Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roster Wishes for 2011/2012: Forwards

Admittedly, I am jumping the gun here with the current season not even complete, but having long winded discussions with CTF contributor Marvin, I would like to share the roster that I would like to see fielded by the Jackets come next October.  Obviously certain factors like trades and free agent signings could make a number of these players/lines moot, but with what is available, and who the Jackets currently have under salary, here is how I would fill the holes;

Late edit: It looks like this post will end up being a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I will provide my defensive preferences in another post within the next couple of days.

Line 1 -  The Scoring Line: Nash - Brassard - Voracek

Some may have given up on this grouping with arguably limited success this year, but I feel that as Brassard and Voracek grow as players, and Nash gets more and more comfortable with the idea of having capable linemates, the success will continue where it left off prior to Brassard getting injured this year.  While I do believe that some NHL teams find great success with multiple stars on their top line, I do not believe it is necessary to shake this group for the time being.  Allow both Brassard and Voracek to continue finding their game, and complimenting Nash in the process.

Line 2 - The Octane Line: Umberger - Vermette - Calvert

It is a fun experience to consider secondary scoring lines as 'favourites' but I cannot help it.  While the first line will be expected to score, the versatility of a line with both Umberger and Calvert on it is endless.  They could easily push the pace with their speed, or get physical in the corners with their edgy play.  No question, this line will be one that forces the opposition to really take care while matching up against them.

Line 3 - The Hard Hat Line: Upshall - Johansen - Jones

Colour me slightly optimistic, but I am personally hard pressed to be convinced that Johansen will be anything other than a Blue Jacket next fall.  His junior success has been spoken loudly in the media, and his size and ability could very easily find him playing comfortably among the Columbus third line.  Add in gritty players like Upshall (Free agent this summer) and a great supporting player like Ryan Jones (currently with the Oilers, and a UFA this summer) and suddenly Columbus has a third line that can rattle cages, force the play, AND bury pucks.  If a line like this were to be formed, I will be the first to argue that Arniel will be forced to reconsider his minute-per-game quota for the top three lines.

Line 4 - The Muscle Line: Boll - Pahlsson - Dorsett

I have always been big on Dorsett, up until part of the way through this year.  What I am beginning to really believe is that role on the team needs to be better established, and a 4th line crash and bang role is fantastic for him.  While he and Boll can take turns brutalizing opposing teams players, Pahlsson provides enough offensive threat for both Dorsett and Boll to take advantage of hard working chances in key points of the game.  I have never been a big proponent of a line solely focused on checking, and being that both Dorsett and Boll have the ability to finish, it provides a great presence of grit and ability on the back end of a very well rounded four lines for the Jackets.


There are a couple of wildcards in the Jackets system beyond Johansen of course.  Kubalik made a pretty strong case of himself in this years pre-season games, and while his effectiveness is strongest on the top two lines, it may be tough to not give the kid a shot at the NHL next year.  With that said, Upshall and Johansen would bring substantial talent to the third line, which could easily open the door for him if a player like Jones is not brought into the fold.  Certainly it would be a better option than bringing up one of Dorsett or Boll to the third, where I believe they are generally overwhelmed in that role.  

Secondary to Kubalik is of course Filatov, who has turned exactly zero heads this year.  I have to wonder what his summer plans will be, and whether he can ever develop into the kind of winger he was drawn up to be by central scouting and the numerous pre-draft reviews on his playing abilities.  With that assessed, his role will be limited to one of the two top lines, leaving little room for error and a whole lot of ground to cover on Calvert.  The one potential possibility I have been weighing on, is if Filatov can show his value on the Columbus second line, how well Calvert-Upshall-Johansen would gel together, being three guys who I believe would make the crowd stand up and cheer every time they hop over the boards.


As it stands, Moreau, Clark, Upshall, and Murray are the offensive UFAs come summer.  Voracek is the lone forward RFA, and will likely receive an offer prior to arbitration.  I have no personal issues with Moreau, Clark, and Murray walking away.  While they all offer some options on the back end of the team, none of them have been major impact players nor have their contracts merited a real second glance from the team this year.

This leaves MacKenzie and Huselius, both with one year left on their contracts.  MacKenzie has played reasonably well in all roles this year, but remains a very functional player as the 13th forward.  He provides the depth necessary in case a player falls to injury, or if the lines need to be shaken up slightly.  Huselius on the other hand, has already played his way out of the top six in my opinion.  There have been bright spots few and far between, but the reality is, I would personally much rather have an extremely hard working guy like Calvert banging away creating chances on the second line than I would having Huselius floating through the middle of the zone waiting for a great pass from his linemates.  My expectations would be to see Juice moved with another pick or player for defensive support in the off-season.

As noted, I will move onto the defensive core next, which I think ends up being substantially more difficult.  feel free to share how you would break up the lines yourself, or who you would like the Jackets to add in the off-season to really bolster the lineup.

Carry the Flag!

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