It boils down to optimal playing time. A top-line player will get the best of everything, while a top-six player will receive decent even strength/second unit power-play ice-time. A bottom feeder will most likely receive checking line ice-time and less optimal scoring ice-time, which will hamper their scoring ability during the season. Their big break will only come if there are injuries or big sophomore slumps from their team’s top-six. There really isn’t a sense in projection 80 points for a player who isn’t even on a team’s top-line let alone top-six.


Note: Take the line combos with a grain of salt. They are just arbitrary and are used primarily to separate a team’s top-six from the bottom-six. I really don’t want to get into arguments about how Bobby Ryan is going to line up alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry instead of Joffrey Lupul.

Nashville – Weak top six, lots of room for competition
Steve Sullivan – Jason Arnott – J.P. Dumont
Martin Erat – David Legwand – Joel Ward

Bottom Feeders
Jordan Tootoo, Wade Belak, Cal O’Reilly, Patric Hornqvist, Mike Santorelli, Colin Wilson, Ryan Jones (RFA) and Jerred Smithson.
Nashville has one of the weaker top-sixes heading into the season, they don’t have a lot of skilled forwards and not much depth for competition. The top-line seems pretty set with Arnott, Sullivan and Dumont, who were on fire late in the season when they were making their late playoff push. Erat and Legwand seem pretty secure, so it’s that sixth spot where the main competition will be. I have Ward temporarily slated in that spot, you can have a more in-depth analysis about him if you buy the Dobber pre-season guide,  while O’Reilly and Hornqvist should provide Ward with some stiff competition. Wilson has a good shot at making the club, but don’t expect the Preds to rush his development this season.

Phoenix– Complete gong-show - Top Six
Peter Mueller – Matthew Lombardi – Shane Doan
Mikkel Boedker – Kyle Turris –Peter Prucha

Bottom Feeders
Scottie Upshall(RFA), Vernon Fiddler, Viktor Tikhonov, Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, Radim Vrbata, Kevin Porter and Todd Fedoruk.
I’ve been harping about the Coyotes since last season’s trade deadline and they continue to frustrate the hell out of me by making poor decisions one after another. At last year’s trade deadline they brought in a whole platoon of new kids like Matthew Lombardi, Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, Scottie Upshall, which in the end really only took vital developmental ice-time away from youngsters, Mikkel Boedker, Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov. I’ll grant them a reprieve since most of them were scheduled to become RFAs at the end of the season and that they were really trying to spray and pray to see if they could strike gold. Well the off-season comes around and they get rid of some excess weight, but then decide to make a few more brilliant boneheaded moves by adding more excess weight on top of an already loaded pile by re-acquiring Vrbata, trading for Lauri Korpikoski and then signing free agent Fiddler. What gives? I tried my best to kind of hand-pick a top-six based on merit, but at the end of the day, someone who’s currently slotted in the top-six could easily slide to the fourth line or even worst become a regular everyday healthy scratch. Basically what I’m trying to say is that your guess is as good as mine as to who rises to the top and who flounders.

San Jose- Top-six fairly certain, faces shallow competition
Milan Michalek – Joe Thornton – Jonathan Cheechoo
Patrick Marleau – Joe Pavelski – Ryan Clowe


Bottom Feeders
Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Scott Nichol, Jody Shelley, Logan Couture, and Jamie McGinn.
The Sharks will pretty much ice the same team as they did last season. What’s interesting is that the Sharks’ front office depth charts has Setoguchi listed on the third line with McGinn and Torrey Mitchell. You can read all about it here. Huge boost for Cheechoo owners heading into this season. He would make a great surprise pick or better yet you should probably try to sneakily acquire him from an unsuspecting owner while his value is rock bottom. The article also re-affirms youngsters Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn should get a really good shot at making the big club this season.

St. Louis – Top-six uncertain faces stiff competition
Paul Kariya – Andy McDonald – Brad Boyes
Keith Tkachuk – Patrik Berglund – T.J. Oshie

Bottom Feeders
David Perron, David Backes, Jay McClement, Alex Steen, B.J. Crombeen, Brad Winchester, Cam Janssen, and D.J. King.  
Similar to San Jose St. Louis will pretty much ice a similar team as last season. The Blues get some additional veteran locker room presence with the return of Kariya. The youngsters, Berglund, Oshie and Perron experienced plenty of success playing alongside one another, so there is potential for them to be re-united once again during the season. I slotted Tkachuk as a top-six player because I think poolies should treat him more like a top-six player than a bottom six. Backes had a solid across-the-board season last year, but he’ll be a victim of point scarcity this year. Poolies should head into the season expecting him to put up plenty of PIMs.

Vancouver – Top-six locked, faces shallow competition
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
Pavol Demitra – Ryan Kesler – Mikael Samuelsson

Bottom Feeders
Mason Raymond, Steve Bernier, Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien, Jannik Hansen (RFA), Kyle Wellwood (RFA), Michael Grabner and Cody Hodgson.
There’s not much depth in the bottom six of the Canuck’s line up to steal thunder away from the top-six. Hodgson could possibly step up to the second line center position if Kesler has a bad year, but I wouldn’t count that as a guarantee. Wellwood, Bernier and Raymond formed a pretty solid third-line for the Canucks, so look for them to be re-united once again for checking line duties.


Questions or comments? Like always I’ll be ready and willing to discuss them in the comments section below. Stay tuned on Thursday where Russ Miller will finish off this series with the final five teams of the Eastern Conference. Also check out the 2009-10 Dobber guide as I have a column involving 20 plus sleepers from the Western Conference that you should pay attention to heading into next season.


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Gotlaid said:

... RE: Phoenix

They're to the point where I just don't care about them anymore. It's honestly one boneheaded move after another... They have to open their eyes and look around, look at Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, LA... they were all in same boat at Phoenix 4-5 years ago and where are they now compared to Phoenix. It's a pretty foolproof system. Do bad in standings, get high draft pick. 1) If the draft pick is good enough, clear everything on your roster and let them play big minutes. 2) if they aren't good enough stick them in juniors/minors for a year and let them develop properly. (Chi did it with Toews when they drafted him, so I don't see a problem with that) Don't keep them in the big leagues and stick them in third line duties where they'll only play 11 minutes or less a game, what does that do for their development? I could understand last season, where they might just be testing waters to see if they could strike gold since they didn't have much to play for anyways, but then they go on and add Vrbata, Fiddler, and Korpikoski in the off-season so now that jams up another three spots in your line up. When's Turris, Boedkker, Tikhonov, Mueller going to get the time to develop now? Especially if you have to spread the time to all of those new acquisitions as well as Doan/Lombardi/Upshall. And to think they want to add Tanguay to the mix too, that'll just mess up their team even more.
July 28, 2009
Votes: +1

Gotlaid said:

... RE: Backes

I love Backes to death, if you followed my columns last season, I pretty much wrote about him every week. The thing you have to consider is that last season the Blues were hampered with a ton of injuries, Kariya, Andy Mac... so Backes really stepped up to fill those shoes, but now that they all have returned, there isn't a place for him in the Blues lineup anymore. The Blues are VERY DEEP! Just look at the depth chart above, Kariya, McDonald, Boyes (pretty much unmovable) Oshie, Berglund, Perron (great chemistry last year, there is a bit of room for Backes to crack that line, but he's going to have to outshine them all, which is going to be a tough task.) And you throw in Tkachuk, so as of right now Backes sits 8th on the depth charts. So you have to go in thinking if he's 8th on the depth chart, is he really going to repeat 54 points, 208 SOG, and 165 PIMs? chances are NO!
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0

Gotlaid said:

... RE: Seto

To be honest, I think it more so due to the fact that they want to re-structure the system. Face it after two years of major disappointments something has to change, it's like the old addage, you're an idiot if you continue to do what you're doing and expecting a different result. If you kind of look at the successful teams, what they have is offensive depth, Detroit had 3 lines rolling, Pittsburgh did too. So having Seto move down on the third line with newcomer McGinn, which from what I read is pretty offensive, that could provide that potent third line where it'll spread out the offense more. I think it'll be more effective than having all the eggs in one basket of JT, Marleau and Seto and having them face shut down lines all season long. San Jose needs to do something to win fans over, winning the President's trophy just isn't enough anymore.
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0

Enormous said:

... Seto should start the yr with Joe again. Agree time to move on from Cheechoo.
I can see Vrbata getting a top 6 over Prucha or Boedker.
The 6th forward will be very hard to predict. Anyone of those could replace Ward
Man, is StL deep. Backes and Perron not even a top 6? Time to move one of them for another D!
Wonder where Tanguay will fit in Phx if that gets done - Tanguay-Turris/Lom-Doan
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0

Ron` said:

... Good analysis of the Blues. Tkachuk will still garner qualite minutes likely on the PP so that pushes him to the second line at least. Hopefully Kariya is all mended, nothing suggests he isn't. It's Perron's oppurtunity to replace Tkachuk going forward....
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0

BladesOfSteel said:

... ^ The only reason Cheech may see top line minutes is because they are looking to move him, but I agree, Setoguchi is a lock for top 6 in San Jose.

Also, how does David Backes not crack the top 6 in St. Louis?
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0

Renegade said:

... Setoguchi on the third line?! Seriously SJ? How many chances are you going to give Cheechoo before you realize he's lost his game just like David Duval did.
July 28, 2009
Votes: +0
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