It was the two-way play of Buffalo Sabres like Craig Ramsay, Don Luce and Danny Gare in the 1974-75 semifinals (when Montreal was eliminated by Buffalo) that showed Scotty Bowman his team needed two lines that could keep an opposing team at bay.
-Douglas Hunter, A Life in Hockey
I think that this line of thinking is central to Edmonton’s current situation. Kevin Lowe wants two lines for the opposition to worry about so one of the puck wizards (Hemsky, Gagner) has the soft parade.
The checking line for the Sabres mentioned above was a solid unit of forecheckers with hands. They weren’t terribly big or tough but they could scoot and score, and they pursued the puck like no line I can recall. You can still see them every once in awhile skating miles in playoff games from 30 years ago.
We’ve discussed at length Kevin Lowe’s summer plans and I think we’ve probably got this summer surrounded with this statement: a scoring top 3F. For the most part the Oilers have in the meat of their batting order young men who are extremely creative with the puck and can beat people silly off the rush. But they aren’t snipers. They have Don Luce (Shawn Horcoff) and they have a version of Craig Ramsay (Fernando Pisani) but those Danny Gare energy snipers who have a dogged persistence don’t grow on trees.
Let’s say the Edmonton Oilers do acquire a top drawer offensive talent this summer. Let’s say for the hell of it that they acquire Jaromir Jagr (it’s easier for our purposes than someone like Spezza because Jagr is a UFA).
Let’s say Jagr comes to camp and the Oilers decide he should play with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner on the 1line. That would leave Dustin Penner to play with Shawn Horcoff and Robert Nilsson on the 2line and perhaps give Jarret Stoll a chance to play on the “tough minutes” line with Fernando Pisani and a few options on LW.
Could the Oilers line up this way? Remember MacT’s comments in regard to Horcoff a year ago? With Kevin Lowe’s comments this spring about adding a top line forward and a scorer, I think one of Horcoff or Stoll are going to be counted on to play huge, tough minutes in the Don Luce role.
Will that make them a playoff team? It might. Two scoring lines are a distant bell in the tight NW division, where the Oilers were the top scoring team in 07-08. It seems like Kevin Lowe has decided to bring a “west coast offense” to the NHL, a run and gun bunch who can outscore the opposition and make up for the errors on the blueline.
They need a hired gun, and I think that’s what the next three weeks are all about in Edmonton.