It’s everyone’s favorite faux-coaching activity: playing around with and predicting lineups. In case you missed it, a segment on episode ten of The Dump and Chase Podcast covered the return of Thomas Vanek and discussing what the lineups should, and could be moving forward.
What was agreed on across the board was keeping 22-year-old Brock Nelson in the lineup. He has proven to be an NHL caliber player and his play in Vanek’s absence has proven his worth to the team. However, with Vanek’s return, where does Nelson fit in the lineup?
Last season, the second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen, and Kyle Okposo made their case of being the most dynamic line for the Islanders. They played a big role in the team’s run late in the season and carried that momentum with them into the playoffs. First course of action: move Kyle Okposo back to the second line. The move shouldn’t be viewed by himself, or fans, as a downgrade, but a move that could most benefit the team. Doing so could also spark the play of Josh Bailey, which would be welcomed with open arms at this point.
With Okposo moving to the second line, Brock Nelson deserves his shot on the top line with Thomas Vanek and John Tavares. Nelson’s style of play would mesh well with Vanek and Tavares’ and could be exactly what the top line needs to take their game to the next level. In the few games we’ve seen Vanek and Tavares together, there hasn’t been as much production as anyone would like. At this point in the season, and with the Islanders inconsistency a major problem, this could be exactly what the team needs to get the most out of their top line.
The third line is where a scratch is in order (it has to come somewhere). Although Peter Regin hasn’t been terrible lately, a healthy scratch may be in his near future. A line of Michael Grabner, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck could benefit all players on said line. Bouchard, a natural centerman, may be the spark needed not only for Grabner, but for the line in general. We’ve seen Clutterbuck get some good offensive looks, and Bouchard’s passing game as been very tight as of late. If that line can kick into gear, the secondary scoring may be back in the Islanders game.
Finally, the fourth line. The Colin McDonald experiment on the second line didn’t go over so well. A return to the fourth line with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas is what seems like the only move. Cizikas has been playing phenomenal hockey and has proven he can quarterback the fourth line by creating scoring chances. It’s certainly the “grinder” line out of the other three, but Martin, Cizikas, and McDonald have shown great chemistry together and have been improving as a unit since last season.
Speculation is all it is. Who gets scratched and what the lines will be come Friday in Pittsburgh, and moving forward are all up to the coaching staff. With Vanek finally re-entering the lineup, hopefully we see the offense start scoring again to make up for the weak and depleted defense.