Sean McIndoe, otherwise known as Down Goes Brown, made an attempt at projecting the opening night lineup for every team in the NHL ($) over on The Athletic this week. Now for those of you unaware, McIndoe is one of the most fun and funniest writers in all of hockey. And his insights into hockey fan culture are generally spot on. But I wanted to see how he did in projecting the Lightning’s line-up for opening night and compare it to my opinions!
For those of you without a subscription to The Athletic, the basic jist of the article is that each player in the line up is some kind of hockey trope, and he does a “generic” lineup to cover every team. The article isn’t to be taken seriously, but is a great piece of fun and laughs.
The superstar everyone loves - Right
Well this one has to be Steven Stamkos. Everyone owns his jersey. We’re convinced he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer (and I mean, come on, the guy already has two Rocket Richards and only three seasons under a Point-Per-Game in his career! He’s a shoe-in!). He deserves more Hart Trophy love than he gets. And I’m sure more than a few people out there have named their kids Steven after him.
The other superstar that everyone loves slightly less - Right
This one has to be Nikita Kucherov. You could perhaps make the argument that he and Stamkos could be flip flopped here, but there’s also a chunk of the Lightning fanbase that dislikes him. One of the things that McIndoe points out is “body language” and that’s certainly something I’ve seen Lightning fans lament about Kucherov on Twitter.
The random guy who gets to play with the two superstars - Mostly Right
This one could be either Tyler Johnson or Ondrej Palat, but I think Ondrej Palat is the most likely fit here. He’s good on the forecheck. He’s good in the defensive zone. He might score 20 goals and he’s gonna get assists playing with two superstars. Oh, and he loves Olive Garden.
The terrible contract that you’re just trying to make the best of - Kind of Right
Once again, Johnson or Palat could easily fit here. McIndoe mentions that this contract turned out worse than we thought, which in my opinion is only somewhat true with Palat and Johnson. He talks about the deal being buyout-proof, but really it’s just not very tradeable as both still have value with the contracts they have.
The rookie - Not Really Right, But Something’s Right
A couple years ago, this spot was certainly Brayden Point. And he’ll still end up getting this spot here for us. But one of the things that McIndoe got right was this line “He’s going to be amazing, and that jerk Corey Pronman is going to eat his words for ranking him so low.” Going into 2015-16, he had Point ranked 38th in his Top 100 after ranking him 87th in his previous ranking. This was behind some much lesser players such as Axel Holmstrom, Kasperi Kapanen, Nic Petan, Michael Dal Colle and Anthony Duclair. Actually looking at this ranking is kind of funny as Mikko Rantanen, Kyle Connor, and Artemi Panarin ranked from 26th to 34th and all three along with Point have become some of the top forwards in the NHL. Even in the last ranking Point was eligible for, he was ranked only 29th on the Top 100 list before the 2016-17 season.
The offseason acquisition - Wrong
This spot goes to Yanni Gourde. He’s been around for a little while now in the Lightning organization.
The KHL guy - Wrong
This spot here is Anthony Cirelli. He kind of fits the description a little bit as a hidden gem from the third round that the scouts did their work on. And a lot of fans certainly believe he could blossom in a full-fledged star, though I think that’s a bit unrealistic. However, he’ll still be here and be playing strong by mid-November.
The little guy everyone loves because he threw a hit that one time - Right
I feel like this describes Mathieu Joseph. Though he’s not small, but more kind of average-NHL-sized for a forward. And he does have speed when he gets those legs pumping. Early on last year, he threw his body around and laid some big hits — until he got jumped by Milan Lucic. His running around seemed to go markedly down after that incident. However, I think he’ll finish with more than 12 points this year.
The guy who was really good like eight years ago - Some people will think this is right, and some will think it’s wrong
Alex Killorn. There isn’t a more polarizing player on the Lightning than Killorn. There are people who love him and people who vehemently hate him. But he’s been a productive player in the league and he can still be.
The faceoff guy
Cedric Paquette, right? Plays eight minutes a game. Wins 52% of faceoffs. Announcers will not shut up about him? Well, Pierre certainly won’t shut up about the Gaspe, Quebec native and the time he spent playing for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the Q with his good buddies Christopher Clapperton and Lightning teammate Danick Martel under head coach Jean-Francois Houle!
The perfectly respectable depth veteran who makes way too much money - Oof.
Well, in past years, this has been Ryan Callahan. But with his career ending physical issues, he’s not here to take this spot any more. Instead, it’s Adam Erne, but he won’t cost nearly as much as many players around the league that fill this spot in the line up.
The really skilled young prospect being miscast as a fourth-line grinder - Completely Correct
Take your pick of players that you think should fill this spot. Danick Martel. Carter Verhaeghe. Alex Barre-Boulet. Alexander Volkov. They all fit the narrative of offensively gifted forwards in the AHL that might not get much of an opportunity while playing on the fourth line when they’re probably skilled enough to play up the line up on a worse team.
The stud - Completely Right
Victor Hedman. Super good and he can do it all. Even strength, penalty kill, power play. Everything. And he plays big minutes, racks up points, and plays well on both ends. Not perfect, but pretty darn close!
The guy who gets all the credit for the stud - Wrong
This spot is likely going to end up being Mikhail Sergachev. And he’s closer to being a Stud himself than being a passenger on this pairing. Now, if Dan Girardi was here? Yes. This would have been completely right last season.
The defenseman your dad hates - Right
Ryan McDonagh. Advanced stats love him. But he’s not the flashiest defenseman in the world as he just plays a good, solid game. I’m curious though, if your dad hates McDonagh, please comment in the comment section and let me know. My dad doesn’t watch hockey, so I don’t really know the “Dad Opinion” on McDonagh.
The defenseman your dad loves - Kind of Right
This one belongs to Erik Cernak. Though this is one where I feel like the title is right, but the description is off, which is why it got a Kind of Right. Cernak plays the game with a bit more of a physical edge and is better defensively than offensively. But he’s not an old school defenseman that can’t handle the puck and only defends. However one line from the description, I do think a lot of people think is true of Cernak; “Your dad is convinced that if the team’s blue line was just six of this guy, they’d never lose a game.”
The old guy who must have photos of the head coach - Right
Braydon Coburn isn’t the oldest guy on the roster as that goes to Curtis McElhinney. But he is the oldest skater on the team by a good margin with Ryan McDonagh coming up next four years younger than him.
The one guy you have literally never heard of - Completely Right
This one is going to be either Jan Rutta or Luke Schenn. Who’s ever heard of either of these bums? Pfffffffffftttttt. Get out of here.
The starter - Completely Right
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the key to the whole season. And I feel good about him. I do love McIndoe’s talk about the random number generator to describe goaltender performance projections as it does seem to be a crap shoot of what goalies will do in any given season.
The backup - Sure
Curtis McElhinney. Not sure if he’ll be one of my favorite players as long as he doesn’t play, but Domingue certainly filled that role last season.
McIndoe got it really close. He was off the mark on a few spots in the line up, but some of it felt like he was just a year too late to his projection of the Lightning. I had a lot of fun with his article and it was a lot of fun to go through and slot the Lightning players into their appropriate places in the line-up. The top six could probably still use some work, and I’m probably not quite right in where I lined up the players there, but the players in the top six are who I expect to be playing on the top two lines come October.
Now let’s do it for the rest of the league.