Last week on the SinBin.vegas podcast, the Golden Knights second line combination scenarios were a big focus. As it currently stands, it appears the Golden Knights have seven forwards that can fill top the six roles. Of course, messing with the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith is foolish, so that leaves Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar to fill three spots.
Unless, as we discussed, Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses a more balanced attack by splitting the four into pairs of two rather than a full line and a leftover. That would leave an open spot on both the second and third lines. Possibly, the distribution of points would create more offense throughout the entire lineup while not sacrificing the offensive talents of one of these four by sticking them on a defensive-minded line.
Let’s put it to the test statistically. To do so, we’ll start by comparing possible combinations of 2nd lines using three of the four available players and compare it to that of the line of David Perron, James Neal, and Haula.
The Perron, Neal, and Haula line produced 70 goals, 95 assists, and 165 points while posting a combined 2.8 defensive point shares.
We used last year’s stats to come up with combined line totals for each of the four potential lines. Each line is named by which player is missing, so “w/o Haula” means a line of Tuch, Tatar, and Stastny.
Before you go scrolling back and forth trying to figure out the difference between each line and that of Perron, Neal, and Haula, we did the math for you.
Unsurprisingly, the numbers come up way short offensively. Defensively, however, any of the four options would be better. The biggest concern though is the play of the leftover player. Could Tuch, Haula, Tatar, or Stastny thrive on a line with players like Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, or Tomas Hyka? That’s yet to be seen, but it’s also why the idea of splitting the four high-end forwards came up.
The Golden Knights 2nd line was elite offensively but lagged defensively. The 3rd line was just the opposite. Combining them was good, but McPhee’s willingness to allow Perron and Neal to walk shows he believes it could be better.
To put that to the test, we show how much production would be necessary from the two players that would fill in to match what the Golden Knights got out of their middle-six last season.
The third line was a bit of a mishmash at times, so to simplify it, we used Tuch, Eakin, and a combination of Brendon Leipsic and Tomas Tatar (while playing with VGK).
The total output of the middle-six was 102 goals, 146 assists, 248 points, and a combined defensive point shares of 6.0.
The combined total of Tuch, Haula, Stastny, and Tatar was 80 goals, 99 assists, 168 points, and 5.2 defensive point shares.
That leaves the other two players needing to produce a combined 22 goals, 47 assists, 80 points, and 0.8 defensive point shares.
Here are the options.
As you can see, the offense is still a bit short, but the added defense is massive. Plus, the thought would be you would see an increase in numbers from both Tatar and Tuch playing with more talented offensive players, plus there could be a bump from any of these players listed playing with the likes of Stastny, Haula, Tatar, and Tuch.
In the end, both options come up kind similar; less offensive production but more reliable defense. The benefit of splitting the four is vast though as it won’t leave an odd-man-out which would increase the probability of another Tomas Tatar situation.
All in all though, no matter how Gallant lines em up, the Golden Knights should be more proficient defensively with a mild drop in goal-scoring. Sounds like a fine plan to me.