|Guess who PMB could really help out...|
Surely, this may not have been what you envisioned when the Islanders signed Bouchard on July 5th. Most of you probably pictured him scoring points alongside Tavares, adding a particular set of ability that should thrive alongside the Islanders' star forward.
Assuming the Islanders second-line (Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo), which scored more goals than half of the NHL's top-lines in 2013), sticks together, what if I told you that Bouchard would flank Michael Grabner and Peter Regin/Brock Nelson on the Isles' third-line? That should spark some interest, Isles' fans. That's the type of move that makes the Islanders better.
Let me start by saying that I fully expect John Tavares to bring the best out of anybody that he plays with. Whether it be Cal Clutterbuck or Pierre-Marc Bouchard, I don't expect either player to score 30-35 goals, but I would expect either one to put up totals rivaling Brad Boyes and PA Parenteau's (Clutterbuck to a lesser extent).
Could I say the same about Peter Regin or Brock Nelson, though? Combined, both players scored 0 goals at the NHL-level in 2013 ( Nelson did not play). Both players have not proved that they are game-changers at the NHL-plateau. Neither have proved that they can carry their linemates.
So, would I expect Cal Clutterbuck, he with a career high of 34 points, to put up career-high numbers alongside Michael Grabner and Peter Regin/Brock Nelson, while boosting the play of those around him? Maybe, but that wouldn't be the safe bet. Would I expect Pierre-Marc Bouchard, a former top-10 pick and 60-point scorer to boost that same line? Absolutely.
Bouchard has a world of talent. He's a set-up man, a player with outstanding playmaking ability. He's a top-six forward in the NHL. Now, however, I urge you to stop thinking about line "labels." First-line, second-line, third-line....no. Rather than looking at Bouchard as "misplaced " on the third line, how about we take a look at the talent he would be lineup next to.
In the middle, Bouchard would be lining up alongside either Peter Regin or Brock Nelson.
On one hand, Peter Regin didn't score a goal in 2013, although his talent over the years has been unquestioned. Quite often, Regin had prepared himself to jump into the Ottawa Senators' top-six before falling to injury. Frans Nielsen says that Regin "is one of the most talented guys I've ever played with," and to place talent next to Bouchard is a great way to put together some offense.
On the other hand, you have Brock Nelson, the Islanders only remaining first round pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Nelson amassed the team-lead in goals and points for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2012-13, his rookie season as a professional. Nelson can be put in a great position to succed at the NHL-level if placed alongside a skilled-veteran like Bouchard, who will be looking to set-up the young forward around the net.
Across the ice, you have a former 34-goal scorer in Michael Grabner, who would be flanking this line on the wing. Grabner is already deadly because of his speed and ability to read plays to create offense for himself, but could you imagine Grabner alongside a true play-maker, something he never really had? Grabner, who was on a 30-goal pace playing alongside Keith Aucoin and Colin McDonald last season, could have the year of his life.
Without labeling your lines, it sure looks as if combining Bouchard with any of these players can create a formidable offensive threat, no? Bouchard, a consistent 50-point scorer before his concussion-issue, would be potentially placed alongside two other first-round picks, one who has already scored 30+ goals in one season.
Listen. I know that this idea will be "flawed" to many, solely basing their view off the idea that Cal Clutterbuck "isn't a first-line player." Get rid of the labels, Isles' fans. Why can't it be accepted that the Islanders could have four lines that can just "go."
While Pierre-Marc Bouchard is more fit as the typical "first-line" winger next to John Tavares, I think the addition of Bouchard gives the Islanders something more than just a "first-line" stop-gap. Bouchard gives the Islanders potential to add a third scoring line, one that could possibly join the John Tavares' and Frans Nielsen's lines as one of the NHL's most productive. In my opinion, by spreading out Bouchard's abilities, the Isles have the potential to make their offense lethal.
Where would you like to see Pierre-Marc Bouchard?
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!