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3rd Line Freak Out

Brower? Fabbri? Hull?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

By now, most serious Blues fans know that Berglund will be sidelines for atleast 4 months. Then he will be reevaluated, meaning he could then be out even longer. The timing of this injury could have been much much worse. We still have time to let things shake out before games matter.The question is, who replaces Berglund? Hildy wrote an article here asking why everyone is forgetting the new kid on the block, Troy Brouwer. I will agree with Hildy, that Troy is being almost completely dismissed by the fanbase. It could be any number of reasons. In this article, I will explain mine.

Everyone judges a player based on the numbered line they play on. Like a player who plays on a 3rd line is somehow different than if that same player was on a top line somewhere else. In many cases it is true, a player on the 3rd line is there for a reason. Some teams, like the Blues, have enough talent that the line number doesn't matter nearly as much. The Steen Backes Oshie line was our top line last season, but for stretches you saw the Schwartz Lehtera Tarasenko getting top line work. The Blues have an embarrassment of riches at forward, and that is not counting the young players who seem poised to make their move.

Everyone is saying the 3rd line is no place for a player like Fabbri or Rattie, and I tend to agree. Where I disagree is that our 3rd line could easily look like a top 2 line on other teams. Everyone projects David Backes will slide to the 3rd line. Backes was our top line center last season, and if we had made it farther into the playoffs, he would likely still be on our top line. He was demoted more to for the sake of change than because his play wasn't good enough. You can say what you want about the captain's play in the playoffs, but he finished in the top 5 in the Selke vote for the 4th year in a row. If everyone agrees that Tarasenko won't part with Lehtera and Tarasenko will play on our top line, it will likely look like this:

Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko

There is a chance that Schwartz takes the spot opposite of Tarasenko, but last season Schwartz voiced his opinion that he wanted to play with Stastny. The STL line was great last season, but I don't feel there will be much drop off from switching the Steen for Schwartz. Then our second line, 2 of the spots are all but set: Stastny and Schwartz. That leaves a wide open competition for that final right wing. Ty Rattie is a natural right winger. David Backes is a natural right winger. Dimitri Jaskin? Right winger. The fan favorite to take this spot has been Dimitri Jaskin, who worked "well" with Stastny last season on the 3rd line. I'm not convinced that Jaskin would beat out Fabbri if Fabbri was older. The team likely will hesitate to give that spot to Fabbri, who may end up back in the OHL due to his age. So let's go with what the fans want.

Schwartz - Stastny - Jaskin

That is a very solid second line. Jaskin and Stastny played well last season with a far less talented Berglund as their linemate. Then comes our 3rd line. Fabbri plays center, but can be moved around to any forward spot. He played last season as a LW for the Blues for a time. We could look at a line like this:

Fabbri - Backes - Rattie

There was a lot of clamoring in the past that Rattie and young skill players like him would flourish on a higher line. It was said that playing them on the plodding bottom 6 would do nothing for them but get them injured. This line solves all of those problems. Fabbri is paired with another skill forward in Rattie. You're not asking them to set up Ryan Reaves or slam home off target passes from Steve Ott. You also have them playing with a center who knows how to play the dirty parts of the ice. Backes for years has played with one of the teams top snipers in Steen, and the jack of all (or none?) trades TJ Oshie. He knows how to play with skill players. Playing with a center like Backes should also do some to protect the bodies of these young forwards. Backes never shies away from throwing his body at people, especially to protect his teammates.  Much like teams behave when Reaves is prowling the ice, teams behave to a slightly lesser extent with Backes on the ice. Fabbri and Rattie wouldn't be asked to plod. We had a 3rd line that could score last season, but the potential for Fabbri and Rattie is far higher in my opinion than that of Berglund and Jaskin. Last season's 3rd line made plays by playing the cycle. This is because Berglund wasn't a threat to make a play on his own. He worked best against the board where he could use his body, and everyone knows the best shots in hockey come from open ice, not from the boards. Fabbri and Rattie would be free to prowl the open ice with David Backes playing low.

Troy Brouwer may be a great player. I tend to feel he was helped by the mantra of the rising tide raises all boats. He played with one of the best offensive players to ever play the game in Ovetchkin. I do not feel like his numbers will remain the same, or even close when he is paired with lesser players. I feel his offensive upside pales in comparison to Fabbri and Rattie. The youngsters could flame out when given serious ice time in the NHL. If they do, we have Brouwer who can step in. In my opinion, for a team who was held to 1 or fewer points in half of their playoff games last season, we should play for offensive power and not grit or experience.