The NHL fourth line. The line that’s put out to grind down your opponent. Often referred to as the “energy line,” fourth liners are full of piss and vinegar, ready to grind and bring an energy boost to the rest of the team. They do that through their style of play.
Of course, the fourth liners aren’t put on the ice to score. The occasional goal is nice, but never exactly expected. Far too often, fans fall into the “NHL 2020” mindset, where all lines need to have the best available player on it. Every line needs to score, and a line that doesn’t is a waste of three roster spots. While not entirely wrong, it’s absolutely unrealistic.
The Flyers right now are tasked with a lot of line jumbling due to injuries and Alain Vigneault being in his first year at the helm. With that, comes a lot of different trios on every line. The most recent lineup card, per Dave Isaac, shows us one of the coveted rookies slotting in on a line that’s less than idea, given his skillset.
That “49” on the fifth line down represents something many Flyers fans do no want to see: Joel Farabee on the fourth line. Sure, that whole “energy line,” billing of a fourth line fits Farabee to a T. However, his offensive potential is too great to stow away on the bottom line. Without sounding too dramatic, the Flyers are wasting Farabee’s potential on the fourth line.
With injuries, comes undesirable moves and line shuffling that doesn’t always make sense. The Nolan Patrick issue, paired with Oskar Lindblom’s cancer diagnosis could have contributed to this. If not, is it just the way Farabee is viewed now?
While Farabee is averaging 14:01 of ice time per night, his latest TOI numbers have dwindled. December 28th against San Jose, Farabee logged 16:37 of ice time. Two games later, against the Kings, he was at 14:14. Vegas, 12:48. Arizona, 11:06. Carolina, 10:21.
The games against Washington and Tampa Bay saw Farabee log under 10 minutes apiece. That’s the first time he’s logged that little time on ice since December 15 where he was given a game misconduct for his hit on Matheiu Perreault.
Get Farabee More Playing Time
Unless things change drastically, Farabee may be destined for the Frost treatment. Sending him down would not only get him more ice time in more situations, it would help alleviate a problem that Lehigh Valley has had this season.
Farabee would likely benefit from top six minutes at the AHL, more so than fourth line minutes in the NHL. Seeing all situations at the AHL level would better prepare him for a jump to the NHL than playing 9-11 minutes a night with the Flyers. Flat out, the kid needs to play. The AHL presents him with more opportunity, and frankly, more ice time than the NHL is apparently prepared to give him.
The Pesky Veteran Rule
The AHL has a rule that prevents teams from icing too many veteran players. The rule on their website details what classifies a player as a veteran, and describes the rule in detail:
“Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.” – www.theahl.com/faq
With Farabee potentially moving back to Lehigh Valley, calling up someone like Andreoff helps alleviate the veteran rule problem the Phantoms are plagued with. Kurtis Gabriel is another option, but that likely won’t happen. Calling Andreoff up would also free up almost $200k in cap space as well.
With the Flyers, Andreoff is averaging a little over eight minutes of ice time a night. His high-energy style is perfect for the NHL level. He can lay the body, and also be that spark the team needs to get going. Andreoff’s development is likely done. At 28 years old, coaches know what they’re getting with Andy.
With Joel Farabee being only 19, he’s barely scraping at his potential. Allowing him to likely play twice as many minutes in the AHL can only help him reach that potential. Moving Joel Farabee back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in favor of Andy Andreoff seems like the move to make at this point.
You don’t want a potential top six player of Farabee’s caliber on the fourth line. If the Flyers only have a fourth line opening, it’s better suited for a veteran who plays that type of game.
Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre