There is no question that most Florida Panthers fans would agree that the team needs to score more goals. While the Panthers did advance to the playoffs last season, they did so with a negative goal differential; scoring 203 goals while allowing 227. While many fans yearn for GM Dale Tallon to find a scorer on the free market, there are already several players working their way up in the organization who will undoubtedly make an strong impact in the goal differential. Therefore, what the team could do to be more productive, is to have the focus and determination to stay on a winning strategy. Such a strategy in the modern trap-obsessed game, would be to physically wear down and lower the morale of the opposing team. The way many successful teams are able to employ this strategy is to roll four lines.
The scoring line is very important, yet what might be equally or arguably more important, is the Panthers checking line. This line has taken the form of either the third or fourth line in recent years. More lines equal more rest for players while also providing opportunities to match lines, especially at home, to gain a decisive advantage over the opponent. Beyond the obvious however, is the ability to change the pace of the game, as well as to provide crucial momentum when needed. A hockey game is a complex conflict, especially in the NHL; the sport’s pinnacle level. One play can decide the fate of a game. To dictate the plays you need the puck, to get the puck you must take it, to take it you must separate your opponent from it; however possible.
All of this can be achieved with the players already in the organization, especially after a couple of moves this postseason. The lost pieces of the puzzle are those who normally fly under the radar. Take defenseman Mike Weaver as an example, he is often praised by Panthers analysts and fans on a regular basis for his consistent defensive prowess; yet the fact of the matter rests in his obliviousness to everyone else. This can provide an advantage to the Panthers, having someone to call on for a role is always an integral part of team sports. The same goes for a fourth line.
They are called grinders or enforcers, or hard-workers (sometimes not as a complement to their talent), but that is what they do. Often they are fighting to remain constantly employed, there always being a threat of a benching, a demotion, or the trade to uncertainty. Their value can be highly measured by the coaching staff. New Jersey Devils‘ Head Coach Peter Deboer‘s stylistic trait of utilizing his fourth line, has always been of great benefit to the teams he has stood behind. His dry and unemotional coaching demeanor aside, this seems to be is greatest attribute. While Kevin Dineen would not be considered a follower, throughout his endeavors of the past, he does share an adoptive hockey culture bred of the same thought. In fact, it is becoming more and more essential for a coaching staff to adopt this strategy, if they want to win.
Last season’s incarnation of the Florida Panthers, rolled the fourth line when the resources were available. Injuries were devastating to the team’s consistency over the long run, forcing adjustments in strategy, including using the third line as a checking line to great effectiveness during the playoffs. The team that eliminated the Panthers from contention, and eventually found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final, did so with enormous contributions from the players on their fourth line; which included ex-Panthers Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier.
Who do you see on the Panthers fourth line for the 12-13′ season? In the comments section below, please feel free to voice your opinion. I have newly acquired forward George Parros, an enforcer, an almost certainty. There are endless combinations, well possibly only hundreds, to those of you who are math scholars; and can now finally find satisfaction with a reference to this post’s title. Could a player who spent last season in the American Hockey League, make the jump to the NHL? Would that forward who has shown prowess in scoring, yet struggled recently, provide an offensive spark when paired with two physical grinders?
Or you can finally plead your case for your favorite, but often underrated, player? You can find the Panthers roster here.
As always, thank you for reading!
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