...may suit up with the Flames for a game or two when fully recovered.

So you want to take a 18yo kid just coming off a serious shoulder injury who hasn't played a game that counts in almost a year and throw him straight into the NHL?

That strikes me as a bad idea.

Doubly so when compared against having him get his game legs back against OHL level competition followed by (hopefully) a long playoff run in Adirondack.

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#73 Burnward
November 25 2014, 09:52AM
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@Parallex

Can he play AHL this year?

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#74 piscera.infada
November 25 2014, 09:52AM
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Parallex wrote:

So you want to take a 18yo kid just coming off a serious shoulder injury who hasn't played a game that counts in almost a year and throw him straight into the NHL?

That strikes me as a bad idea.

Doubly so when compared against having him get his game legs back against OHL level competition followed by (hopefully) a long playoff run in Adirondack.

Well he's in Calgary now. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep him up for a while once fully healed to train and practice with the club. Maybe take in a few games from the press box, maybe give him some limited minutes in a game at home against the Oilers or something (a weaker team), and then send him down. All he needs is a taste and a hunger for the big-league. It couldn't hurt. But all in all, I agree with your point. If it's a situation where he's best not playing against the big boys right away, they won't do it. Although, I do think that getting up to game-speed with NHL level practices will only benefit him.

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#75 piscera.infada
November 25 2014, 09:53AM
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@Burnward

No. CHL eligible - like Monahan last year.

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#76 Parallex
November 25 2014, 09:55AM
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@Burnward

Yes... but only after Kingston's OHL season concludes (See Klimchuk and Poirier last year).

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#77 smith
November 25 2014, 09:56AM
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@Parallex

You can send Bennet down to the AHL for a conditioning stint. This may be the best option rather than sending him to the OHL. Conditioning stint in AHL, 9 games NHL and then make a decision about sending him back to OHL or keeping him.

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#78 Burnward
November 25 2014, 09:56AM
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@Parallex

Check.

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#79 Burnward
November 25 2014, 09:58AM
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@Parallex

Could he then be NHL eligible as well? If he dominates like many expect, he might be a nice addition in the PLAYOFFS!!!

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#80 Baalzamon
November 25 2014, 10:08AM
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@Jeremy

Well I think that brings new meaning to the phrase "effusive praise". Brodie or Giordano? Don't make me laugh. He's Justin Schultz without the hockey sense.

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#81 playastation
November 25 2014, 10:14AM
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I love how FN has some pretty good discussion about players usefulness and then WW comes in here and says some complete garbage that has nothing to do with anything.

Article says: Granlund and Moss were lucky.

Turns into: Trade Backlund I AM THE GREAT WW.

Wat.

Anyways why is there discussion about moving centers? We need the depth. We can move the extras to RW.

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#82 Big Ell
November 25 2014, 10:20AM
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Galiardi is on waivers. Slow day.

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#83 PP
November 25 2014, 10:32AM
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When Bennett is healthy, i would like to see few games with him placed on the same line with Gaudreau and Granlund. I think this might be an interesting line combination going forward as well, since each of these prospects has a high hockey sense and offensive awareness, making this a fast line (not only foot speed, but speed of thought and passing, executing plays), and they also have high skill sets to transform their vision into plays. A line is often only as good as it's weakest link, and i'd think any of these players wouldn't slow down each other. Either Granlund or Bennett could play the RW. If Granlund starts at centre (given his 3+ years of pro experience and sound defensive awareness), this would allow Bennett a slightly lesser defensive responsibilities and easier transition to NHL, and to work his offensive magic with Gaudreau.

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#84 wot96
November 25 2014, 10:58AM
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PP wrote:

When Bennett is healthy, i would like to see few games with him placed on the same line with Gaudreau and Granlund. I think this might be an interesting line combination going forward as well, since each of these prospects has a high hockey sense and offensive awareness, making this a fast line (not only foot speed, but speed of thought and passing, executing plays), and they also have high skill sets to transform their vision into plays. A line is often only as good as it's weakest link, and i'd think any of these players wouldn't slow down each other. Either Granlund or Bennett could play the RW. If Granlund starts at centre (given his 3+ years of pro experience and sound defensive awareness), this would allow Bennett a slightly lesser defensive responsibilities and easier transition to NHL, and to work his offensive magic with Gaudreau.

Interesting idea.

Except I believe Hartley has said that he thinks about pairs as the line rather than a trio. If that's the case, there are four lines and four spare parts, parts that presumably serve a specific purpose when matched with a pair.

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