This happened before. It was the fall of 2000, and at training camp (MacT’s first as head coach) the “Bulldog Line” (so called because they’d been brilliant for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 99-00) made the grade as a trio for 2000-01.
The line of Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi hasn’t been together long, but there does seem to be chemistry in the group. Now, they’re not scoring goals but do have the puck headed in the right direction. Sure it’s the AHL, but I think we can agree this year’s AHL is extra difficult and that the best minor league in the world is pretty damn tough in normal times.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves, the chances of all three players making the grade is not high. In the case of Brian Swanson, Michel Riesen and Daniel Cleary, one of them made it and the other two made like Mrs Hogwallop and up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T:
NHL GAMES AFTER FALL 2000
- Daniel Cleary 763
- Brian Swanson 70
- Michel Riesen 12
There’s every chance the current trio will not play 763 games individually between now and the end of the line, but I like their chances of playing north of 200 games between now and their final flight across the Atlantic. The 99-00 Bulldog line was a scoring unit (70 AHL goals between them that season) and the 12-13 Barons trio is not going to get a lot of PP time (30 of the 70s goals in 99-00 from the Bulldog line came on the man advantage) but good things are happening.
Cult Of Hockey does player grades after each OKC game and Jonathan Willis had some kind words for the trio last night. I’m going to quote his Lander prose, but suggest reading the entire article.
- Willis: #16 Anton Lander, 6. Another strong game for Anton Lander, who seems to be finding his stride (if not the score-sheet) with Hartikainen and Paajarvi. Played physically, and figured in on the Barons’ first goal by winning the faceoff and then going to the net; he didn’t get a point but he did solid work.
Hartikainen (14, 4-7-11) has probably won an NHL job at this point, if not at the beginning of the post lockout era then soonafter. Paajarvi (14, 2-6-8) too should be in the mix, perhaps waiting until Lennart Petrell’s contract expires but that seems an easy hurdle from here.
Lander (10, 0-0-0) is the guy who needs saving, and this 2nd line trio seems to have given him some life.
This thing could go sideways in a heartbeat, or the NHL lockout could end and Lander might find himself with a new set of linemates after the other two get the call. Also, it’s pretty hard to imagine the Oilers elevating two forward units (Nuge line, Lander line) “whole” and then making two sets from the group that includes Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Smyth, Ben Eager, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, Eric Belanger, Darcy Hordichuk and Lennart Petrell.
Still, this unit is doing good things. A 20-game run to allow the chemistry to continue is probably the best plan available.