All That’s Really Left Are Fourth Line Battles !!!

The Fourth Line And Their Four Minutes A Game !!!

With the Winnipeg Jets training camp coming to an end very soon, there has been a lot of talk about what the opening day line-up would look like.

The Winnipeg Jets have re-assigned eleven players to their AHL affiliate in St.John’s or back to their junior teams in the past couple of days leaving 26 players in camp.  Basically the top nine forwards have been picked for awhile and now there’s just a little jockeying for position and that will probably be ongoing all year long.  I can see Frolic, Jokinen and Scheifele being switched around quite often.  The remain position battles will be for the coveted fourth line and a NHL salary along with the bottom three defence positions.  

Here are the remaining 26 players left in camp and what most fans and experts perceive as the position battles.

roster battles


Chris Thorburn vs Anthony Peluso Battle for the fourth line right wing position

Chris Thorburn vs Anthony Peluso 

The first battle (pun intended) is highlighted in yellow and most think it’s Peluso vs Thorburn battling for the job of the Jets “Top Battler”.  Agreed. The next are highlighted in green and most think it’s Tangradi vs Wright. Agreed.  The next and most interesting battle is highlighted in pink.  I think that Redmond is drawing the short straw and going to “the Rock” because he’s on a 2-way contract so I highlighted him in blue.  Postma gets the upper hand because of a 1-way contract and that’s a “horse-bleep” reason to be ahead of Redmond.  Same goes for Pardy. Somehow, Stuart gets a free pass but that’s another story.  That leaves young  Jacob Trouba.  He should be in the Jets top seven just by acclimation because this group as whole hasn’t been stellar in how long?   But, I understand the process so if he gets a ticket to St. John’s I’m okay with that.  The bottom line is basically you have Redmond, Trouba, Pardy and Postma fighting for two spots and two of those players are on 2-way contracts.  The writing could be on the wall for Zach and Jacob.   Then, we have Patrice Cormier that will probably fall victim to the 2-way contract so there you go.

I have taken the liberty of awarding Matt Halischuk the third-line right winger position but it’s not carved in stone.  I’ve liked his training camp and he is also a veteran of the Western Conference. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The most interesting part of the above scenarios is that the defence battles are legit because having depth there is not a bad thing.  Most NHL teams will use seven to nine different defencemen during the course of a season because nobody stays healthy for 82 games.

That leaves the forwards.  For me, the top nine is pretty cut and dried:  Ladd, Little and Wheeler; Kane, Jokinen/Scheifele and Setoguchi; and Frolic, Scheifele/Jokinen and Halischuk.  Then the “BIG BATTLE”  for the the last 4 to 6 minutes per game.  I’m on the edge of my seat!!!

Winnipeg Jets Fourth Line Center Jim Slater

Winnipeg Jets Fourth Line Center Jim Slater

Slater will get decent minutes because he’s a little more versatile and he’s one of Winnipeg’s better face-off men.  The rest are interchangeable pieces that are only required to play limited minutes and not get scored on.  Plain and Simple.

In my opinion, fourth lines should be seen and not heard.  I believe to be successful you play your top nine as much as possible.  Fourth liners are fourth liners for a reason.  Now in saying that, there are circumstances where you will play the fourth line:

1.  When you have a heavy schedule.  This is a no-brainer.

2.  When playing on back to back nights.  Another no-brainer.

3.  When you have a lead in the 3rd period and you are trying to close out a game.  Rolling four energetic lines for 30-45 second shifts with nothing but checking in mind should be easy enough in theory.  Like I said ~ in theory.  This team hasn’t yet grasped this concept but I think it’s coming. 

4.  When you want to grind a game to a halt on the road and check and frustrate a team into submission.  You’ll see a lot of this from teams like Nashville, St. Louis and Phoenix.  Teams playing on the road aren’t interested in putting on a “show.”

Claude Noel has more depth in the bottom six than in the past and can let those players compete for those minutes all year long.  This might actually allow him to get a commitment to “team defence” and increase the “compete level” every night.

The point of my observation here is that there is a lot of conversation about the Jets opening day line-up but the “TOP 9 forwards” and “Top 4 or 5 defencemen” were probably set long ago and the “Bottom end” of the line-up is really a battle for crumbs.  AND it should be.  Let your good players play.  Like I said earlier “fourth liners are fourth liners for a reason”.

This team should be working on systems and special teams right now, not still having fourth line auditions.  

I realize you can’t win without fourth liners but I’m not sure they should be the focal point of training camp right now. 


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