Years ago I would watch the Montreal Canadiens and be frustrated that Max Pacioretty was “stuck” with David Desharnais when he would have flourished with a different centre. It seemed as though Pacioretty had decided that Desharnais was the only centre for him and that was that. Michel Therrien let it go unchallenged.
Should players get to choose who they play with if they are a top of the lineup player?
First of all, I think all skilled players should aspire to be on the first line. From Patrik Laine to Nikolaj Ehlers to Kyle Connor to Blake Wheeler to Andrew Copp and so on. Players should want to play with the best. That said, they cannot complain that they are not played there as there are limited spots.
But back to my example with the Habs: it was probably detrimental to the team to have Pacioretty play with Desharnais instead of Tomas Plekanec. The Winnipeg Jets cannot say that they know that about Mark Scheifele and other linemates. They simply do not know because Scheifele has only really played with Wheeler and Connor for the past couple of seasons. Should it matter when they are producing? Arguably yes it should. But the coach has to figure out how much it should matter and when they have to decide to overrule the player and make the lineup decisions they need to make to help the team.
The better question is probably “how much influence should players have when it comes to their linemates?” and the answer may very well vary depending on the circumstances. Either way, it is a relevant question in the bigger picture.