Anaheim calling to the hockey world...Happy Thanksgiving!
For the first time this season the Ducks showed serious scoring potential with pretty goals from their second and third lines. The new second line combination, temporarily dubbed The Incredibles, stretched the ice for the insurance marker after the third line cycled the puck in the slot for the go-ahead goal.
Carlyle seems to have found the stable line combinations he'd been looking for, with only the noticeable absence of Ryan Carter. Daniel, in the last two games, have the Ducks proven that they don't need Joffrey Lupul to create three scoring lines? Or worse, that they need to scratch Joffrey Lupul to create three scoring lines?
I know I'm the one who advocates trading Lupul for a stay-at-home defender, but there isn't a stripper on the planet who can convince me that Kyle Calder is a better option than Joffrey Lupul. When I look at the goal from last night's game, I can't help but think that the third line got a little lucky. Calder slides a backhanded pass to a decently covered Nokelainen, and he takes a two-handed slap at the puck which finds the open net on Legace's blocker side. I know you need someone who's good along the boards to complete a line, see Artyukhin's work with the Wonder Finns, but Calder has looked like a bit of a mess at times. Getting lucky on a bad play doesn't mean he's going to provide better scoring than Lupul. Not to mention that Lupul has been better on the defensive side of the puck lately. I still think that Calder offers little more than a screen in front of the net, marginal passing skills aside.
All of that is me not even taking into consideration that we pay Lupul 4.25 million for an additional 3 seasons. That means if we can't move him for the defense we need in order to win this season, we'll need him to provide us with scoring next season. I talk about moving Lupul a lot, but that's because he is a quality asset, one that Murray was wrong to acquire. Lupul is a finisher, and he'll bring that element to the third line. However, Lupul is also a bona fide Top 6 talent who can give you 30 goals a season if you let him shoot the puck and skate with play makers. He can't create his own offense, but the kid can finish. Problem is, we have too many finishers and Lupul isn't getting his shots. I like Lupul as a player, he just hasn't fit in during his return stint. It's hard not to like a guy who improves on almost everything that was deficient in his game when he was first on the team. Lupul has done everything that's been asked of him, except gel with Teemu and Koivu. But in the end, he has to play, either to keep him happy and dedicated for next year, or to make sure we get good value for him in a trade.
Lupul is Selanne's heir apparent and could prove pivotal in the transition to the post-Finnish Flash era, but if the question is 'does he fit into THIS lineup, today,' then the answer is 'no.' He can't play on the second line. Artyukhin, who often doesn't know where he should be on a given play, has proven more effective in just a handful of shifts. And Lupul can't play on the first line because that would mean bumping Bobby down to the third, a level of desperation I doubt that contract negotiations have reached . . . yet.
So, in our Nintendo Ice Hockey line-building, that leaves us with the question of whether or not we can put the skinny guy on a line with two medium-sized guys. Unfortunately, between the two medium-sized guys in question, neither can keep the play alive reliably. And I know you like to minimize the value of a guy who can play the boards and keep the puck in the offensive zone, but Lupul has already proved that, like Selanne, he needs a long attack sequence to be effective. He needs to be given an actual PLAY in order to finish it. And I don't think it's fair to Lupul that we set him up to fail in yet another line combination.
I think that takes us back to a trade discussion of Todd Marchant. Nokelainen may be ready to take over at center, or maybe we can get a bigger pivot in there, but with a very minor trade, we can find someone that properly complements Lupul on the third line-- maybe someone with the size to defend a Jarome Iginla (sorry, Todd, but we all miss Sammy). Until then, Lupul will have to struggle, and maybe learn to create his own offense from the Bottom 6.