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McPhee Didn’t Think 2nd Line Was Good Enough Defensively, So He Blew It Up

Most of us remember moments like this, McPhee remembers much more. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last year the Golden Knights second line was Erik Haula, David Perron, and James Neal. They netted 70 goals and put up 165 points, excellent offensive production for a second line. However, they posted a -26 rating despite taking just 26.3% (including neutral zone draws) of their faceoffs in the defensive zone.

We did have to change the second line from what it was last year because as far as second lines go it wasn’t good enough defensively. It produced, but the goals against per 60 minutes was not good enough. We were actually dead last for second lines in the league. -George McPhee on VGK Insider Show

We can’t find the exact stat showing Haula, Perron, and Neal but if McPhee uses the phrase “dead last” he’s got to be confident in the numbers. We could find this stat, however.


Those numbers are calculated based on the total time when all three players were on the ice together at even strength. As you can see, the Haula, Perron, Neal line was horrendous defensively, especially when compared to the Golden Knights first and “fourth” lines.

You can either look the other way on that or you can try to address it, so we are trying to address it. -McPhee on VGK Insider Show

The new second line is likely to feature at least two new players and maybe all three. Paul Stastny appears ticketed to be the center of the second line with Alex Tuch on his right wing.

We added Stastny which we thought was a really important move to get a quality center and a guy who is good on faceoffs… Tuch is ready to be a full-time second line player. He had a good rookie season but we think with his ability, and his speed, and his size that he could really score a lot more goals this year than he did last year. -McPhee on VGK Insider Show

The question is whether it’ll be Tomas Tatar or Erik Haula on the left wing. In the interview on Fox Sports Radio’s, VGK Insider Show McPhee was complimentary of Tatar, basically writing off his poor play in Vegas.

Goals are sexy and the second line scored a ton of them last season, but the Golden Knights GM sees past the goals and he simply didn’t see enough defensively out of his second line. So, we blew it up completely. David Perron is now in St. Louis, James Neal is in Calgary, and Erik Haula is likely moving to the wing.

For a team that was three wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, it’s a bold strategy, but if it works, McPhee will look like a genius.

**The McPhee interview on Fox Sports Radio was excellent. Listen to the whole things here. Our stats for this article were compiled from**


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  1. BL

    Do you think the move was to better the forecheck? Increase the speed? Change the mindset on defense? I wonder why the line has such bad +- stats.

    Unfortunately, this article gives me flashbacks of Neal and Perron running into each other inside the offensive zone of the Finals.

  2. Jeff

    I actually felt this way about the 2nd line as well. I thought James Neal was great when scoring opportunities presented themselves but was otherwise a liability on the ice due to his nonchalance in the defensive end. Similarly Perron was a great set up man, but a below average defender. I do think Tuch still needs some work in this regards, but playing with Statsny I think will be great for Tuch’s development as Statsny is a veteran and a solid defender. I think Statsny will demand better defensive play out of Tuch and I think Tuch will respond in kind.

    I would actually prefer Haula to move to the wing on the second line to that Statsny is surrounded by two speedy wingers who can score. I think Tatar would be better served on the third line and power play duties. I think a combination of Tatar with Eakin, Carpenter, Nosek, Carr or even Glass would be a formidable third line. I’m guessing they aren’t going to rush Glass to the show so I would predict Eakin centering Nosek and Tatar for a third line. And I don’t mind that at all. I think Carr is going to turn some heads as well in the preseason and camp so I wouldn’t rule him out for 3rd line duties either.

    • da verb

      Glass didn’t impress me as type to go into corners or come back effectively on defense. Strat had haula and neal as 3/1 , offense/defense ratings. Gretzky was a 4/2 and Federov a 4/5. So there was very little on defensive side for these two players.

  3. Jonathan

    I really like that we actually got an explanation and a good one at that. I did always feel Neal didn’t care at all about defense, and Perron just isn’t good at it. He’s a finesse player and doesn’t seem to do well on defense. It makes sense, whenever the old second line was on the ice it felt like a scary situation if they turned the puck over or if we weren’t on offense.

    • Bobby O

      I don’t think anyone has ever accused Perron of being a finesse player…

    • Bobby O

      I don’t think anyone has ever accused Perron of being a finesse player…

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