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Is It Time For Line Changes? Massive Line Changes?

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 2nd line center? (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights top line made up of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith have a total of 24 points. That’s the exact same total as every other skater on the roster combined. 24 points.

One of the reasons for the Golden Knights early success a year ago was eventual Jack Adams award winner Gerard Gallant’s willingness to switch his lines. Because there was no history of success or failure, there was no fear of letting guys skate with anyone, anywhere, in the lineup. This year that hasn’t really been the case.

(If you haven’t checked out our Line Charts yet, you really need to.)

Last year, Erik Haula went from third line wing to first line center within the first 10 games of the season. William Karlsson from playing with Haula and Brendan Leipsic to Marchessault and Smith. Vadim Shipachyov from first line center to retired cry-baby. Oh, and all of this happened while the Golden Knights raced out to an 8-2-0 start.

This year, the Golden Knights have scored 21 goals in 10 games. Their record is 4-5-1 and yet as you can see, two of the four lines have remained completely intact. Plus, Max Pacioretty and Ryan Carpenter have played every game in their same place as well. (Carpenter had the flu for the game he missed) That’s eight static forwards in 12 positions yet barely more than two goals per game from the group.

Obviously, messing with the first line would be foolish, they literally have half of the teams offensive production. It’s the “fourth line” that should be in question.

This is not to say the fourth line has been bad, instead, they’ve actually been awesome, probably the best fourth line in the entire NHL. The problem though is, by production (scoring chances), the fourth line is actually acting as the Golden Knights third, maybe even second, line. A great fourth line is supposed to keep the opposition off the board and create chances along the way while letting the first, second, and third lines score goals against lesser opposition. Exactly what Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, and William Carrier have been doing, but when there’s no production from the six forwards ahead of them, the “role” of a fourth line can no longer be to “steal minutes.”

Bellemare, Reaves, and Carrier have created 37 scoring chances in their 79 minutes on the ice together. No combination of Stastny, Pacioretty, Haula, Tuch, Hyka, Eakin, Carpenter, Lindberg and Nosek have created even close to that many in the same amount of time. The fourth line, however, has scored just one goal because they really don’t have a finisher on their line.

Imagine someone being there to help finish the chances Carrier creates. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So the thought here, and the purpose for all the words thay proceed this sentence is… What if Gallant took the other nine forward positions and completely jumbled them up? Here, let me give you a couple examples. However, you have to understand, the idea is no longer to have traditional first, second, third, and fourth lines, instead, it’s to distribute the wealth and attempt to create a group of 12 that’s actually scoring rather than trying to fit players into roles.



Or, if you want to get really crazy with the thought that Pacioretty may miss a few games…



Burger King always says there are “there are a thousand ways you can order a Whopper” (there are actually 221,184, but nevermind that), this is the same premise. Once you unlink Bellemare, Carrier, and Reaves the options are endless.

I’m not saying any of this would necessarily work, but 10 goals in 10 games from the second, third, and fourth lines combined isn’t good enough. Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith can drive the play, but they need help, and at the moment they aren’t getting it. Again, not sure this is actually better, but hey, can it really be much worse?

Previous Podcast #128: Change All The Lines (But One)




  1. Bob Nokley

    Fun read you have a lot of time in this piece. Hockey and golf or so similar in that The more you think about it worse you do. I think it also demonstrates just how hard it really is to win in the NHL. The high # of scoring chances we are getting is just not getting finished .

  2. Mike

    I say leave the “4th” line intact, but move them up to the 3rd. Get them a few more minutes. The chemistry between PEBell, and the Bash Brothers has been fun to watch this year. You’ve got Reeves as the finisher (did I really just type that??!!) Carrier is due…he has been the most improved skater on the ice this year!

    If Patches misses time, I would like to see Freakin Eakin get a shot centering the 2nd line.

    I like what Hyka has created on the ice this year. Not sure how to plug him in, but he has shown more than Carpy this year. Maybe Haula, Hyka, and Nose line.

    Any news on Stats coming back early?? That would cloud this discussion even more.

  3. Bent Hermit

    I do agree that there needs to be a shake up. I don’t think breaking up the 4th line is the answer. Turk did give Reaves and Carrier time on the other lines in the last game. I just don’t think that will make a big enough difference. They need some guys that can finish. This is a chance to see what they have in their system with all the injuries, especially if Patches is out, . They have 3 guys I would like to see given a chance. The 1st would be Macek. He’s on fire with 9g 2a in 8 gp. The 2nd is Pirri. He’s a proven finisher at 12.9% shooting. He is also a PP specialist. The 3rd is Quinney. He had a good camp and has continued that in Chicago. I don’t think Pirri will get a chance. I think there’s some kind of personality issue there that teams don’t like. The next thing I think they should try is giving Nosek a chance at center. He has played center most of his career. He is a good at setting up line mates and is one of the better forwards a defending.
    Lineup with Patches:
    2nd: Patches-Nosek-Tuch
    3rd: Haula-Eakin- Macek/Pirri

    without Patches:
    2nd: Tuch-Eakin-Macek/Pirri
    3rd: Haula-Nosek-Hyka (offensive)
    3rd: Haula-Nosek-Carp (defensive)

    I do know the chances of any of this happening is slim to none.

  4. Mike StG

    Maybe we need to acknowledge the fact that almost none of our forwards were top 6 players on their teams. We let 2 of our most prolific 2nd line Fs go, replaced one on LW and added a quality C which put Haula’s role in question. What we really need is another quality RW finisher. Maybe we need Nylander or Stone. Our D seems to be holding up, but if we’re scoring less than 3 goals per game on avg we won’t get far, even in our division. Other teams are evolving their offenses to emulate our model from last year and they’re doing it with better players.

  5. hockey god

    Season Stats
    GP G A PTS +/-
    10 3 5 8 3
    J NEAL
    GP G A PTS +/-
    11 2 1 3 -2
    GP G A PTS +/-
    10 5 5 10 2
    ^^^^^speed -leadership- durability

    M Pacioretty
    GP G A PTS +/-
    10 2 0 2 -4
    GP G A PTS +/-
    3 0 0 0 0
    0 0 0 0 0

    ^^^^^ MIA

  6. Dave Pros

    Much of winning (in hockey, sports in general, and life) depends on attitude, the desire to succeed.
    I think last year’s team was a good example of this because the team was driven by a number of issues that fall into the general category of “I’m gonna show those SOBs”. Last year the guys united to show the teams that let them go how wrong and stupid they were. That thinking put an extra jump in their step, a little more energy into that check, a tad more concentration into hitting that spot that opposition goalies left open.
    They were, to put it mildly, ticked off.
    If you agree with that, what can management do to recreate that attitude?
    I believe wholesale player movement between the Knights and the Wolves would go a long way to increase the desire to play their best.
    Bring up the top 6 Wolves, guys who want more than anything to be NHLers and send the bottom 6 to Chitown (pronounced Shy-town.)
    Bring up the top scorers and team leaders, let’s see what they can bring to the show.
    The 6 that go down, for the most part, will be ticked enough to show why they should be returned to the Knights.
    This also puts a little more ‘fight’ in the remaining guys who fear they will be the next to visit the home of the best pizza on earth, and encourages the guys in the AHL to up their game because the best will be the next to get to live in Sin City.
    A win-win!
    Attitude brought the team to the finals but also sooth the edge of anger, bring that back and we get to see a winning team again.

    • Jordan

      @Dave… good effort, horrible idea. Please think of what will happen to player moral with this strategy if they just happen to be in a regression that could literally end in the next period of the next game.

    • I hear what you are saying, but this really isn’t viable due to 2 reasons.

      Reason 1 – Waivers
      In the NHL, if you want to send a player to the AHL, you must pass him through waivers. So, if you wanted to do this, you would be at risk of losing the players you send to Chicago to another team for nothing. Outside of Hyka, Bischoff, and Tuch (who are waiver exempt) every other player would be offered up to every other team for free. There’s no way a team would take that risk.

      Reason 2 – Money
      NHL players have contracts that are either “one-way” or “two-way” contracts.

      A one-way contract means the player is paid his full salary whether he’s in the NHL or the AHL
      A two-way salary means the player is paid one amount (minimum of $650,000) if he’s in the NHL, and a different amount (minimum $75,000) in the AHL.

      Almost all players on the Wolves are on two-way contracts. Almost all of the players on VGK are on one-way. So, if you switch them, you would be paying an extra group of players a much larger salary.

      To get an idea of both waivers and contract statuses, check out

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