With whom should Brad play?
So let's extend today's story a bit with this question. Should coach John Tortorella make more of an effort to switch up the lines in an attempt to get Brad Richards going again? It's an interesting question and one I don't think has a definitive answer.
Everyone wants Brad to regain the form with which he showed in 2005-06, when he had career bests of 91 points and 68 assists. Trouble is, he was playing with Fredrik Modin and Marty St. Louis then. That was before the awful trade for Marc Denis, that sent Modin to the Blue Jackets, and St. Louis became attached at the hip to Vinny Lecavalier. Since those two events, Brad's production has slipped, in part because he hasn't had wingers who could consistently finish. Jan Hlavac and Michel Ouellet have been terrible disappointments, and players such as Andreas Karlsson, Jason Ward, Mathieu Darche and Chris Gratton, all of whom have taken turns on Brad's line, have struggled.
But moving Marty off Vinny's line is problematic since that line, that also includes Vinny Prospal, is the only line that is producing. Is it wise, then, to break up the only line on which you can count? Do you want to take away someone (Marty) who is a catalyst to a certain extent for Vinny 4's success. And we also have seen Marty play in spurts with Brad this season. We also have seen Brad play with both Vinny 4 and Marty. It really didn't click.
True, it was in short spurts and sometimes it takes some time for new linemates to click. The response is that this team doesn't have time to wait, which is why Torts is going to stay with the top line and Brad is going to have to raise his game. And, really, is that too much to ask? The guy is making $7.8-million. There is a certain responsibility that goes with that. Four even-strength goals is not going to cut it.
In a perfect world (that is, one in which the Lightning is getting secondary scoring from ANYONE), there would be time to wait before Brad and Marty or whomever develops some chemistry. I just don't think at this point, the Lightning has that time. Expect Torts to go with what he knows has been working and riding that line to the bitter end.
And by the way, Johan Holmqvist will start tonight against the Panthers.