The Ducks' top line struggled to finish tonight, striking the pipe at even strength and on the power play, but ultimately coming up short against Pekka Rinne and the Predators. Randy Carlyle has toyed with the idea of excising Bobby Ryan from that line in different sets last season, at the beginning of games, at the end of games and most notably by shifting Ryan to center this past offseason to create three scoring lines. However, rarely satisfied with the results, Carlyle has always restored Ryan to the first line.
Arthur, with the top line again struggling, should Carlyle again attempt to create three scoring lines, or should he maybe recommit to his current sets and go back to what worked best for him in 2007 with two clear scoring lines and two clear checking lines?
I think, to a degree, the players influence the setup. The Ducks were able to mold Travis Moen into the player they wanted on their checking line and ask Rob Niedermayer to fill that role on the wing, but they had a very special player in Pahlsson. They don't have Pahlsson anymore, and I don't think Marchant, now two years older than when he was first asked to fill in for Sammy, or Chipchura can create the line that Pahlsson did.
So without a clear motivation to create a dominant checking line to support the defense, I think the Ducks have to accept that they have some capable top six players beyond Ryan, Getzlaf, Perry, Blake, Koivu and Selanne. I mean, do you really want to put Sexton on a size line? Isn't Marchant capable of centering a skill line? And, lastly, isn't it still true that Getzlaf and Perry prefer to have a bottom six type player as their linemate?
Chemistry will be an issue, as it was last year. Not having Joffrey Lupul will be an issue, as it was last year. But you have to work with what you have, and right now, Carlyle is much closer to having three scoring lines than he is to having that one dominant checking line.
I have to disagree with you on a small point. I think the Ducks do have the player who can fill Pahlsson's skates:Ryan Carter. I still believe he has been underused. I also think that Carter and Beleskey could form the first 2/3 of a line that could make Anaheim fans at least remember the good ol' days of the Shutdown Line.
I've been a big advocate for Randy Carlyle during a stretch of time when more than a few angry fans have called for his head. But, I'm reaching a point where I'm starting to wonder what he's thinking. He's starting to look more like a guy throwing darts at a board than a coach trying to dig up some chemistry. He ignores past chemistry in favor of trying something different.
Randy needs to set some lines and stick to them. Bobby didn't work as a third line center, but that doesn't mean he can't anchor his own scoring line. The Ducks have a plethora of scoring talent, and that talent should terrify opposing defenders. But as it stands, Carlyle's indecision on whether or not to roll three strong lines is the real problem for the team. I think he should roll them. I think he has the talent to do it successfully. If he continues to go back to the 2 scoring line system every time things get rough, Ducks fans are going to have a long, painful season.