Trotz’s Line Juggling Magic For the Washington Capitals

Barry Trotz is Trying to Find the Right Line Combinations in Washington

After a disappointing loss to the San Jose Sharks, Capitals coach Barry Trotz has decided to shift the lines around.  There are some players who have been misplaced in the lineup and they have not been producing with their current linemates.

Barry Trotz is still busy evaluating his players and what he has to work with.  He is trying to find the right line combinations that will lead to the Capitals long term success.

Here is how the old forward line combinations were in the first few games:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Eric Fehr
Marcus Johansson – Andre Burakovsky – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Brooks Laich – Joel Ward
Michael Latta/Chris Brown – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Liam O’Brien

Here is how the new forward line combinations look after today’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

Forward Line Changes:

-Troy Brouwer has been called for top line duty next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

-Brooks Laich goes from third line centre spot to second line wing.

-The “Gang Green” third line is reunited.  Eric Fehr drops from the top line to third line centre.  This line became very successful at the end of last season.

-The fourth line remains unchanged.

Are These the Appropriate Changes?

-I think there is some good changes and bad changes.  The main thing that looks odd to me is that Evgeny Kuznetsov (a highly skilled forward) is centering the fourth line.  Kuznetsov needs to be given more ice time.  He does not need to be placed in a grinding fourth line role.

-I am happy to see the “Gang Green” line back together.  Eric Fehr is back with “The Twins” and the trio showed tremendous chemistry last season.  The Capitals third line was one of few positives they had in the 2013-14 season.

-I am not sure if I would place Troy Brouwer on the top line.  He does not have the most skill and puck control, but he does possess the physical crash and bang aspect of the game.  I might put someone who has a little more skill on the Capitals top line.  Is it time for Andre Burakovsky to be given a shot?  How about Brooks Laich?  Could Marcus Johansson be placed back on the top line?

Should the Capitals Be Concerned?

I would not hit panic mode yet.  Barry Trotz is still trying to figure out all of his personnel.  The Capitals have not lost in regulation and have shown the ability to score some goals early in the season.

The top six mixture is still in the process of sorting itself out.  It could take another ten to fifteen games for things to begin to gel.  If the Capitals still have line issues in a month from now, there should be concern at that point.

I applaud Barry Trotz for making quick changes.  If he sees something that is not working, he attempts to fix it.  He does not wait around for the problem to fix itself.  Unfortunately, previous Capitals coaches refused to make lineup adjustments when they needed to be done.  Good NHL coaches will make adjustments, whether in practice or in between periods, for their clubs.

The Capitals lines have not performed horribly in the first few games of the season.  Right now, Barry Trotz is still evaluating on who works best with who.  The Capitals have the ability to score a lot of goals if they can find the right combinations for all four of their forward lines.  It will take a little more time for the right combinations to appear.  The Capitals have a good mix of skill and grit that they can put out on the ice on any given night.  Line chemistry is a premium in the NHL and all of the elite NHL clubs have it.

If the Capitals can find the right line chemistry for all four of their lines, they will put up a ton of goals this year.  Barry Trotz has a plan for this club and it all starts with finding the right combinations.  If he can crack the code and use the right combinations, this Capitals team should be fun to watch.

Thanks for tuning in!

1 thought on “Trotz’s Line Juggling Magic For the Washington Capitals”

  1. I think the main reason Trotz is fiddling with his lines is because he knows he needs to get the Chimera-Ward line producing better. The 3rd line was supposed to be a real strength of this team coming into the year, but has been somewhat of a liability in the first few games.

    I completely understand Trotz’s desire to try to spark his 3rd line because their production & performance will have a huge impact on the Caps season. I just don’t like that he is messing with a top 6 that has currently been playing very well together for the most part.

    The top trio of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr has been excellent as they have dominated possession while taking on tough minutes (zone starts & competition). They have been a little unlucky to have not scored a few more times and their on-ice save percentage should get better.

    The 2nd line of Johansson-Burakovsky-Brouwer has continued to get better and better. While Trotz is protecting his 19 year old center by giving this line more favorable minutes they have looked dangerous every game while winning the possession battle and out scoring their opponents. This line seems to have good chemistry building and I don’t like it being halted.

    So this is where I get frustrated in the Capitals insistence that Brooks Laich is a top 6 forward. Trotz prides himself on having a merit based approach and that your cap hit doesn’t determine your place in the line up. Why mess up the top 6 that have been starting to gel nicely when you have a perfect solution to spark the 3rd line in Evgeny Kuznetsov. It solves the problem of getting him more ice time with better linemates while not messing with the top 6. Kuznetsov’s skill & speed could mesh perfectly with Chimera and Ward’s games much like Grabovski last season.

    Laich could move down to provide a veteran, physical presence to the 4th line and allow that line to possibly take on some tougher minutes to get the other lines some softer minutes to exploit. Laich just hasn’t played well enough to warrant his continued heavy even strength minutes and I think he should have to earn more ice time by playing his way up the ladder. Laich is still a valuable penalty killer and defensive forward, but until he shows the ability to produce some offense I don’t like him in the top 6.

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