Many moons ago, the fourth lines of NHL hockey teams were stocked with one or more players whose primary job was to skate just enough to find someone to fight. That transitioned to teams maybe having a single player of that mold but also players with utility often as penalty killers on the fourth line. Then finally teams started trying to gain an advantage by having a fourth line that could play regular shifts and hold their own. The path seemed to be headed toward teams icing a fourth line with as much scoring talent as possible. While fourth line players are leaps and bounds better than years past, fourth lines that score at a decent clip are still a rarity. I think the primary cause for that is a combination of the salary cap with escalating salaries even for young players still in the restricted free agency phase and maybe some lack of guts to take on the risk of stocking a fourth line with young skill players who may be prone to learning curve errors.

But is it possible for a team to have enough salary balance and young scoring depth to ice a fourth line that is the best it can in terms of offensive upside? Seemingly, this would require young players on entry-level contracts because very few teams can afford signing/keeping a collection of scorers in the #10 to #12 slots.

And if it is possible and someone tried it, what would be the results? In general, I think coaches are risk averse at the bottom of the lineup with the mentality being to aim first and foremost for players who will not lose hockey games versus trying to add more who can win hockey games. Per the old school book, would a trio that include two or three younger players still just be a matchup problem that maybe scored 20 percent more but have up 60 percent more? Or would it actually be possible to gain an advantage?

And finally coming around to a Canes theme, should the 2021-22 Carolina Hurricanes be the team to wholeheartedly try this experiment? Seth Jarvis has looked very capable offensively playing on the fourth line and could easily have a few more assists with more finishing on his line. Jarvis has shown decent chemistry with Derek Stepan who maybe serves as a stabilizing veteran presence, but could the line be more potent offensively if the Hurricanes elevated another young forward like Jack Drury or Jamieson Rees?

The bigger question in front of that is whether the Hurricanes will keep Seth Jarvis at the NHL level and spend the first year of his entry-level contract in 2021-22. He has played four games thus far which means the team has five more before having to make a go/no go decision on burning the first year of his entry-level contract. Then the question behind that is if the Brind’Amour will consider auditioning Jarvis on more of a scoring line. I am on board with having some patience and just letting him settle in, but he is producing more offensively right now than multiple players who are playing in the top nine forwards. If the team does decide to keep Jarvis at the NHL level, then the possibility of going for it a bit more offensively with the fourth line comes into play. One huge benefit of starting 10-1-0 is that the team has some margin for error in terms of trying some things like this.


What say you Canes fans?


1) Is it possible in a salary cap NHL to ice a fourth line that is truly an advantage offensively (relative to what they give up defensively)? Or does it make sense to be a bit more conservative and also use the fourth line for a penalty killer or two?


2) Do you think the Hurricanes should at least try icing a fourth line that aims for scoring with Jarvis’ playmaking as a foundation?


3) What do you think is the ultimate destination for Seth Jarvis? Is he still destined to be returned to Canadian juniors? Will he spend the rest of the 2021-22 season at the NHL level in a depth role? Or is he destined to find his way into the top 9 and stick there?


Go Canes!

Share This