With the well published troubles of the Caps second line, many fans have chipped in with their own ideas about what to do to change the downward production of this forward combination. Many like Erat or Johansson on this line, some have suggested moving Fehr into the line. Everyone scratches their head, and voices their dissatisfaction with the way the results are currently. To suggestions that he split up Brouwer and Laich, Adam Oates has demurred, pointing out that this pair play an important part on the penalty kill. Oates seems to like to keep pairs together, to help develop familiarity for use on full strength and penalty killing--Ward and Chimera, Brouwer and Laich. So, to help Oates out of this dilemma, I have figured out a solution to this problem, and happen to solve an altogether different problem as well.
Have you observed that the second line at times seems a step slow, and that speed up the middle would help? My solution is a total replacement of the second line. For LW, Erat for Laich. Erat shows great speed, and puck movement. Erat hasn't scored a goal this year, so perhaps not the best LW I would wish for, but when you compare his numbers with Laich, there isn't a lot different in points. Erat is a better skater, and Laich is a negative 10 (lowest on the team) compared to Erat's zero in plus/minus. For RW, instead of Brouwer, who must stay connected to Laich's destiny per Oates, you could choose Fehr, who was impressive in preseason, but less so during the season, or you could go with bringing up the young gun in Tom Wilson. My vote is for Wilson. All his numbers look impressive, and given a chance, I believe he would soar like the wind, and show why he is still with the club. Now then......the question begs, who is to fill the void at center??? My solution would kill three birds with one stone--Mike Green. Think about it. On the power play, he demonstrates a wicked slap shot, and slick puck passing. His skating is a thing of beauty, and would have no problems covering the middle. Secondly, skating in the middle might help him stay healthier than crunching against the boards in the defensive zone, and I could easily see a chemistry form between Erat, Green, and Wilson. Wilson would also be there to help protect Green from trouble makers who might be tempted to target his head. Thirdly, taking Green out of the defensive zone may actually help a defense that seems sounder since Greenie got hurt. Green's plus/minus is -6, placing him worst amongst the d-men. Green has never been known for his defensive prowess, but his offense highlighted his attributes as a puck moving defenseman--there was a time when only Green seemed to be able to help our forwards offensively, but that is no longer the case. More than one of our current defensemen show good passing skills, and vision up ice. As a center, Green would still get back for defensive plays, and would be free to cover a lot of ground.
So, where does that leave Brouwer and Laich? Fourth line with Latta. Laich and Brouwer do a good job checking, like Latta does, and would mix well with Latta and his style of play. Laich and Brouwer have offensive skill, and could still produce on the 4th line with Latta. Latta has shown some offensive flair at times himself. Additionally, Oates wouldn't have to break up these two, and still be able to use them on PK's. Additionally, with such experience on the fourth line, Oates could afford to rest other lines, besides help balance out playing time by using Laich and Brouwer on PK. Also, playing less minutes on even strength means being fresher on the PK. In any case, this scenario could result in all our forwards being fresher on the ice.
Could this combo work? What says the gallery? Do you have a better idea, please share it.