For the majority of the past two seasons the Philadelphia Flyers top line has featured their two best offensive players, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Both are elite and can perform at a very high level.
When looking through the top teams in the NHL, there is no shortage of teams with a solid one-two offensive punch. From Crosby and Malkin to Getzlaf and Perry to Toews and Kane, these duos prove that it is difficult to be successful with only one elite offensive talent.
The most sucessful tandem of offensive players over the past five years has been Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. However, what is surprising to those that do not watch the Blackhawks often is the fact that they do not play on the same line. Toews is the the top line center between Hossa and Bickell/Sharp, while Kane is usually on the second line with Saad/Sharp and Ben Smith.
When Joe Quenneville needs an offensive spark, he will put Kane and Toews together, but they are not consistently on the ice together at even strength. There are a couple of reasons why it may be beneficial to handle Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in the same fashion.
1. Easier Minutes For Jake
Claude Giroux was third in the NHL in scoring this season and has been a point per game player over the last three seasons. When he steps onto the ice, he is usually accompanied by the opponents top defense pair. Giroux draws the most attention from the opponents, as he should. Therefore, Voracek has received the same attention.
Let’s look at Kane and Toews. Here is a chart detailing their quality of competition (via ExtraSkater.com) over this past season and playoffs:
Quality of Competition %
13-14 Reg Season
13-14 Reg Season
Jonathan Toews faces much higher competition than Kane, while they put up similar offensive numbers. While Toews is battling with the opponents top units, Kane gets to work his magic against the second stringers.
If the Flyers adopted the same method, Giroux would face the top opponents every night, while Voracek would have his load lightened. He would have more room on the ice and be able to set up his linemates (BSchenn, Couturier, Read, etc) for great chances.
2. Flyers Have The Personnel For It
It is nice to think of Voracek taking on easier minutes, but someone eventually has to take on those minutes. Chicago has this guy named Marian Hossa who can do it, he’s not too shabby. Luckily for Philadelphia, they have a budding star power forward named Wayne Simmonds who plays on the same side as Voracek. Despite his only average play/stats at 5v5, Simmonds led the Flyers in goal scoring this past season with 29 goals.
Simmonds may not be Marian Hossa, but his even strength numbers should not be completely thrown out. He was forced to lug Vincent Lecavalier around for many of his shifts this season, while also watching his main centerman (Brayden Schenn) get shuttled back and forth from center to left wing. If given the opportunity to play consistently with one of the NHL’s best playmakers, there is little doubt in my mind that Simmonds’ even strength stats will improve.
What About the Left Wing?
All of this talk about centers and right wingers begs the question as to what to do with the left side. Scott Hartnell is still a good player, but he is far from what he was in his prime. Matt Read may be the Flyers most complete winger after Voracek. Read can score, play well in all three zones, and has speed. Michael Raffl is another option and he may be given a top six role in the future.
It stands to reason that Simmonds and Hartnell should not be on the same line. It does not make sense to have two similar, power forwards together. However, this season a line of Hartnell/Schenn/Simmonds had quite a bit of success despite the perceived lack of skill on the line. The same could happen with Giroux. With two power forwards to create space and wear down the opposing defensemen, Giroux would have all of the time and space he needs to set up these wingers. Both Hartnell and Simmonds have good hands around the net and Simmonds has underrated skill.
I also would not be opposed to seeing Raffl on a left wing with Giroux and Simmonds.
That leaves Matt Read for the second line. There is a case being made via twitter right now for Matt Read to be a top line LW. He has the skill set to do so and there is little doubt that he can be a top six winger. His goal scoring touch and speed would be a fantastic complement to Voracek’s skating and passing ability. Either Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier will be the second line center next season, and they are both capable of centering this line Voracek and Read.
Ultimately, the top six would look something like this:
12/19 – 28 – 17
24 – 10/14 – 93
Even though there is a good case to be made for splitting up Giroux and Voracek, it is a long shot to happen. And even if it did happen, it may not be smart to keep them apart all of the time. The most beneficial route could be to keep them together during home games, when Craig Berube has the last change and the match-up that he wants.
On the road, splitting up Giroux and Voracek would force the opposing coach to pick his poison.
The Flyers strength right now is their forward depth. Over the past few years they have all played with one another at various points and they all have a certain level of chemistry. It would be wise for the Flyers to use this area of strength to their advantage. Taking a page out of the Chicago Blackhawks book is never a bad idea. Their two Stanley Cup rings say so.