How will coach Roy split up his top 3 centers?

Colorado Avalanche Top 6 Line Combinations

The Colorado Avalanche’s top 6 are of some note. They’ve got a fine mixture of skill players and power forwards, youths and veterans. What remains to be seen is how head coach Patrick Roy will combine them.
This week two Mile High Sticking contributors and longtime Avalanche fans, Nadia Archuleta and Austin Manak, indulge in what all hockey fans eventually fall to posing potential line combinations. For the inspiration for this back-and-forth, see Austin’s post “Breaking Good: Maximizing Chemistry On The Avalanche Lines.”

Nadia’s Stance

My initial thoughts on the line combinations are based on Patrick Roy’s habit of letting players earn their positions. It’s all going to come down to who earns the #2 centerman position, Nathan MacKinnon or Ryan O’Reilly.There are too many variable for me to predict who will win it — MacKinnon’s development, O’Reilly’s lack of practice at the position since he spent the majority of the 2013-14 season as Matt Duchene‘s wing man.

I suspect Roy’s going to let them try out, during the pre-season and maybe even during the first month of the regular season. In fact, I think they’re going to be paired together so they can more or less take turns at center.

No one doubts that Matt Duchene is the #1 center. If Roy has MacKinnon and O’Reilly lined up together, that leaves two options for the #1 line — pairing Duchene with the veterans or splitting the vets up.

Roy has said he wants a power forward and a skill guy on each line. Gabriel Landeskog‘s a power forward. Jarome Iginla‘s more of a power forward than Alex Tanguay. It doesn’t make sense to give Dutchy all the veteran leadership and leave the former-rookie with two young bucks. I also think Duchene and Tanguay have good chemistry — which Roy will want to tap into if he breaks up the chemistry between Duchene and O’Reilly.

Ergo, my projected top two lines are the following:

Landeskog-Duchene-Tanguay

O’Reilly-MacKinnon-Iginla

 

Austin’s Stance

My projected Colorado Avalanche top 6:

O’Reilly – Duchene – Iginla

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Tanguay

 

I’m under the impression that as long as Duchene and MacKinnon are in the line-up, O’Reilly has been converted to wing full-time. MacKinnon is the center for the future, and no better time than now to grow up and learn how to be a big-man center.

That being said, I do think you bring up an interesting point. Last season MacKinnon was often on the ice with Paul Stastny, allowing Stastny to take the defensive zone draws, as well as much of the defensive responsibility. Stastny was sort of like a babysitter for MacKinnon. Given O’Reilly’s background as a center and his defensive prowess, it is tempting to run him with MacKinnon, to create a similar dynamic. I actually don’t hate that idea. Not at all. However, I do hate the idea of messing with something proven to work. Duchene and O’Reilly had great synergy last season, so I’d hate to break those two up.

“I’m under the impression that as long as Duchene and MacKinnon are in the line-up, O’Reilly has been converted to wing full-time.” — Austin Manak
Iginla is a great player and a veteran, who has proven he can score goals and have success with almost any line-mate. He’s had plenty. A Duchene-Iginla or MacKinnon-Iginla pairing are both equally intriguing to me for different reasons. Ultimately I think both would be tremendously successful, but Duchene has a slight edge in structure to his game, which I think will benefit Iginla. MacKinnon oozes talent, but he still flies by the seat of his pants a bit at times. Plus, I think an O’Reilly-Duchene-Iginla line gives the Avs a line that can match up competitively on the defensive end with other teams’ top lines — more-so than either of your proposed lines.

Going back to an earlier theme, I like maintaining some consistency if something worked. Last year the MacKinnon-Landesog-Stastny line was very good, outstanding at times, and lights-out in the playoffs (at least at home). Stastny leaving for misery… err Missouri (he still might get the blues though), broke up the three amigos. However, I think Tanguay brings the skillset needed to fill the void. Tanguay is excellent at setting his guys up, and his passing skills are superior to those of Iginla. I think having a player like Tangs, who can facilitate and set MacKinnon up in great positions will be a huge boon for both players. Plus, it’s just cruel of you to separate MacKinnon and Landeskog. Don’t you see the adorable tweets they send to each other?

For me, how the top lines play out is intriguing. There is a lot of firepower up front, and no matter how it is arranged, it should lead to an explosive offense.Where things really get interesting, is when we get into the bottom 6 — but we’ll leave that for a later post.

 

So, Avs Nation, what to you think of the top two lines? What did we miss?

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