This is something I've heard discussed sporadically in the comments but not really discussed in depth. I wanted to look at what I've heard referenced as the likeliest line combos and see what kind of role and pairings might make the most sense for this team moving forward.The intention of the outline I've come up with is to insulate some of our players who struggled the most last season, and give great opportunities for our youngsters and offensive talents to shine.
Personally I think we'll probably see the line up wind up looking like this:
L1 Mac – Turris- Ryan
L2B Hoffman- Zibanejd-Stone
L4 Greening- Smith-Neil
Pairing A Methot-Karlsson
Pairing B Wiercioch-Gryba
Pairing C Phillips-Ceci
I'll also add a fourth pairing in there of Karlsson-Wiercioch (Pairing D)
It could very well be that the Wiercioch spot goes to Cowen instead, but I desperately hope it doesn't. If anything Gryba's spot should go to Cowen. For all the talk of that pairing struggling together last season, they had a positive corsi rating and the team scored 71 percent of the goals when they were on the ice together. But I digress..
Given the number of players we're allowed to dress for a game, I can't honestly fathom how guys like Lazar, Boro, or Condra find space on this team barring a trade. Personally I'd much prefer a fourth line of Greening-Pageau and Lazar/Condra, but I don't think it's likely to see 2/3 of that line moved or removed. I would also rather not see Phillips play much this year, but I think it's an unavoidable reality at this point.
L1 gets pairings A and C
Last year L1 faced the toughest competition on the team, I'd like that to change this year as I'd think they'd absolutely slaughter lesser competition. It would also help to ease the impact of a potential regression to the mean in terms of PDO. But in certain situations it'll be unavoidable that they'll be paired against another team's top line. They'll maybe score a bit less, but will do fine.
In situations where L1 is forced to play against top competition, I would give them pairing A. All of these players played against tough competition last year and came out smelling like roses. If you average out the stats last year when Turris, Methot and Karlsson were on the ice, you get a Corsi for% of 53% and a GF% of 61%. I think those 5 players on the ice together have the capacity to win, if not dominate the possession battle and outscore the best in the league.
When Turris's line is up against weaker competition, I think they should draw the short straw of pairing C. My reason for this is that Turris and MacArthur seem to have the ability to take any player on this team, grab them by the collar and drag them up with them into possession and goal share dominance. When Phillips was on the ice without Turris last year, Ottawa scored a measly 36.4 percent of the goals. When Phillips was on the ice with Turris last year, Ottawa scored 60 percent of the goals. That is bananas. Again, I don't think this pairing should happen against top competition, but the Turris line has the capacity to carry Phillips. Giving the Turris line weaker competition could also help to shift the penalty differentials in our favour.
L2A Gets pairing A
And they face the toughest competition. This is the line and role that I would find most concerning. Again, Karlsson is a player who, like Turris, improves everyone around him. This line may lose the GF% battle, but with Karlsson, they shouldn't lose the possession battle. Through three seasons, not one player who has played over 100 minutes with #65 has averaged a worse corsi% than 53.2% Kuba was the worst, Konopka second worst at 53.8.
I think this combination has all the tools to be an effective two-way line if they're able to use a solid defence via offence model. They'll be fast enough and have a solid offensive punch, but will still have players like Legwand and Methot to shoulder more of the defensive load when necessary. If this line struggles in that capacity, it would simply force L1 into playing the toughest competition again.
L2B is Paired with Gryba-Wiercioch
Gryba impressed me last year. He played the toughest competition of any defender and came out with positive Corsi% and GF%. He also spent the more of his time with Smtih's line than anyone else and they did not play well together at all. Despite that drag, he still came out looking pretty good and I would guess that this line pairing would give a boost to his underlying numbers.
I think Zibanejad and co. are due for breakout years. Even if they don't take a leap this year, they ought to be tremendously effective against other team's third lines. If they do take that leap they have every chance of surpassing L2A and facing the team's toughest competition. Their collective possession stats are outstanding and there's a real opportunity that they all bring out the best in each other. In a small sample size last year, when Hoffman and Zibanejad were on the ice together, Ottawa scored over 66% of the goals and had Corsi% of nearly 60. Gryba performed admirably against harder competition last year and should be more than adequate in complementing this line's two-way game. Wiercioch also faced relatively weak competition in the last two seasons, but again should have no problem excelling in the role this group would be intended to play. If this group could dominate weak competition at the start of the year I think it would also do wonders for their confidence and development moving forward. If either of Hoffman or Stone don't gel on this line, it could provide Ottawa with the opportunity to find a spot for Lazar.
Line 4 gets pairing D.
Shockingly, Greening Smith Neil actually faced pretty tough competition last season. I think this line has the ability to do really quite well against easy competition, especially with Karlsson and Wiercioch's impact.
Both of these defenders have played a fair bit with these forwards with very respectable results. Here are their respective stats together since the 2011-2012 Season
GF% 57.1 CF% 57.6
Gf% 53.8 CF% 57
GF% 50 CF% 53.8
GF% 58.8 CF% 52.7
GF% 57.1 CF% 52.3
GF% 50 CF% 51.7
Wiercioch and Karlsson have also notably crushed it in their relatively small time together. This group will get absolutely chased around by other team's fourth lines.This line's job will be to not be offside, get in front of the net, and not take stupid penalties. I think they can absolutely do that effectively.
Again, this situation takes some of our biggest liabilities and puts them in a position to really excel. This should also give us a chance to change our terrible situation in regards to penalty differentials, which was undoubtedly one of our biggest issues last year.
You end up with a first line that can either take advantage against weak competition, or match up very well against another team's top line.
A second line which can score and should absolutely win the possession battle with Karlsson behind them.
A third(ish) line given every opportunity to excel.
A fourth line which was terribly misused last year given a shot at redemption and dominance because Karlsson.
There isn't a line there, if deployed properly that shouldn't be able to win the possession battle handily. If we have a bounce back year from either goalie, and are able to embrace a better defensive system, there's no reason we shouldn't be a great team next year.