With Sam Gagner likely a week or so away from returning to the Edmonton Oilers lineup, there are those who believe Dallas Eakins would be wise to consider running with the quartet of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon down the middle.
From a talent level standpoint it makes perfect sense but in reality it would be the worst possible thing the Oilers rookie coach could do. While all four guys are upgrades on current fourth line centre Will Acton, the suggestion of possibly moving Gordon down the depth chart is frankly mind-numbing.
Using the former Phoenix Coyotes pivot on the fourth line while still taking on "tough minutes" is an impossibility. Why you ask? It's actually quite simple. If a player is being used in that sort of role, guess what...he is NOT a fourth line guy. Period. It's not a debate but it is a fact.
The whole purpose of going out and signing Gordon was to give the Oilers a guy who would not only be great in the face-off dot but also more than capable of holding his own against "so-called" tougher competition. The former first round pick of the Washington Capitals has been as good, if not better, than advertised and has done nothing but solidify his spot as this team's third line centre.
With that being the case, the question than becomes would it make any sense to use either Gagner or Arcobello in a fourth line role? I believe we all know the answer to that question and that answer is a big fat no. While the idea of having three scoring lines and Gordon in the hole may excite some Oilers fans, has everyone simply forgot what continues to plague this team upfront?
For years the masses have been calling for this organization to add a different dimension inside their top nine and get bigger down the middle. How exactly does using RNH, Gagner and Arcobello on the top three lines accomplish any of that? They all play the same type of game and I am not even going to bother getting into the size issue.
When healthy, would it not make more sense to leave Acton on the fourth line and have him play with whatever combination of Ben Eager, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Hamilton, Jesse Joenssu, Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth that the head coach deems necessary?
There is no question Arcobello has earned a continued look inside the Oilers top nine and he should do so on a line with Gagner and Nail Yakupov. In my mind, moving Gagner to the wing would be the way to go but either he or Arcobello could make the switch. Leaving Eakins the opportunity of reuniting the top line of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, while constructing a "tough minutes" line of Ales Hemsky and David Perron with Gordon.
Not sure about all of you but in my mind that setup creates three better balanced lines and would give the rookie bench boss the ability to feed the Arcobello-Gagner-Yakupov line softer minutes, should the need arise. Seems pretty obvious to me but for some reason the focus for some continues to be on whomever currently plays on the fourth line and improving that group, as opposed to finding the right mix on the top three lines.