Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube has reportedly juggled his line-up today, moving veteran center Vinny Lecavalier down to the 4th line. He’ll be skating with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo unless something else drastically chances. This is a savvy, and courageous coaching move for Berube. Demoting a prized off-season acquisition whose making big money is never an easy decision. But in this case, the tough call is the right one.
Back in early February, I wrote the following about Vinny Lecavalier and his time as a Flyer.
Vinny just isn’t suited for a 200 foot game anymore. He’s an outright defensive liability at 5v5, giving up up the second most ChancesAgainst/60. Every line he plays on becomes a defensive black hole. I think that ideally he should be busted down to a 4th line center role at even strength. That being said, Lecavalier still offers tremendous value on the 2nd PP unit. He still possesses the high end offensive skills that made him such a dynamic player in his prime, and on the PP he has the chance to shine. Reducing his 5v5 time and maintaining his PP role will effectively maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses.
Lecavalier has been a defensive detriment to the Flyers Top-6 for most of the season. Its clear that the decline in Vinny’s skating ability is a contributing factor. He can’t keep up with forwards 10 years younger than him. His possession stats have been in the tank and it was only a matter of time before the eye test confirmed what the stat nerds already knew. Lecavalier undeniably hurts the Flyers at even strength and exacerbates already glaring defensive issues on the club. Reducing his role should improve the Flyers in all areas, offensively and defensively.
Most importantly, demoting Vinny will help Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds reach their full potential. Collin Mehalick of Broad Street Hockey looked at Vinny’s impact on his teammates here
We’ve seen a small taste of what Schenn can do when he has a full complement of effective wingers. Recall when Hartnell was moved to the second line and they paced the Flyers through a tough stretch of the season. With Raffl and McGinn moving up in the line-up, the Flyers could potentially roll 3 effective lines on any given night. Its a pick your poison situation for any opposing coach looking to play the match-up game.
With all of this said, Vinny Lecavalier can still help this team win. He’s been one of the more effective forwards on the 2nd unit powerplay at generating shots and chances. Assuming Berube continues to give Vinny PP time, he can still contribute to one of the most explosive special teams units in the entire league.