The season is almost upon us. The NHL Gamecenter app has begun its season preview for each of the NHL teams. Inside these previews are their lineup projections.There isn't much to not like about Ken Hitchcock's tenure in St. Louis. Since taking over in St. Louis, Hitch is 124-55-20. Many NHL teams would kill for a run like that from a head coach. The one thing that fans have to complain about is Hitchcock's line combinations. They range from genius to questionable to ludicrous. For a coach who wins so often, he seems to never find a line combination he is happy with. None of us are certain on his process for picking his lines, but the best description I have read on it is something similar to throwing spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. Below is what the NHL Gamecenter app has to say for the St. Louis Blues line projections:
J. Schwartz - D. Backes - T.J. Oshie
A. Steen - P. Stastny - J Lindstrom
P. Berglund - J. Lehtera - V. Tarasenko
S. Ott - M. Lapierre - R. Reaves
J. Bouwmeester - A. Pietrangelo
C. Gunnarsson - K. Shattenkirk
B. Jackman - I. Cole
Personally, I'm not a fan of their plans for us. Our top line last season was one of the best in hockey. I do agree that Schwartz is capable of being a top line winger, but not with the lineup that we have. Last season there were stretches where the only offense we were able of producing was from the Steen - Backes - Oshie line. I am personally very against breaking up that line. I can understand wanting to place Lehtera with Tarasenko. They had great chemistry in the KHL, and if the reports coming out of camp are right, they picked up right where they left off. As much as I would like to see them play pitch and catch all season, paying top dollar for Paul Stastny only to play him with Lindstrom is a travesty. I have no reservations about defensive pairings. I was not a fan of the Gunnarsson trade, but the best pairing for him is with Shattenkirk.
If I was suddenly and inexplicably given control of the Blues line combinations, they would look something like this:
A. Steen - D. Backes - T.J. Oshie
J. Schwartz - P. Stastny - V. Tarasenko
P. Berglund - J. Lehtera - J. Lindstrom
S. Ott - M. Lapierre - R. Reaves
This roster immediately looks better than last years group. There is no reason to break up the top line. It only faltered late in the playoffs when Backes was playing with a head injury. The offensive minded Tarasenko and Schwartz duo finally has a center with more talent than gumption. Berglund is playing low enough in the lines that he won't be seeing top competition, and has the assist machine Lehtera setting him up. On the other side is Lindstrom, who won the MVP of the SEL playoffs last season, scoring 18 points in 16 games. The fourth line isn't going to be a group of world beaters. I'm not sure if it has the same spark that the CPR line of 2 seasons ago had. What it lacks in spark, it makes up for in hatred. Reaves and Ott won't combine for many points, but they should make for a very hard hitting line. Adding in the pest of all pests, Maxim Lapierre, and you have yourself a passing fourth line.
I am no NHL coach, nor am I a line combination master. These are just my picks. Leave yours in the comments.