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What's the point of having a 4th line


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when you're just going to sit them during the playoffs? This stems a little bit from another thread, but not completely.


Why do you bother keeping these guys on the roster if you have such little faith in them? Why is there this belief that your 4th line has to be muckers and grinders? I hate that kind of thinking. There's not enough outside the box thinking in sports when it comes to stuff like that.


It's not just a money thing either, because you could just as easily fill out your fourth line with prospects or veterans who aren't capable of what they used to be, but still have something left to contribute. Playing Vinny on the fourth line would be a good example of that. Not that you'd go out and sign a guy to $4mil just for that, but why not try and make the best of a bad situation? Throw him out there with some prospects, or a prospects, and just one who is offensively inept, instead of two. 


It's kind of like playing Timonen like he's still a #1. Coaches at like you're still at the top of your game or not capable of playing anymore. There's a whole lot in between those two extremes.

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Ok, I'll tackle this one a bit....


Uses of a 4th line will vary from team to team.

A 4th line can do everything from giving your main lines rest, to breaking in young guys (and also seeing what some crusty old vets have left), to flat out being goons, or to actually even score goals if you have guys there who are talented, yet not highly regarded by the opposition.


I am sure others can think of more uses for a 4th line as well.

Depending on the team, having that 4th line could be very instrumental on throwing off match ups for the opposition. In reality, there doesn't HAVE to be 4 lines on a team.

Why stop there? Why not 5 lines?



Over the years hockey has been played, apparently it has been discovered that 4 lines is just the right amount to have to get the most out of your players.

A balance of having your main forwards on the ice vs. rest for critical moments later on.


Some teams may run 3 and a half lines.

What I mean is, they run 3 main lines and the only reason a 4th line is used is for rest (and only for that reason), and all the 4th has to do is muck up the flow of the game, don't do anything dumb, while the three main lines are either resting or plotting strategy with the coaching staff on the bench.


Some teams (Boston is a good example) run 4 lines out there REGULARLY and are pretty successful with it.

They play a very demanding style that almost begs for having 12 forwards share the workload on the ice.

Obviously, a team like the Bruins still have their go-to guys, but seems all lines play equal roles in the success of a team.


A team doesn't have to have 4 lines.

There is nothing written anywhere (that I am aware of anyways) that says 'Talented Player A has to play here, and not-so-talented Player B has to play here'.

But again, it's all about optimization. You WANT your best players to get the bulk of the ice time...thus they play on the "top" lines which get run onto the ice more than the others.


Each coach knows (or should know) their personnel. So, he should know which players would benefit from more ice time, which are better playing sparingly, who should be playing with whom (chemistry), and even personalities (will player A be happy with only 10-12 min a game?).


That's really what it comes down to, I think.

I've always thought some thinking "outside the box" regarding lines and who plays on them is a good thing, but overall, I think over the decades the NHL has been around, I think they've got the formula down pretty well.

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