Two days ago I posted a blog outlining how I would go about building a first line for the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, the multi-part series continues with a look at the team’s second line.
For those of you who need a quick refresher, I’m working with the assumption that Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, and Brian Boyle will be the team’s four pivots. As noted in the original blog, this simply creates a more balanced lineup that if we were to put Johnson up with Stamkos.
The first line created in that original blog looked something like this: Jonathan Drouin-Steven Stamkos-Ryan Callahan
Let’s get started with that second line. The Filppula line.
Starting on the left side, it’s pretty clear that there are only two viable options. Both Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn present interesting cases. Here’s a quick look at Filppula’s with-or-without-you numbers with both players.
As you can see, the numbers are relatively comparable. Neither player makes Filppula better than he is apart, but both pairings hold their own as positive-possession duos. It’s tough to make a decision based on this analysis alone.
Where start to get a little bit clearer is when you take a look at Palat’s WOWY numbers with other players.
There’s one pair there that doesn’t look like the others. People remember Palat and Filppula working well together at the end of last season, but was it really the dynamic duo people, including me, thought it was? It looks to me like the team’s dynamic duo last year was Palat and Johnson. They made each other better, and by a significant amount.
For that reason, combined with the fact that Killorn was actually Filppula’s most frequent linemate at 5v5, I’m going to put Killorn on that second line’s leftwing. Again, given what you now know I’m going to do with my third line, I think having Killorn on line two gives the team more balance.
That leaves one spot open on the right side, and a number of names to choose from. There’s J.T. Brown, there’s Richard Panik, there’s Nikita Kucherov, and there’s Brett Connolly.
Raw Charge’s Kyle Alexander had an interesting take on this earlier in the offseason. And, yes, I do think it’s a good thing.
If that’s the case, there’s a good argument to be made for Connolly. If Connolly can land on that second line and play the same sort of minutes that Purcell did, it would be a fantastic thing. As much as people like to rag on Purcell, he was a productive possession player for the Lightning. If a young Brett Connolly can become that, it’ll be hard to complain. Connolly will likely be more willing to shoot, too.
I like the idea of giving Killorn and Filppula a right-handed shot on that right side, and so Connolly, again, makes sense. This situation is sort of like when I penciled Drouin in on the top line. I don’t have any evidence to say that it works. I don’t have any numbers to back up my position. I’ve just got a feeling. People know I’m a Connolly fan, and so I’m going to put him on that second line. This is the year he finally gets a defined top-six role.
Mike’s Second Line: Killorn-Filppula-Connolly
Post your second line in the comments section! As always, thanks for reading.
Michael Stuart has been the Tampa Bay Lightning writer for HockeyBuzz since 2012. Visit his archive to read more or follow him on Twitter.