The salary cap is a wonderful thing for the NHL. It's brought parity to the game, turned the League into a more level playing field from a management standpoint, and helped secure the NHL's financial security. But sometimes it can sure be a pain in the ass.
That's been the case for the Capitals so far this season, cap restrictions playing a major role in the recall of Boyd Kane, the waiver-wire loss of Chris Bourque, and the team's decision to dress Tyler Sloan as a forward last night, effectively leaving the team with only eleven NHL-caliber forwards. Fortunately that problem looks like it's coming to an end: Eric Fehr is healthy and should be ready to play tomorrow night in Detroit (under unusual circumstances, no less).
Of course this puts this presents Bruce Boudreau and his staff with another problem, albeit a more pleasant one: What line does Eric Fehr play on?
The answer's not obvious. In fact, an argument can be made for just about any of the four. On the one hand, Fehr produced at an impressive level given the amount of ice time he saw last season. Here's how he stacked up among the fourteen forwards who played at least thirty games for the Caps last season (advanced statistics courtesy of Behind the Net):
|+/-||t - 3rd|
|Penalties Draw/60 Min||1st|
|Penalties Taken/ 60 Min||6th|
|Quality of Competition||3rd|
|Quality of Teammates||9th|
In short, Fehr put up great numbers in almost every category despite playing against relatively strong opponents and with relatively weak teammates.
But the season's aggregate numbers don't tell the whole story. His production looks great, but most of it - 12 of his 25 points and seven of his 12 goals - came during one thirteen game stretch. It's true that it's hard to be consistent when you're seeing fourth line minutes and little powerplay time, but it's also true that Fehr's mid-season explosion means he wasn't doing a whole lot for much of the year. On top of his inconsistency Fehr, despite his size, is not a very physical player, something that works against his value when he's not scoring.
At the moment, Boudreau has Fehr on the team's third line, skating with David Steckel and Chris Clark. But it was your call, where would you slot Fehr? (And feel free to let us know with whom in the comments.)