The guy on the far right is my dad. (photo by BiblioArchives)
This weekly column looks to discuss a certain number of relevant Jets topics on a certain day of the week. That certain number? Five. That day of the week? Friday. Also, hole. This is the Friday Five-Hole.
WORST FOURTH LINE
Typically, a coach only ever uses his fourth line to give his top players a rest or to try and Gain Momentum from a big hit or fight. No, not much is expected out of a team’s fourth line on the scoreboard. The main thing a coach wants out of his fourth line is for them to not get scored on.
For the past couple decades, the NHL’s General Managers have preferred to load up their fourth line with size rather than skill. This started at a time when hockey wasn’t anywhere near as popular as it is today, so it was hard to fill your roster top to bottom with guys who could skate. If part of your roster can’t keep up with the play, you might as well make them huge to scare the other guys, right?
Fortunately, the sport has grown so much since the early 90’s that North America and Europe are filled with more highly skilled players than ever before. Unfortunately, many GM’s in the league would still rather have a fourth line of John Scotts than Kyle Wellwoods.
I went through all 30 NHL teams and identified the forwards they most consistently use on their fourth line. It wasn’t an exact science, as many teams rotate anywhere between 4-6 players on the fourth line, but in those cases, I chose the players with the most games played. I compiled the sum of all three player’s points and ranked them accordingly.
Teams that prefer the use of skill players over enforcers on their fourth line have been rewarded in goals. By my scale, Chicago’s fourth line of Bollig-Smith-Kruger is the best fourth line in the NHL, with the three of them of totalling 25 points so far. Dallas’ Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel (20), Anaheim’s Maroon-Palmieri-Smith-Pelly (20), and Detroit’s Tatar-Andersson-Miller (19) aren’t far behind.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Winnipeg’s consistent employment of Tangradi-Wright-Thorburn, who together have a whopping 4 points between them, has tied them for the second to last quality fourth line with Philadelphia’s Rinaldo-Hall-Rosehill and Nashville’s Hendricks-Gaustad-Clune. Only Toronto’s combination of Orr-Ashton-McLaren has been worse, registering only a single point.
Though it may not show up on the scoresheet as anything other than penalty minutes, supporters of the enforcer role say the energy their hits/fights bring, their apparent popularity in the dressing room, and the alleged intimidation they bring to the table are intangible, invaluable aspects of the game. However, when we simply add up fourth line point totals across the league, we see the very real benefits a team with skilled fourth line players reap.
More goals, less PIMs.
LADD VS. NOEL
A bizarre article from the Winnipeg Free Press documented a tense exchange between coach Claude Noel and captain Andrew Ladd during a practice in Philadelphia on Thursday. During a drill, Noel shouted at his players to practice harder, probably saying the F-word a lot. Ladd responded by saying, "let’s go" about three times, probably slipping the F-word in there once or twice too.
It’s hard to make much of this, because it’s not real news. Coaches yell at players, players sometimes yell back. However, the altercation could perhaps be yet another sign that Noel may be on his way out soon. His team isn’t winning, his general manager isn’t getting him any help, his players aren’t performing with any consistency, and now we have at least one example of one of his players (his captain, no less) rebelling against him.
Or, you know, it’s probably nothing.
FIVEHOLE OF THE WEEK
Kane scores his first goal in 12 games sneaking a quick wrister past Martin "Fatso" Brodeur right off the draw. Not the prettiest goal in the world, but what do you care?
SOUND THE TROUBA
The prodigal son has returned.
Jacob Trouba moved off the IR and back into the Jets lineup this week. The rookie defenceman hadn’t played a game since he crashed awkwardly into the boards in a game against the Blues on October 19th. Trouba returned Monday in a 3-1 win against the Devils, regiestering one shot on goal and almost twenty minutes of ice time.
Unfortunately, Trouba’s return comes just after Zach Bogosian went down with an injury last week. The learning curve for young defenceman in the NHL is quite steep, and they tend to reach their prime later than forwards. Having the luxury of a solid, veteran partner can expedite progress – Nashville’s Seth Jones is already being considered for the American Olympic team after playing alongside Shea Weber for a quarter of a season.
Now, Bogosian is no Shea Weber, but it’s no question that Trouba was visibly improving every game playing beside the Jets veteran. Bogosian’s tendency to stay at home complimented Trouba’s young enthusiasm well. Trouba’s current partner, Grant Clitsome, is not a top-four defenceman, and Trouba hasn’t quite stood out in the way he did before his injury. Between shaking the injury rust off and losing Bogosian as his partner, Trouba’s progress likely won’t be as quick or noticeable as it was last month. At least not until Bogosian comes back.
FAKE NEWS ON THE BACK-UP
The Jets’ second string goalie Al Montoya was elated to face and beat his old team, the New York Islanders, this past Wednesday. The 28 year old netminder made 28 stops to hand the Jets their second win in a row.
Montoya tried to stay humble after the win, but had to admit the game was personal for him. After spending two seasons with the Islanders, Montyoa signed with the Jets as a UFA this past summer. Though he was originally Coyotes property and played a handful of games there, Montoya considers the Islanders the "team that gave me a chance".
Said Islanders general manager Garth Snow, "I’m still glad we didn’t resign him."