I've been hoping to write a longer spiel on my own site using the stats on this, but I guess I just gotta get it out of the way now. These last two games have been tremendous. The Isles have looked for two periods like a great hockey team and for one period as an okay hockey team. That's far better than usual, and that type of team can make it into the playoffs.
What's different about the team in those games from previously? Three players are out:
1. Witt - I don't think I need any explanation here. He's slow, old, ailing and doesn't fit in Gordon's system. With Andy MacDonald's emergence into the starting lineup, he should be the odd man out.
2 & 3: Jackman and Thompson. Listen, the original 4th line this year, Park, Jackman, and Thompson has been absolutely horrible. Just beyond terrible....and yet Gordon insists on using them as his defensive specialists. And yet, their relative +/-s, courtesy of behindthenet.ca, are beyond terrible. Now some of this isn't their fault. Their line has been on the ice for a greater percentage of own-zone faceoffs than ANY OTHER LINE IN THE LEAGUE! This naturally increases the odds that they'll be scored upon and decreases their odds of scoring. But not to the point where it explains their performance.
Moreover, the Park, Thompson PK first-line has been BEYOND TERRIBLE, whereas Frans Nielsen, Okposo, Comeau have all been tremendous. Our Top Defensive forwards are really Nielsen, Okposo, Bailey, and Bergenheim, and this has shown on the PK. And yet we consistantly use a terrible pair...who aren't young and aren't going to grow any better.
Now, I'm willing to give Richard Park some leeway. The Dude does win faceoffs in our own zone, and has performed for us in the past, when paired with not terrible players. Moreover, unlike Jackman and Thompson, Richard Park can contribute OFFENSIVELY when paired with decent line-mates. He's not dead weight. But the other two guys just are. At the very least, Thompson and Jackman should never be on the ice when we're losing within the last 10 minutes of a hockey game. And yet you, Coach Gordon, insist on rolling all four lines and all the players (barring Witt) even in those situations. This has COST US GREATLY.
The lineup tonight and yesterday was great. The Fourth line of Weight-Park-Bergie contains two smart veterans and a pretty nice talent, who is also a pretty good Defensive player who can draw penalties. Moreover, it can score! The other two lines are solid. I wouldn't mind it if you somehow managed to get Jeff Tambellini into games here and there, replacing Weight, Sim, or Park, as the stats from behindthenet seem to like him pretty much, and he's still young and can be of more use to this team in the future than either of those three. But keep Thompson, Jackman, and Witt out.
If you do, we'll be a younger, more solid team that is better defensively and especially offensively (and the best Defense in hockey IS a good offense) and we can beat top teams like the Sabres and Wings.