Thursday, December 26, 2013

Mikael Granlund: Top Line Center?

Photo: NHLI via Getty Images
Over the past week, its been suggested that Mike Yeo try and switch up the lineup (not like he hasn't tried this already) and make a change on the top line. The Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise tandem has been in existence since Parise signed here in the summer of 2012. Without a doubt, they are the faces of the team's top line.

Koivu and Parise have been lifeless in the month of December. They have combined for five goals and four assists and are a -8 in 10 games played together. Not exactly top line numbers (but now that it has come to light that Parise has been playing with a injured foot, one could argue that the injury has impaired the tandem).

Now enter Mikael Granlund, who has been without a doubt, the glue to the Wild's offense this year.

Granlund has been back for two games since returning from a concussion, which he suffered on November 27th. He has a goal and an assist in the two games, which accounts for 100% of the Wild's scoring in those two games. When healthy, Granlund has been paired with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville, who have been huge beneficiaries of Granlund's play.

But taking a close look at the stats, and you see that the line might be just too good to split up. As you can see below (first photo), the line is tops on the team in even strength P/60. What you can also see from that list, is that Koivu and Parise are not as effective when playing five on five (as noted in the second photo). They rely heavily on the power play to get their points.

P/60 in even strength situations
P/60 in all situations.

So say the team comes back from Christmas break with a healthy Parise. Do you keep him on the line with Koivu where he has played for his entire Minnesota Wild tenure? Or do you try and give your offense a spark by separating your most efficient line to try and spark your highest paid players?

Honestly, it would be foolish to not give Koivu and a healthy Parise another chance to make things right. They can be the top line, alongside Charlie Coyle, that we need this team to be. It would also be foolish to split up the Niederreiter, Granlund, and Pominville line. They can score at even strength, which is where the team struggles the most.

You can line juggle all you want, but leave Granlund's line alone. He may be ready to take over as the "top line center", but for now, lets leave him where he is. Don't fix something that's not broken.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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