Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter switched the current top-six iteration in the thirty-third game of this season. Now, we sit here after game thirty-nine, and a large topic among the fanbase is changing up the Lucic-Kadri-Huberdeau line.
Why does everyone want that line changed, when the Flames are 4–2–1 in that segment? Even more so when that line has outscored its opponents 6–3? That’s probably a fair point, and the second line doesn’t need to be changed. But, when we dive deeper into the numbers, some interesting results present themselves.
It’s time for the top-six Lucic experiment to end
I think we can all admit that playing Milan Lucic in the top-six isn’t an effective discourse at this point in his career. Whether it’s Sutter trying to send Brad Treliving a message that they need another top-six forward, or just plain ignorance, the Lucic experiment needs to end. Lucic is absolutely fine on the fourth line, rotating in and out as a healthy scratch if need be. But, there isn’t a recipe for success by playing as high in the lineup as he is right now. Looking at the numbers can help explain why.
A look by the numbers
The following numbers are courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
The Lucic-Kadri-Huberdeau line has played together for 79 minutes at 5v5 so far. The result are as follows:
|Lucic – Kadri – Huberdeau||79:07||54.27%||49.93%||36.25%||50.12%||1.085|
So, while the line has outscored opponents and the Flames are having a winning record, I might be time for a change. As the stats show, the second line hasn’t been very good, particularly when it comes to high-danger chances. That line has created eleven high-danger chances for, and faced twenty high-danger chances against. That’s not great. Glancing over at the PDO is where the problems really develop.
If you’re unfamiliar with PDO, it uses a team or players on ice shooting percentage and save percentage, to determine its measure of luck. A rating of 1.00 means that a player is neither unlucky or lucky, so their results are right where they should be. A measure below 1.00, like 0.950 for example, means a player is very unlucky, and their luck should improve—emphasis on should. On the other hand, a PDO value of 1.050 represents a player that is getting very lucky, and should expect some regression.
That line having a PDO of 1.085 tells the viewer they have gotten extremely lucky. So, while the line has had the way of goal share go their way, we can pot that up to luck. Since the underlying numbers are average with a very high PDO, there is cause for concern. Based on the aspect of that line being so lucky, we can assume the line will regress. That would likely be in the form of goal share.
A potential lineup solution
My potential solution is as follows:
Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli
Huberdeau – Kadri – Dube
The Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli line had some success earlier in the season. In 86 minutes played together, the line also outscored its opposition 6–3, with above average statistics in each major category, plus a PDO of 1.024.
The Huberdeau – Kadri – Dube line hasn’t played any significant time together, just five minutes at 5v5. I think this could be an effective line, and why not try it out? The Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman has been very effective since put together, so it wouldn’t be smart to split them up.
If you want to keep the Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli line together, which has been quite effective, you could also just exchange Ruzicka and Lucic. That gives you a top-six of:
Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli
Huberdeau – Kadri – Ruzicka
Ruzicka has 20 points in 29 games, and should be given another shot in the top-six. Or heck, Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier are doing very well with the Wranglers, and could be a fixture to take that top-six spot. We know the Flames are looking for a top-six forward, so why not try as many options as possible before you expend assets.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire