With the news coming today from practice that Nicklas Grossman and Adam Pardy will start the season injured, our thoughts immediately turned to what the defensive pairing will look like for a very competitive opening weekend against Chicago.
On top of that, we're also seeing more and more signs that Loui Eriksson may start the season on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak. With most of our offseason hopes pinned to seeing Jamie Benn and Eriksson out on the ice together, this revelation has sent a proverbial shock to the hearts of Stars fans everywhere.
Eriksson played on this line for a few games this preseason and by most accounts they weren't exceptionally impressive playing together. Right now, Glen Gulutzan has Jamie Benn centering the second line Tomas Vincour and Steve Ott. While we were certainly impressed with Vincour from the preseason, I doubt many expected he would start off as a top-six forward coming out of camp.
One factor to consider is the injury to Adam Burish, which appears may sideline him as well to start the season. After the jump, let's try and breakdown Gulutzan's thinking while attempting to play coach ourselves and decide what's best for the Stars to do moving forward...
Today at practice, with Burish still not taking the ice with a groin injury, these were the lines:
With Burish out with his injury, I think I can understand Gulutzan's thinking. By putting Eriksson on the third line, it gives the Stars three potent and deep lines with which to work. There's balance there, and considering what we saw from Dowell in the preseason, the fourth line is going to have the potential to do some damage as well.
Yet it's not just about getting balance across your lines. There needs to be some emphasis put on placing your players in position to succeed and play them to their strengths. Does putting Vincour on the second line instead of Eriksson make sense considering the offensive firepower that he and Benn would have together?
Does placing Eriksson on the third line create enough defensive ability on that third line to offset the offense you'd lose on the second line?
There are a couple of options the Stars could take to open the season if Burish can't play. Personally, if we're talking about getting the most out of the players we have, I'd like to see the lines like this:
Now, I know there's talk about keeping Vincour on the second line and putting Ott on the third line with Dvorak and Fiddler. One thing to consider here is Ott's strength in the faceoff circle; putting him on the line with Fiddler and Dvorak and taking him away from Benn takes away some of the faceoff balance the Stars need.
This also puts Vincour in an area where there's not much pressure on him and he can play to his strengths a bit, while still growing in the NHL. The pressure is off his shoulders to produce every shift and he can be the big, checking force in the corners that is needed from the third line.
So, what about when Burish returns from his injury? I'll be interested to see who on the team starts getting rotated as a scratch with Krys Barch, as there are players on the roster right now much better than the Segals or Sutherbys from past seasons.
Here's an educated guess:
Wait, what? Wandell is the one out?
Right now, this is what it could look like. Now this all depends on performance once the season starts and what the coaches are seeing, but Petersen plays a significant role on the penalty kill. Of course, we have to really see what the PK units will look like since the Stars have yet to have the full roster for a game.
Now, onto the defense pairings. With Grossman and Pardy both out, that might offset the plan that Gulutzan has in place for his top four:
Souray - Robidas
Daley - Goligoski
So, does that mean we see Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen paired together? That's going to be dicey, considering both have some shortcomings although in different areas of the ice.
Now it's your turn. What are your ideal line combinations to start the season?