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?
1. The talent you can put on the 4th line is dependent on how much of the salary cap you have already used to fill out the first three lines. That being the case, you either can go with cheap veterans or cheap young players or a combination thereof. With cheap experienced players you hope to get dependability (hold their own defensively) and a goal here and there. With young players you are banking on they will score a little more than they give up with the bonus that they are getting NHL experience to maybe develop into better NHL players. I think the Canes are using a combination of the two with the overriding premise being that the 4th line MUST play at a very fast pace (wear down the opponents, keep the pressure on) and be able to hold its own defensively.
2. IMO the Canes should continue using the 4th line as they have been which has been a focus on players who can play at a fast pace, who are defensively sound, who can win faceoffs, don’t have to be paid much, and who will be satisfied playing in the role assigned. In the case of Jarvis, it is his age situation which is forcing the Canes to use him as they are doing.
3. The Canes will play Jarvis up to his 9 game limit and then return him to the juniors IMO. No way they burn a year to have him play the roles he is playing currently (a fill in 4th liner bounced around to other lines periodically). They will give him specific things to work on that they have seen during his stay in the NHL (getting his shot off quicker, getting to his scoring spot, defensive positioning, improving his skating, and maturing physically.)
Canes have recalled Josh Leivo from the Wolves in return for Rees. That is an indicator that Jarvis will be moving on down there when his 9 game stint is done, or I think so.
The Wolves line of
Andrew Poturalski with C.J. Smith and Stefan Noesen
are one of the highest scoring lines in the AHL. I could totally see them as a very interesting 4th line for the Canes.
Moesen and Smith both have significant NHL experience and could slot in on either of the bottom 6.
A.P. is the reigning AHL player of the month and has had long stints of AHL dominance but has somehow never managed to quite put it all together at the NHL level. Some guys are like that, career AHL stars but do not have the right set of skills to make it in the NHL.
Still, given such a stellar track record I would imagine the Canes would have to give him another look at some point.
From what I saw of Poturalski in Carolina how much he scores in the AHL isn’t very important. I wouldn’t even call him soft, but scared at the NHL level. No chance he plays, IMO, unless that has changed, a lot. Plenty of struggling NHL teams could have grabbed this guy multiple times, but have not. At 27 he’s probably an AHL lifer.
I am a hard no on trying to make the 4th line another scoring line. The role of the fourth line is more than defense. They are traditionally an energy line there to keep pucks in and wear out other teams. On the road in particular they will often end up matched with top lines. If your fourth line is good, like the Canes is, they can hang with a top line skating and defensively. This allows your top six to get more rest and have more in the tank in the third. Scoring is a bonus. Putting a young kid who is not the best on defense is a recipe for disaster. That’s part of what makes Jarvis special. He isn’t deficient on defense like some recent top picks (Necas and Svechnikov) were their rookie seasons.
Jarvis belongs in Carolina. He is a hockey player. Strong on fundamentals and doesn’t really have weak points. He doesn’t have standout talents like an Aho, Teravainen, Necas or Svechnikov, but he is always doing the right thing. Something those four guys can benefit from. Sending him back to juniors is idiocy, especially if you say your commitment is to win the cup this year.
The guy that could use some time in junior, or the AHL, is Kotkaniemi. He is routinely the worst forward on the ice for Carolina. Maybe he could find some confidence and his game in Chicago. If he doesn’t wake up soon he’ll be in the pressbox come 2022.
I agree <. Jarvis belongs, saving an entry level contract year is pretty irrelevant when he performs like a regular. I think he will grow and have those special skills. There are no weaknesses. KK is being given his chance but man he better get it in gear. He looses puck battles, has poor passes, etc. very underwhelming. I remember Necas not clicking right away. KK looks like that. I do not know if AHL time is the answer or keep giving him minutes with quality line mate. He is the weakest on the team. Hard no on 4th scoring line. Need grit and ability to slow down top lines, spot on.