Here we are now for the fourth installment of our Roster Breakdown series. We’ve looked at the top three lines thus far, (first line, second line, third line) and there have really been only one surprise. Evgeny Grachev making his way onto the third line is the only real surprise thus far, and this line doesn’t change to much of that.
The fourth line has to be able to play at least 8-14 minutes a night. They wont wow you offensively like the top lines will do. They don’t have the skill sets that the top players have. Yet they do possess the drive to play with their hearts and play with an all out intensity that make them effective when they touch the rink.
The Blues fourth line however has that and more. They also possess a surprising offensive touch.
Starting on wing, the tough little Czech forward who the Blues watched last year develop into an all around player with skill. Vladimir Sobotka notched 7 goals, 22 assists for 29 points last season. All numbers were career highs for the 24 year old, Tribec native.
Posting more than half his career points in less than half the games, Sobotka stood out more often than not offensively as well as his ability to use his low center of gravity to blast his opponents. The 5’10”, 186 lbs forward has a skill that his teammate, TJ Oshie possesses. His ability to use their lower body strength and their solid core to knock opponents around, despite having a distinct size disadvantage.
Sobotka also plays the penalty kill as his two-way play makes him a very versatile player and has allowed him to succeed in St. Louis no matter the situation he is in.
Down the middle with be 36 year old veteran forward, Scott Nichol, who signed with St. Louis this off-season. Nichol is a feisty player despite his size. He’s only 5’9 but he’s hitting one of his specialties. He’s a banger, a battler and will drive hard into the corners. He’s skilled in the face-off circle and has the ability to pot in about 15-20 points during a season. Expected production of a fourth line player.
Nichol is the ideal fourth liner because of his skillset. He’s not got the best set of hands in the world but he’s good on the draw, plays his heart out every shift. Is a guy you hate going into the corners with because he’s tenacious on the puck at all times. He’s a great PK guy as well as he’s always willing to sacrifice his body in order to help his team. He’s the kind of guys who won’t show great stats, but are needed to make it to the post-season.
On the opposite wing lies veteran forward, Jamie Langenbrunner. Wearing the alternates ‘A’, and possessing two Stanley Cup rings, Langenbrunner knows what how to win. He’ll bring that asset to St. Louis this season. Jamie is coming off a down year which saw him put up near career lows in points for the 36 year old, Minnesota native.
However, he’s posted 60 points in two of his last three seasons. I’m not saying that he’ll return to those numbers, but the man has a skill set that is obviously undeniable. He could be a 40+ point scorer for the Blues if given the right amount of time with the right linemates. I do not believe he’ll spend all season on this line, but I do believe he will not be a top six forward either. His value is difficult to gauge but the veterans credentials are hard to miss.
Jamie also adds a history of big playoff performances, and as the Blues’ goal this season is the playoffs, Langenbrunner could provide the right mix of scoring for the Blues if opportunities present themselves.
Be sure to check back tomorrow as we look the wild cards for the forward positions.
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