Just two seasons ago the New York Islanders had the “best fourth line in hockey”. And Casey Cizikas was the main reason behind that. Taking his tireless forechecking, physicality and a dash of scoring into the new era.
The typical fourth line in the NHL is dead. You won’t see the New York Islanders toss out a fourth line that plays less than ten minutes with a guy that’s dressed simply to fight the other team’s goon.
Not a single New York Islanders player played less than ten minutes against the Anaheim Ducks. Chimera and Kulemin played just above ten.
Even Matt Martin when he was here played more than ten minutes a night. The man could fight, and he hit anything that was wearing another team’s jersey. But he could also score and put up a few points.
It’s unfortunate, but when we hear of a fourth line player we hear “role player”, or assume the guy is only going to play a handful of minutes and is just there as some sort of intimidation factor. To be tossed out when the going gets tough.
For years we’ve seen the slow erosion of that role. In 2015 the
wrote a piece indicating that fourth liners now have more skill than ever. Case and point Casey Cizikias.
He’s a Fourth Liner, But Not That Fourth Liner
Casey is that new wave of talented fourth liners. When I say talented I’m not talking about top line potential. It’s that players like Cizikas perfectly bridge the gap of what a checking line was back in the day and what a skill-based NHL requires today.
There’s no question that Cizikas plays a tough physical game. But in today’s game, a player can’t be that one dimensional. He’s got to bring offense to the game.
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Don’t get me wrong. In terms of hockey lingo, the Casey Cizikas is a grinder. He gets in the dirty areas. He’s a tireless worker. And is certainly apt at throwing his weight around the ice. In terms of establishing and sustaining offensive pressure or even trying to elevate defensive pressure, the coaching staff can count on Casey Cizikas to do both. Even though his role has grown to do more of the later with 67.4% of his zone starts in 2017-18 in the defensive end.
But with all that Cizikas can also score. Last season he put up 25 points in 59 games. Putting him on pace for 35 points and his most productive season in the NHL. If it wasn’t for that terrifying wrist laceration at the start of the year and then missing a month with an “upper-body injury” he might have hit that mark.
A 35 point return plus all the work he does on the penalty kill and all the work he puts in off the puck for the Islanders shows why $3.5 might not be that bad of a deal.
Agree with the finances of the Casey Cizikas’ deal or not, but there’s no denying that he’s bridged the divide from that physical and bruising fourth line to a skill-based fourth line that every NHL team needs in today’s game.