Sunday, September 21, 2008

When Bob McKenzie Speaks, I Listen


Popped onto my computer tonight after watching Entourage to write my piece about David Moss and I got a little distracted watching Bob McKenzie's '6 Cities in 6 Days' Calgary Flames 'evaluation.' I pretty much idolize McKenzie, he seems to me to be the far and away best hockey columnist in the world and I think when he says something about your team it pays to pay attention because it's more than likely he heard it from the horses mouth.

Now, McKenzie is saying that as of now, Bertuzzi is going to be accompanying Iginla and Langkow on the top line, while Lombardi will be flanked by Cammalleri and Bourque. It's the placement of three (Lombardi, Cammalleri, Bertuzzi) players out of that six that really interests me.

We know that both Cammalleri and Bertuzzi are used to playing soft opposition at EV, and we know that Cammalleri faired poorly even with top linemates while Bertuzzi did well but with top linemates (going by last year, of course). Judging by McKenzie's remarks, it looks like Keenan will give one (Cammalleri as of now) the soft opposition, while the other guy will get good linemates (Bertuzzi).

Happily, it looks like Lombardi might get a chance with decent linemates, something I think a lot of Flames fans have been waiting for for a long time.

The lines, as of today, look like this:

Bertuzzi - Langkow - Iginla
Cammalleri - Lombardi - Bourque

There is a third option though:

Conroy/Bourque - Langkow - Iginla
Cammalleri - Lombardi - Bertuzzi

Now, the Flames are pretty center heavy, and besides Iginla, there are no wingers who are going to most often outplay the top EV opposition - Bertuzzi and Bourque or Cammalleri could be pretty interchangeable there (except for potentially the offence they bring). On the other hand, Conroy for instance, is used to playing the other team's top opposition - he's playing off position but with so many centermen on this team it's pretty much bound to happen at some point anyway.

The beauty of this lineup is that Keenan can throw the 2nd line over the boards against the other team's muckers and with any luck they should be able to dominate. The skill level at least is overwhelming and Lombardi for sure has some defensive presence of mind in case things get really bad. This line could operate somewhat like whatever line MacTavish throws Gagner and Nilsson on; they play the weaker opposition and ya, sometimes they get caught with their pants down but on average they're probably going to come out on top.

Plus, this gives Boyd a spot on the third line to develop and get his sea legs while Primeau can hang around on the 4th. You could also argue this opens up a spot for Backlund to compete for: that third line one. If Boyd doesn't carpe diem Backlund might be able to get in there - he might also be able to go for the Primeau position but I don't think that would be the best for his development.

The drawbacks? Well I've already mentioned that during road games that second line could get caught out there. Secondly there isn't a lot of players on that line looking to take care of business in their own end - it could get seriously ugly at times. Finally, how hard does this hinder the first line? I would argue the effects of having Bourque out there instead of Cammalleri or Bertuzzi will be perceived to be much bigger than they actually are, but they could nonetheless exist.

Thoughts?

44 comments:

shep said...

connie with iginla? i dont know, hes got stonehands pretty bad.

i like mckenzies lines. keep conroy on the third with glencross and boyd/moss to take on the second tough. iggy and langkow can probably keep bertuzzi above water.

therealdeal said...

To be perfectly honest, I'm not worried about who's going on that top line: I'm worried about who's not.

Whether you put Cammalleri or Bertuzzi there, it's not going to matter, they'll do well. I think there's a good chance whoever is left out that is going to struggle.

hellohockeyfans said...

Two things I'd like to see this year:

1.) Conroy nowhere near the top 6. Guy can still skate and can still check, but a lot of offensive zone plays died on his stick last year. His hands are abandoning him at an ever more rapid rate.

Obviously, then, I 'd prefer Bourque in scenario #2.

2.) Dustin Boyd playing with someone with offensive acumen. If not at ES, then at least a couple minutes a night on the PP. Guy won't grow if he isn't put into a position to succeed.

Jonathan said...

How do you see the third line looking, exactly, if Craig Conroy is playing with Iginla/Langkow?

therealdeal said...

1.) Conroy nowhere near the top 6. Guy can still skate and can still check, but a lot of offensive zone plays died on his stick last year. His hands are abandoning him at an ever more rapid rate.

The only reason I threw Conroy's name in there is that he's used to going against top guy and I'm not sure he's worse than Bourque offensively. If Bourque is better at putting the puck in the net, I, by all means, would endorse that idea.

2.) Dustin Boyd playing with someone with offensive acumen. If not at ES, then at least a couple minutes a night on the PP. Guy won't grow if he isn't put into a position to succeed.

Maybe a third line could look like this:

Glencross - Boyd - Moss

I mean, again the problem there is lack of experience, and you'd have Conroy playing on the wing or centering Primeau and Nystrom.

How do you see the third line looking, exactly, if Craig Conroy is playing with Iginla/Langkow?

Jonathan, in that case I think it would look the same as above but maybe you'd slot Bourque in instead of Moss.

Glencross - Boyd - Bourque. IMO that's a much better third line than the alternative because you have some experience there taking care of business in your own end.

I think the Flames are going to have the same issue as last year: too many holes, not enough plugs.

walkinvisible said...

i read something the other day and i can't remember now if it was sutter or keenan who said it, but i believe it was sutter.

the quote was something along the lines of conroy being one of the elite third line centremen in the league, and i tend to agree. my point is that in a third line role, i see conroy as an asset. i would imagine he'd be a detriment playing the wing on the top line.

i don't know enough about bourque to forsee him playing in the top six, but if he's the player i imagine him to be, i'm pretty jazzed about putting him on a defense-first-with-offensive-potential line like glenX - conroy - bourque.

this scenario would have cammalleri paired with lombardi. put boyd out there to appease the kent scenario (put him in a position to succeed), or alternately moss to steady out the the plus/minus....

therealdeal said...

So does anyone else feel that one of Cammelleri or Bertuzzi will have a problem season on that second line due to lack of top quality linemates, or is it just me?

walkinvisible said...

i don't think there is any possible way to get around the fact we have three (arguably four if bertuzzi can regain form, and arguably five if backlund made the team) bonafide top six guys.

realistically:

iggy
langks
cammo
bootuzzi

if lombardi can live up to his potential, i would also put him on that list. past that, there are massive question marks behind boyd and bourque, and nobody else seems poised to land above the line....

Kent W. said...

I see the second line as a big sore spot, myself. There's no true "anchor" - every possible nominee for the 2nd line has holes or question marks about him.

I figure it's going to be a pleasant surprise or a dismal failure.

duncan said...

Weirdly, I'm feeling kind of OK about the way the lines set up. Bourque isn't really a Top 6 guy, but Cammalleri should be given a chance to anchor that line with Lombardi — he's the best talent there.

Extremely comfortable with GlenX-Conroy-Moss (or Boyd sted Moss if you want to score), and the fourth line can be whatever muckers and pluggers you want to send out there among the rest of the dregs.

If Backlund makes the team, Lombo either moves to the wing, gets third-line centre, or gets traded. Don't see any way around that.

therealdeal said...

I see the second line as a big sore spot, myself. There's no true "anchor" - every possible nominee for the 2nd line has holes or question marks about him.

Exactly, that's why I think they need to be run almsot exclusively against the really soft competition.

walkinvisible said...

If Backlund makes the team, Lombo either moves to the wing, gets third-line centre, or gets traded. Don't see any way around that.

i thought the same thing yesterday, although it IS possible that kent's langkow tradebait situation could happen as well....

therealdeal said...

If Backlund makes the team, Lombo either moves to the wing, gets third-line centre, or gets traded. Don't see any way around that.

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