Walking that Fine Fourth Line

The Winnipeg Jets have some issues Walking that Fine Fourth Line –

Seeing more than 3-5 minutes in any given game has been a rare occurrence. Most top end teams find a way to utilize their fourth lines upwards of 8-10 minutes per game.  This brings the question why isn’t Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets getting more from the bottom three?

A solid fourth line is instrumental to any team that has success.  When running a team for 82 games or more if lucky, the fourth line depth will pay dividends over the long haul.

Winnipeg Jets forward Jim Slater (19). SHAWN COATES PHOTO

                    4th line center Jim Slater                    photo by Shawn Coates

Fourth line minutes typically will be affected by different events throughout the game.  Penalties typically affect ice time.  Jim Slater and T.J. Galiardi play some time on the penalty kill for the Winnipeg Jets, but not as much is the case for the others.  The Winnipeg Jets are the most penalized team in the NHL which certainly plays its part of the lack of ice for the rest of the depth players.  

If an opposing team takes penalties, you likely won’t see a depth player on the power play although we’ve seen it happen in the past.  The score also will affect their ice time.  If a team is behind and needs offense later in the game, the more likely you won’t see a fourth line out there.  Possible in-game injuries may increase certain depth players time.

One depth player for the Winnipeg Jets that has brought a lot of attention is Galiardi.  So what exactly happened with T.J. Galiardi?  This is a common question amongst Winnipeg Jets fans.  He was getting some decent minutes and contributing on the penalty kill.  Both T.J. and Jim Slater appeared to have a little chemistry, but not long ago, Galiardi was put on the waiver wire.

Being able to send him down is a nice option if need be going forward.  Yet, he remains with the team.  Did Kevin Cheveldayoff assume he would clear and was being proactive?  Was he hoping he would not clear and get claimed?  We may never know.

Did Galiardi fall out of favor with coach Paul Maurice?  Not to say he wasn’t effective on the penalty kill but he isn’t as fast as he once was and I don’t believe he has much of a glaring advantage over the rest of the so called depth players. Maybe Paul Maurice saw something fans didn’t that he didn’t like?

I don’t believe that Galiardi fell out of favor with Paul Maurice. The coach wanted to give the likes of Matt Halischuk and Anthony Peluso the same opportunity that Galiardi had earlier in the season.  Coach often indicated everyone was working hard and he would have to find a way to get them into the line up.

Something to think about with Evander Kane’s recent suspension along with Dustin Byfuglien’s move back to the back-end with injuries to Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Grant Clitsome, and the latest Mark Stuart, may be a blessing in disguise.   The Winnipeg Jets have a few forwards they can slide in and out should any injuries up front occur, including the likes of T.J. Galiardi.

With the Anaheim Ducks coming to town and Evander Kane back from suspension, one less spot was available.  Despite seeing over twelve minutes of ice versus the Colorado Avalanche, Galiardi once again was a healthy scratch. The PST line, Jim Slater, Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn had some decent success playing the Avs with multiple scoring opportunities.  However, PST slipped back to the lowly ice times they have seen for the majority of the season.

What are the expectations for this line?  Would Paul Maurice like them to try to contribute a couple of goals here and there?  Probably.  Does he want an energy line to go out to bang and crash to wear down the opposing team while firing up the bench?  Why not?  Is it as simple as just go out there and chew up some minutes giving the top nine some breather time?  Likely the latter holds true for any expectation.  Seems simple enough, so why can the Winnipeg Jets only get five minutes out of their fourth line?

Does Paul Maurice run his top nine harder simply to create opportunities, or is he truly fearful of the fourth line costing him opportunities, momentum, or worse case a goal?  Are they really that bad?  If so, why hasn’t Kevin Cheveldayoff been able to address this concern?  Surely depth players should be easier to obtain than top end talent?

Kevin Cheveldayoff has shown us time and again that he isn’t going to make any drastic moves.  He wants to continually build through the draft.  Giving up picks for depth isn’t in the cards at this point.

Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and, throw in, the Detroit Red Wings are good examples of teams that roll their fourth lines fairly consistently.  One of the advantages these teams have is using the same system for an extended period. Paul Maurice’s system is fairly new to the Winnipeg Jets still.  Once he has had time to completely implement his system and gives a fair shot to the depth players he has to work with, perhaps we may see their ice time increase.

If things continue down this road and the Winnipeg Jets can make it into the playoffs, Paul Maurice may need his GM to give him some support in the bottom six with the addition of another player or two if he doesn’t feel confident with what he has to work with currently.

Until then, it’s going to be up to the coach to find a way to get the most out of these guys.  Walking that Fine Fourth Line between keeping energy levels high and positive results can be tricky, but a balance has to be found for long-term success.

Go Jets Go!

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