This article really shouldn't be needed. How much of a non-story should "fourth line player is not second line calibre talent" really be. Yet off goes some in the mainstream media discussing the Jets second line as if it were not like so.
They have discussed how Thorburn was the logical choice. The second line's play was one of the main narratives over the recent road trip. This was followed through by fans and media on twitter, discussion forums and elsewhere, going even as far as saying Thorburn was fitting on the second line better than Evander Kane.
Now this article is not made to destroy Thorburn. He is what he is --a fourth line veteran and a solid character guy-- and he is performing his job as well as he can. This is where media should comment, exemplifying a player being asked to play beyond his abilities and doing it to the best of his abilities. Not making false assumptions about his effectiveness in that role.
But let's get to business.
Fig.1 Chris Thorburn's performance while in the top 6
||5 on 5 on-ice
||5 on 5
The experiment starts off strong. Thorburn comes out with a Corsi% above 50 in his first two games, +2 rating in his first game, and two points; however, things start to tumble soon thereafter, as some predicted. The line has yet to pot a goal while allowing four against since the first game. In addition, Thorburn has totalled a 43.48 Corsi% for his duration in the top six, indicating that the line is likely to continue allowing more goals against than they create, unless something changes.
However, the Jets are low in depth, so maybe Thorburn was the best choice after all...
Fig.2 Olli Jokinen Zone Start Adjusted, Score-Close Corsi% with Jets forwards (10+ min sample threshold)
While the sample sizes are not optimal for perfect comparisons, Thorburn has pulled down Jokinen further than anyone not named Anthony Peluso. While out-chancing the opposition is not the only part that makes a player, it is the most controllable factor.
Thorburn is not as good of a top six player as Evander Kane is another non-story. This revelation would likely not even surprise Thorburn. But, there were other bottom six pieces that were likely were better options.
Neither Thorburn nor Tangradi are quite top six players. Neither are going to bring scoring prowess when placed on the second line, but they can attempt to play their own game. In this they hope to keep the puck in the opponents zone as much as possible, maximize puck possession time, and therefor give more opportunities for Jokinen and Setoguchi to score.
This is different from the last article, with optimizing the third line. The choice there was between a proven scorer with bad shot metrics and a proven poor scorer with good shot metrics. In that situation it was necessary to asses whether the need for improved team possession or improved scoring was greater, given the attributes of the other players on the line.
Here though it is far simpler. Thorburn is generating neither to the team on the line. With the Jets poor depth forward depth, the marginal choice is in merely trying to mitigate the bleeding.
The loss of Evander Kane hurts two fold; the Jets lack scoring depth to replace Kane's abilities and have two of the top three lines struggling to keep the puck out of their own end, and ultimately their own net.
The best possible solution seems so easy that it is curious to as why it has yet been attempted. Send down John Albert, who has a career 0.36 points per game in the AHL and rarely sees the ice in the NHL. Call up Eric O`Dell, who has a career 0.82 points per game, is currently over a point per game, leading the Jets farm team for the second time and tied for fifth in scoring for the entire AHL. Figure out who fits better on the second line between O`Dell and Tangradi, place the other on the third line. Sit one of Peluso and Thorburn. Then run a fourth line of Halischuk, Wright and one of Peluso and Thorburn.
Yes, the idea is not fail safe, but the current version is not working and numbers would have shown it was unlikely to previously anyways. What's the harm in trying something that is more likely to succeed, or at least not fail as badly...
Unless... they are trying to tank?
Maybe these are the questions media should be asking?