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Fastbreak or Halfcourt Offense?

Don Waddell has stated that the team is likely done acquiring players for the future which means we can think about line combinations and the team with a bit more certainty now. The big question is who will take the two center spots on the top lines.

Now my assumption is that Kozlov and Hossa will remain together and that Kovalchuk will be paired with winger Brett Sterling. If were up to me I'd put Holik with Hossa and Kozlov and T. White with Kovalchuk.

Why put Holik with Kozlov and Hossa? I think he fits their style better. Late last season a friend of ours Majik Man from the Chicken was back in town. He came and watched the Thrashers game up in our section and we were talking about the Thrashers. At one point, I noted that Hossa's game is bit like a half-court basketball player because his strengths are stick handling along the wall and down low in the zone. Hossa has great straightaway speed but in the offensive zone it is more his quickness that leads to scoring chances as he beats defenders one-on-one. He can take the puck from the corner and just power his way to the crease for a scoring chance. The Kozlov - Hossa combination is all about strength and spacing.

On the other hand Ilya Kovalchuk is much more like a fast break basketball guy. Ilya uses his open ice speed to create breakaways or odd man rushes. Ilya also needs a good pass to unleash his one-time just like a basketplayer needs a great pass going for an alley-opp dunk. Speed and timing are key elements for Kovalchuk.

So if we think about it in this way, Holik strikes me as a better fit for Hossa because he is big and can win battles along the way and cycle the puck well. I think Holik complements the strength and spacing that is a big part of that line. Kovalchuk on the other hand really needs a center who is fast and can fly up the ice with him on the fast break, he also needs perfect passes to get his one-time off and I think Todd White is your speedy center and Brett Sterling might just be the guy delivering perfect passes.

In the long run I think the Thrashers could really benefit from having two scoring lines that play very different styles. Some nights you're going to play a team that defends the cycle well but not the fast break, while other nights the opposite will be true. If you have two lines that play two different styles hopefully the team can have one line per night that consistently generates great scoring chances because they give the defenders fits.