Colorado Avalanche 4th Line Combinations


Head coach has some difficult decisions to make concerning line combinations for the 2014-2015 season.

Concerning the top two lines, the Colorado Avalanche have a tight top-6:

  • Matt Duchene
  • Ryan O’Reilly
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Alex Tanguay

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They are also fortunate in that Jamie McGinn and John Mitchell can step up in the unfortunate event of an injury. Barring that, McGinn and Mitchell make the backbone of a third line that will likely include Max Talbot, but that I would like to see include Cody McLeod.

Daniel Briere is probably going to center the 4th line, unless Roy tries him out as a 3rd line wing. As to who Briere’s wings would be on the 4th line, well, there are a lot of options.

The most obvious line combination is simply replacing Marc-Andre Cliche with Briere, meaning McLeod and Patrick Bordeleau would be his wingers. That’s a gritty energy line, and it serves its purpose for sure. However, there are some other players gunning for the positions — one of them is literally named after a gun — so let’s take a look at them.

Jesse Winchester

Of course, Winchester made a big splash (literally) by bonding with star center Matt Duchene over fishing during the off-season:

Not that coach Roy is necessarily going to take something like that into consideration when deciding who’s dressing for games, except… there is something called chemistry that’s always getting a mention in hockey.

That said, Winchester does have skill. He can take a faceoff. As a defensive-minded forward, he does great on the penalty kill. Last year saw career highs for him in goals, nine, and points, 18.

His shooting percentage at nine percent is not impressive, but he does take a lot of shots on goal — 100 last season while only playing an average under-13 minutes per game. So, he could certainly be an effective addition on the 4th line. The Avalanche signed Winchester to a two-year contract over the summer.

Joey Hishon

Avalanche fans have been waiting awhile for Hishon, who was drafted in the first round by the Avalanche in 2010. Unfortunately, he has been plagued by injuries, the most serious of which has been a concussion and post-concussion syndrome.

Hishon is a little like Tyson Barrie in that he’s talented, but small. And he’s even worse off than Barrie in that he’s always been known for being offensively-gifted, so he’s got a perpetual bull’s eye on his back. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, that’s just hard in a league that sees forwards regularly weighing in at 6-foot, 200 pounds — and defensemen at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.

Add to that the fact that Briere himself is a relatively diminuative 5-foot9, 179 pounds… that makes for a small 4th line, even with Patrick Bordeleau on it. In fact, it would probably look like Bordie were playing hockey with his kids.

Nonetheless, Hishon, like Briere, has grittiness and a goal-scorer’s instincts. Maybe he’ll make the third line instead. The Avalanche did allow him to skip the rookie training camp in favor of the regular training camp that starts September 19.

Max Talbot

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  • Talbot had an adequate season last year, middling as far as his numbers go: eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points. He’s got a decent turnover ratio — +17. Last season he blocked 46 shots and laid out 116 hits.

    The Avalanche traded Steve Downie for Talbot last season partially to get rid of Downie — really, you can’t start a feud with the captain — but also for his leadership potential. He was supposed to be a crackerjack in the playoffs since he actually hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2009 with the Penguins. Unfortunately, to say his playoffs for the Avalanche were less than stellar would be too kind. He played all seven games yet failed to record a goal or even an assist.

    Talbot should have to earn his job back on the 3rd or even 4th line. There are just too many other players chomping at the bit. With Iginla leading the top-6, Briere leading the bottom-6 and Brad Stuart leading in the defensive corps, having experience just isn’t enough of a rationale for a player to make the lineup every night.

    Having attended the Colorado Avalanche rookie camp for day 1, I’d say there’s one other player who could be thrown into the mix — Borna Rendulic. He was a force at the prospects camp over the summer, and he dominated at the rookie camp.

    So, if coach Roy wants a strictly energy line, he might opt for the following:


    He has more options now, and I think he might very well try the following:


    As the year wears on, and Rendulic gets a little more North American seasoning with the Lake Erie Monsters, the 4th line could very well look like the following:


    So, as stacked as the Colorado Avalanche are on the 3rd line, coach Patrick Roy’s decisions for the 4th line are even more difficult. The Colorado Avalanche were considered shallow in the bottom-6 last season. That’s definitely no longer true.