The Tampa Bay Lightning have a tall task ahead of them this season if they want a three-peat. After losing the Yanni Gourde line – which featured Gourde, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman – they have a massive hole to fill. That line was arguably the key to their back-to-back titles, as they could be matched up against any line imaginable and still come out on top. Who on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster can replace that fearsome third line?
Tampa Bay Lightning Roster Shifts Creates Third Line Options
With Coleman leaving for the Flames, Gourde getting drafted in the expansion draft by the Seattle Kraken, and Goodrow getting traded to the New York Rangers, the Lightning need to dig deep to find new options. They have brought in new veterans. They’ve called up young faces. They’re giving opportunities to players who saw some games last season. But what combination will make up the new-look Lightning third line?
What the Gourde Line Brought for the Tampa Bay Lightning
When it came to even-strength, this line took on some of the hardest match-ups, as mentioned earlier. Despite that, they finished with a strong EVO (even-strength offence goals above replacement) score. Gourde ranked eighth on the team with a 6.3, Coleman ranked 11th with 4.1, and Goodrow ranked 14th with 3.5. When it came to SHD (short-handed defence goals above replacement), Gourde was the second-best player on the Lightning, and first among forwards, with a 1.9 score.
Their true value came on the penalty kill. From 2019-20 through to the 2020-21 season, Gourde ranked third in time on ice among forwards for Tampa when short-handed. Goodrow and Coleman ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Only Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn had more minutes while short-handed than the trio.
Gourde Line Impact Killing Penalties
Using Natural Stat Trick, Gourde ranked second among Lightning forwards with at least 50 minutes on the penalty kill in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 26.2%. Coleman ranked fourth (16.66 xGF%) and Goodrow ranked sixth (12.75 xGF%). Mathieu Joseph was the only forward who ranked higher than Gourde in that metric, albeit playing in a smaller PK role.
When it comes to allowing scoring chances, Coleman (105 scoring chances allowed), Gourde (126) and Goodrow (129) ranked fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. When looking at scoring chances for percentage (SCF%), however, Gourde (22.7 SCF%), Coleman (16.67 SCF%), and Goodrow (12.84 SCF%) rank second, fourth, and sixth, respectively. It shows just how strong they were in their large penalty-killing roles. Yet again, in SCF%, only Joseph was better than Gourde.
How The Lightning Will Replace Their Impact
When it comes to replacing their even-strength impacts, the challenge will be steep. The Gourde line was a match-up cheat code, and their combination of speed, tenacity, smarts and heart is going to be near-impossible to recreate. In training camp, they opened with a third-line of Joseph, Ross Colton and Corey Perry. The following day, they switched up Joseph and Steven Stamkos.
The initial combination provides the tenacity, heart, speed and smarts; tenacity and heart is primarily Perry; speed is mostly Joseph; smarts is mostly Colton. However, the Gourde line had all of those elements individually, and while Perry is smart, he doesn’t necessarily bring speed. For Joseph, he has some smarts, though he’s still improving there, he hasn’t provided much in the way of tenacity and physicality shift-by-shift. As for Colton, he is the closest to providing all the elements, but he is still largely unproven, having only 30 NHL games, plus 23 playoff games, under his belt. Moving Joseph out and replacing him with Stamkos makes this group a larger offensive threat, but takes away their speed element that Joseph would’ve been the main provider of.
What We Have Seen in Preseason
As for the preseason, we’ve seen another third-line look: Taylor Raddysh, Colton and Joseph. Raddysh plays a tenacious style and has improved his skating and smarts over the years. Raddysh was also praised for his two-way game. Add to that the fact that both Colton and Joseph have shown to be solid in the defensive zone, and this combination may be the likeliest to replicate the former Lightning third line. Colton ranked 10th in both xGF% and SCF% among Lightning forwards over the last two years, while Joseph ranked 15th in xGF% and 14th in SCF%. While all three players are young and limited in NHL experience, especially Raddysh (zero NHL games), they have the most upside.
Who Can Step up on the PK
As for the holes left behind on the penalty kill, the Lightning will lean heavily on two veteran players in particular. Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn had more ice time than Gourde over the last two years on the penalty kill, and it’s likely both players will receive even more time in a PK role. Ondrej Palat, who played 62:49 minutes of PK time total over the last two seasons compared to all of the Gourde line playing over 137 minutes each, will likely have to take a big step in that department as well.
With the improvements shown over the last season in the minors, as well as in training camp, it’s likely Raddysh also receives a role. Additionally, as pointed out subtly when looking at Gourde’s impact, Joseph had a very strong performance when he was deployed to kill penalties, so he too could see a jump in minutes. Some other players like Stamkos and Brayden Point could also draw in often. But perhaps the most intriguing players that are likely to get opportunities are Ross Colton (1:43 time spent when short-handed) and Alex Barre-Boulet (25 seconds spent short-handed) could be rotated in and out of the PK lineup.
The Best Option
The third line of Raddysh-Colton-Joseph is extremely intriguing, and it allows a potential fourth line of Pat Maroon – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Perry. That fourth-line would be a ton of fun to watch, as they could cause headaches for opposing teams. That said, the make-up of a youthful and hungry third line would be the best course of action. As for the penalty kill, the top forwards should be Cirelli and Killorn again. The second unit could be made up with some combination of Palat, Colton, Joseph, Barre-Boulet, Point and Stamkos rotating in and out. The Tampa Bay Lightning roster has plenty of room to work with for their third line heading into the season.
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