DENVER CO - I line up where? (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
By now, most of the modern world has heard the news that Matt Duchene practiced today on a wing (zoinks) with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. As an added shocker, the guy who will center Matt Duchene's old line will be Tim Tebow!! Wait, some of that information might be somewhat incorrect. Maybe I should investigate this line thing a little further before speaking.
First off, here's a look at the totals by each of the forward lines through the first twelve games.
First, it's important to point out that these stats are a rough approximation. Each player's points gets assigned to the main line he played for that game. So, when Kobasew scores a shorthanded goal assisted by Landeskog, it counts as a goal for the 4th line (Kobasew's that night) and an assist for the 3rd line (Landy's), even though they were the only two forwards on the ice. Make sense?
Second point: as more than a few have suggested, we probably shouldn't be calling the 3rd line the 3rd line anymore. That line has more points, more shots and more shifts than any of the other Avalines (groan) this year. Oh, and they've been the line that Sacco has thrown out at the start of 24 of 36 regulation periods so far this year. The Thirst Line has been consistent, scoring in 8 of the 12 games to date and the most physical. All of this is because they play against the weakest competition in the history of hockey (waves at PPP guys). Also, because they are really good.
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||0||0||-2||0||8||4||0||67|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||0||0||0||0||7||3||1||66|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||1||1||2||3||0||6||3||2||68|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||2||4||6||3||2||8||2||3||63|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||0||0||-6||2||9||5||3||83|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||1||1||2||-2||0||7||6||4||66|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||0||0||-4||0||9||3||2||69|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||2||3||5||5||2||7||15||0||86|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||2||2||2||2||10||3||0||74|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||1||0||1||0||4||13||2||0||66|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||0||1||1||1||2||3||1||0||70|
|Landeskog - O'Reilly - Winnik||1||1||2||-2||0||11||2||1||75|
Needless to say, this line hasn't change one bit and rightfully so. While I'd put the odds of this line staying together for all 82 games somewhere around the chances I have of watching an entire episode of American Horror Story without hiding my eyes and screaming for help, I think they'll be together for the immediate future.
The 1st line has had some tweaks, but one really nice constant: Milan Hejduk. Hejduk is off to his normal steady pace with 7 points in 12 games. Of course, Matt Duchene's 6 points is an unmitigated disaster because it's all about the 1 extra point. At any rate, this "1st line" has 9 goals in 12 games and points in 8 of the 12 games (echoing the Thirst Line).
|Mueller - Duchene - Hejduk||0||0||0||-3||0||4||1||0||62|
|Mueller - Duchene - Hejduk||1||1||2||3||0||7||2||3||60|
|Mueller - Duchene - Hejduk||0||0||0||-2||0||5||3||0||69|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Hejduk||4||2||6||4||0||11||0||3||54|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Hejduk||0||1||1||0||0||1||1||5||65|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Hejduk||1||0||1||-1||4||6||0||5||63|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Hejduk||0||2||2||-2||0||5||1||3||58|
|Jones - Stastny - Hejduk||2||2||4||2||2||8||7||3||83|
|Jones - Stastny - Hejduk||0||1||1||-5||0||13||1||1||69|
|Jones - Stastny - Hejduk||0||0||0||-2||0||7||0||1||61|
|Galiardi - Stastny - Hejduk||1||0||1||0||0||7||2||0||69|
|Galiardi - Stastny - Hejduk||0||0||0||-2||0||10||2||2||67|
This line, of course, is expected to change on Friday with the move of Matt Duchene to left wing. And here's something that I think people might be missing on this. You might think this is to break Duchene out of his so-called slump. Or, this move might just be because the left wings on this line have a measly 4 points and 24 shots (Hejduk has 33 shots). We - the 99%ers in the fanbase - have been saying all summer that the Avalanche are too thin at left wing and, gosh darnit, they sure are.
So, I like the move of Duchene up to the first line to hopefully get a little more offense generated. Unfortunately, that doesn't do much to help the line we've been calling the 2nd line this year. This line has the lowest offensive numbers of the top 3 lines. Certainly, Chuck Kobasew didn't put up the offensive numbers (1 point in 10 games on the line), but he's not alone. Joaqim Lindstrom has 0 points in 5 games on the LW here and is looking kind of Hlinka-like while Duchene has 1 point in 4 games as center here. Now, Joe Sacco is turning to T.J. Galiardi to spark things here. I like that he's getting an opportunity to center a line; I'm just not sure I'm ready to buy into this yet.
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||0||0||0||-2||2||9||0||0||63|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||0||0||0||0||0||8||1||3||67|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||0||0||0||-2||2||6||5||1||72|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||1||1||2||0||4||7||3||0||64|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||4||2||6||2||0||7||1||3||73|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||1||1||2||2||0||4||1||3||68|
|Jones - Stastny - Kobasew||0||0||0||-2||0||5||0||0||63|
|Lindstrom - Galiardi - Kobasew||1||1||2||-2||0||5||2||1||54|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Kobasew||0||1||1||-3||0||8||1||1||57|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Kobasew||0||0||0||-1||2||7||0||2||55|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Jones||1||0||1||2||0||3||2||2||58|
|Lindstrom - Duchene - Jones||0||0||0||-3||0||6||2||1||65|
The 4th line has been fairly consistent in both personnel, lack of offensive production and dearth of ice time (averaging about 40 shifts a game vs the 60+ that the other lines are getting). The group does have 49 hits, tied with the Thirst Line and I think they've looked pretty good when they do get a chance to get out there on the ice. They aren't here to put up gobs of points...which is fitting because they aren't.
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||-3||0||1||2||0||42|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||0||2||5||10||2||47|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||1||0||1||2||5||6||2||0||40|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||1||0||2||5||0||50|
|McLeod - McClement - Porter||0||0||0||0||0||4||6||1||37|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||0||2||1||5||3||34|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||0||2||2||3||0||34|
|McLeod - Duchene - McClement||0||1||1||1||0||1||1||0||42|
|McLeod - McClement - Galiardi||0||0||0||-1||0||0||8||0||32|
|McLeod - McClement - Porter||0||0||0||-3||2||3||2||0||38|
|McLeod - McClement - Kobasew||1||0||1||1||0||2||2||1||43|
|McLeod - McClement - Kobasew||0||0||0||-1||0||1||3||0||45|
I think what surprises me the most about the lines so far has been that Sacco hasn't made many changes. Lindstrom replaced an injured Peter Mueller, Duchene was moved around a bit to send a message and Galiardi traded places with Kobasew (a good thing). Compare that to the first 12 games last year where players were all over the place. I like the consistency - keep the stuff that's working, be patient with what isn't and make some tweaks when you need to. Moving Duchene to the wing isn't a minor tweak, but it's certainly worth a shot. Sacco has been saddled with a ridiculously thin corp of wingers and it's already hurting the team. Perhaps this will end poorly, but it's time to give it a shot.