Oct 24, 2010; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Adam Hall (18) and center Dana Tyrell (42) attempt to score the tying goal as Nashville Predators goalie Anders Lindback (third from right) and teammates defend the net during the third period at St. Pete Times Forum. Nashville defeated Tampa Bay 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Who Plays Where: The Forwards

Jan 07, 2012; Montreal, QC, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher reacts during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-US PRESSWIRE

As I’m sure many of you read, last week I wrote which current players in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization will be on the 23 man roster for the NHL team.  Now it is time to debate what lines each player will play on once the season gets started.  Based on my projections, the forward group can be found here, while the defense and goalies can be found here.  My hockey philosophy has always been a well balanced lineup with depth and scoring options on every line.  In a perfect world, I like to have a big player, with a skill player, along with a smaller, speedy forward.  With the players the Bolts have on their roster, there are definite possibilities to have that type of mixture on all four lines.

April 7, 2012; Winnipeg, MB, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre. Tampa Bay wins 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

To start off, the top forward line will have to have Steven Stamkos on it as the number 1 center.  He is unquestionably the most skilled player on the team and he has leapfrogged Vincent Lecavalier for the top spot.  Personally, I have always loved how Ryan Malone works with Stamkos.  He is a huge body that can create space, protect Stamkos, and clean up the garbage around the net.  The right wing spot is where the controversy comes into play.  I feel that this is the year where Stamkos can carry his own line the entire year, and not need help from Martin St. Louis to have success at even strength.  This is why I would put Brett Connolly in this spot because Connolly has the offensive ability to fit in nicely with Stamkos and Malone.  This would create a great combination on the line with some protection for Stamkos and will allow Connolly to have an easier time at gaining confidence by putting up points.

The second line also needs to be able to have significant offense and I believe dropping St. Louis to play with Lecavalier will accomplish this by giving the Lightning two number 1 lines.  I would round out this line with Teddy Purcell to create a super scoring line with 3 supremely offensive players.  My reasoning behind having Marty play with Vinny again is that Lecavalier needs St. Louis in order to be his old great self again.  Stamkos can create the offense on his own therefore not needing Marty as much.  Adding in Purcell will put fear into the opposition.  If these are the top two lines then I feel that challenging teams will have an extremely tough time trying to decide which line to put their top defensive unit out against.

For the third line, it is time to get a little creative.  Benoit Pouliot will fit perfectly into this left wing position as the expectations here will be a lot lower than in a top 6 spot.  He has creativity and is a big body that can play well with J.T Brown, who will be on the right wing.  I see Pouliot being this year’s Sean Bergenheim; Pouilot is a former high draft pick with a lot of skill and is looking for the right situation to bring out the best of him.  This could be his opportunity and Brown’s playmaking skills will complement Pouliot well.  Centering this line will be Tommy Pyatt because of his great defensive abilities and the offensive upside that he showed last season.  This can be an agitating effective line that can chip in with a good amount of goals to help give the lineup some much needed scoring depth.

Bolt’s fans have become very familiar with the 4th line of the Lightning in the past few years.  This year should be a bit different because of the multitude of options Coach Guy Boucher has.  Centering the line is probably the only definite there is because Nate Thompson slots into this position perfectly.  To start the year, it really depends on how healthy Dana Tyrell is coming off of his knee surgery.  If he is completely healthy then he will take one of the wing spots because his speed on a checking line is a tremendous asset.  Adam Hall and B.J. Crombeen will most likely alternate games based on the opponent if Tyrell is healthy.  If he is not then Hall and Crombeen will fill out the 4th line which will give the Bolts some grit that they have not had in the past.

Of course, everyone knows that the lines can change on a day-to-day basis especially with Coach Boucher running things.  We also have to remember that Boucher loves to play with seven defensemen and only eleven forwards which would completely alter these lines.  I think that if these are the forward lines to start the year then the Lightning will have immediate and future success.  These combinations create balance, opportunities, and scoring depth which are all desperately needed in the National Hockey League.  Tweet me your thoughts on what the lines should look like in your opinions at Twitter.com/Margo4pack and look for the defensive combinations on Friday.

Tags: Bolts Brett Connolly Guy Boucher Lightning Lineup Martin St Louis NHL Steven Stamkos Teddy Purcell Top Line Vincent Lecavalier

  • Kyle Alexander

    Some interesting thoughts here but I don’t see the need to break up what was a terrific top scoring line last season just because everyone is healthy again.

    Purcell – Stamkos – St. Louis was and should be the top line again. They were absolutely lethal together and had a ton of chemistry. Especially with Marty probably only having a few more years, I think it is important to grow that chemistry between Teddy and Stammer. Purcell could be his permanent set-up man when Marty retires.

    That leaves something like Malone – Lecavalier – Connolly/JT Brown/Conacher for line 2, depending on who has a great camp. I think one of the 3 will work their butt off and claim that spot on Vinny’s wing. Bugsy and Vinny have played well together in the past, their only problem is they have a hard time staying healthy.

    Personally I see Nate Thompson in the 3rd line C role, since Yzerman didn’t sign a FA and has stated he probably won’t. He wants to let the young guys earn roster spots. But I doubt someone like Killorn or Johnson is ready for 3rd line minutes, while NT44 definitely is. So IMO the bottom 2 lines look something like this -

    Pouliot – Thompson – JT Brown
    Tyrell/Pyatt – Killorn – Hall/Crombeen

    You hit the nail right on the head though. With a stable of healthy D-men again, Boucher will almost certainly go back to 11F-7D which means projecting line combinations is kind of futile.

  • Mitchell Margolis

    I really can only disagree with one of your points. There is no way Killorn makes the team unless he is going to get significant playing time. He won’t be on the 4th line. Everything else could definitely happen. I feel that Thompson is better suited for the 4th line and Pyatt better for the 3rd line because Pyatt has more offense in my opinion. The top 6 is pretty interchangeable, I just don’t want to see Connolly get snake-bitten again because normally, he can put the puck in the net when he has the opportunity. The 11 forwards, 7 defensemen lineup would create so many different combinations which would be very exciting to see. I loved Purcell with Stamkos and Marty last season but I think at this point Vinny needs Marty in order to be great again. Stamkos is going to be great no matter who he plays with. Ultimately, through the course of the season we shall see all of these line combinations and much more but I think to start, these would be very successful!

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