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Can the Mittelstadt Line Continue as a 2nd Scoring Line Moving Forward?


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(Mods, if this should be part of the all encompassing Mittelstadt line thread please feel free to move it, but my expectation is this is something a little different as it is geared more specifically towards next season.)

In the past 2 weeks, the Mitts line has been getting 2nd line usage and pretty much thriving IMHO.  Though they do seem to get pinned in their own zone when paired with Dahlin & Jokiharju.

Can that solid play as a 2nd line continue in the new season or is this a function of other teams not taking the line seriously until the game is actually already underway and their own looseness from playing in games that are effectively meaningless towards this season's goal of making the playoffs?

IF this line can be an EFFECTIVE 2nd line, next season's outlook suddenly looks really bright as Cozens has been thriving in the 3C role when healthy.  (Really didn't like his work in his own end the game or 2 that he was the 1C, but he has been good at 2C & 3C.  The kid is a player and Botterill did not screw that pick up (though my preference at the time was Zegras, no remorse at all on how his seems to be working out).)

IF this line can be effective as a 2nd line, & these 3 kids will have a full off-season to continue getting stronger & working on speed, the true hole on the team is a 1A/B goalie to pair with Ullmark (presuming he's back). A top D to take pressure off the 2 Rasmi also moves up on the wish list.  The 1st line, whether Eichel & Reinhart flanked by Skinner or Olofsson will work as long as Jack is actually healthy (unfortunately a big if at present) and the other should thrive getting easier minutes along with the "Workhorse from Whitehorse."  Put another winger with them (Okposo, Bjork, Ruutalainen, could Quinn surprise and be ready a year earlier than yours truly would've expected) and that line could be very solid as well.

The checking line would have Girgensons & probably a couple of guys that aren't here yet but would come relatively cheaply.  Sheahan as 13th F and IF that 2nd line works, they're surprisingly set.

 

What do we need to see from the Mitts line here on out to decide whether they pass the test?  I'd want to see them continue their current play, stop getting pinned in when the Ras-Joki pairing are out, AND win their matchups vs the Aisles (the team the Sabres haven't matched up well against at all).  Would also want to see them not get caved in against the Marchand line who have been caving in all Sabres lines but the Larry line since it was assembled.

The Caps were off their game last night, so this is all taken with a big grain of salt, but CAN these 3 be effective as a 2?  And if they are, what should Adams be looking to bring in from outside?

There are only 2 pieces that Adams brought in that have been effective and 1 of those pieces is likely a mirage (Tokarski) & another has all of a 2 game sample size (Bjork).  A 3rd piece, reshuffling the coaching staff might be a mirage as well.  2 of the 3 might be legit but sample size needs to be larger to say whether they are.  Does keeping the changes this off-season minimal make sense.  Contrary to popular opinion, that was the right call heading out of the lockout as the Sabres that were terrible in the '03 portion of the season actually had one of the better records in the '04 portion and the kids (including Miller) being a full year older had them playing OK to start the next year and the best hockey of anyone when healthy when it mattered.

Belaboring the point, (apologies for that)  can the Mitts line be an effective 2?  Not sure they can, but even a week ago wouldn't even have considered the possibility.    Of course, Thompson's coordination when keeping his center of gravity low has also seemed surprisingly better recently and he's been far more effective than he was earlier this year.  Asplund has shown far more of a scoring touch than expected as well.  Tage's improvement could be sustainable, can Rasmus the 3rd's be as well?  Thompson & Asplund are at ages they should be coming into their own and Mitts is nearly there as well.  (Mitts turns 23 early next season, the other 2 turn 24 early next year.)

 

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I can see the ATM line and the Bjork-Cozens-R2 line playing roughly equivalent minutes and swapping 2nd line/3rd line status next year depending on matchups and performance. 

Ideally, Cozens' line would seize the job and put the ATM line into a slot similar to the Vanek-Roy-Max line back in the day -- i.e. a nominal 3rd line that got advantageous matchups and was highly productive and exciting.

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If I were the Sabres I would have Thompson take boxing lessons in the offseason.  First of all he got owned in that fight against the Bruins and second, he still seems a little Bambi-ish to me.  Boxing would help with his balance and coordination.  Ever notice how he seems to fall alot?

As to the point, I think between the Mittelstadt and the Cozens line, we will have a 2nd line next year.  Suddenly this team seem like one good winger and one good goal tender away from being good.

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2nd or 3rd, I think so.

 

I'm hoping:

Skinner Eichel Reinhart

Ruotsalainen Cozens Bjork

Asplund Mittelstadt Olofsson/Thompson

Hit And Punch

 

Asplund-Mitts Bjork-Cozens are the middle 6 tandems to maintain.

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15 minutes ago, breese866 said:

If I were the Sabres I would have Thompson take boxing lessons in the offseason.  First of all he got owned in that fight against the Bruins and second, he still seems a little Bambi-ish to me.  Boxing would help with his balance and coordination.  Ever notice how he seems to fall alot?

As to the point, I think between the Mittelstadt and the Cozens line, we will have a 2nd line next year.  Suddenly this team seem like one good winger and one good goal tender away from being good.

Slipping Falling Down GIF

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17 minutes ago, breese866 said:

If I were the Sabres I would have Thompson take boxing lessons in the offseason.  First of all he got owned in that fight against the Bruins and second, he still seems a little Bambi-ish to me.  Boxing would help with his balance and coordination.  Ever notice how he seems to fall alot?

As to the point, I think between the Mittelstadt and the Cozens line, we will have a 2nd line next year.  Suddenly this team seem like one good winger and one good goal tender away from being good.

Forward group is in the best shape it's been in the Eichel era. Hopefully we don't mess that up and trade Sam/Jack.

 

Defense needs a top 4 dman (or a McCabe re-signing)

Goaltending needs Ullmark + a real NHL backup.

 

Then yeah, this is as good an outlook as we've had in a while, plus we'll see where our pick lands.

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1 hour ago, Taro T said:

(Mods, if this should be part of the all encompassing Mittelstadt line thread please feel free to move it, but my expectation is this is something a little different as it is geared more specifically towards next season.)

In the past 2 weeks, the Mitts line has been getting 2nd line usage and pretty much thriving IMHO.  Though they do seem to get pinned in their own zone when paired with Dahlin & Jokiharju.

Can that solid play as a 2nd line continue in the new season or is this a function of other teams not taking the line seriously until the game is actually already underway and their own looseness from playing in games that are effectively meaningless towards this season's goal of making the playoffs?

IF this line can be an EFFECTIVE 2nd line, next season's outlook suddenly looks really bright as Cozens has been thriving in the 3C role when healthy.  (Really didn't like his work in his own end the game or 2 that he was the 1C, but he has been good at 2C & 3C.  The kid is a player and Botterill did not screw that pick up (though my preference at the time was Zegras, no remorse at all on how his seems to be working out).)

IF this line can be effective as a 2nd line, & these 3 kids will have a full off-season to continue getting stronger & working on speed, the true hole on the team is a 1A/B goalie to pair with Ullmark (presuming he's back). A top D to take pressure off the 2 Rasmi also moves up on the wish list.  The 1st line, whether Eichel & Reinhart flanked by Skinner or Olofsson will work as long as Jack is actually healthy (unfortunately a big if at present) and the other should thrive getting easier minutes along with the "Workhorse from Whitehorse."  Put another winger with them (Okposo, Bjork, Ruutalainen, could Quinn surprise and be ready a year earlier than yours truly would've expected) and that line could be very solid as well.

The checking line would have Girgensons & probably a couple of guys that aren't here yet but would come relatively cheaply.  Sheahan as 13th F and IF that 2nd line works, they're surprisingly set.

 

What do we need to see from the Mitts line here on out to decide whether they pass the test?  I'd want to see them continue their current play, stop getting pinned in when the Ras-Joki pairing are out, AND win their matchups vs the Aisles (the team the Sabres haven't matched up well against at all).  Would also want to see them not get caved in against the Marchand line who have been caving in all Sabres lines but the Larry line since it was assembled.

The Caps were off their game last night, so this is all taken with a big grain of salt, but CAN these 3 be effective as a 2?  And if they are, what should Adams be looking to bring in from outside?

There are only 2 pieces that Adams brought in that have been effective and 1 of those pieces is likely a mirage (Tokarski) & another has all of a 2 game sample size (Bjork).  A 3rd piece, reshuffling the coaching staff might be a mirage as well.  2 of the 3 might be legit but sample size needs to be larger to say whether they are.  Does keeping the changes this off-season minimal make sense.  Contrary to popular opinion, that was the right call heading out of the lockout as the Sabres that were terrible in the '03 portion of the season actually had one of the better records in the '04 portion and the kids (including Miller) being a full year older had them playing OK to start the next year and the best hockey of anyone when healthy when it mattered.

Belaboring the point, (apologies for that)  can the Mitts line be an effective 2?  Not sure they can, but even a week ago wouldn't even have considered the possibility.    Of course, Thompson's coordination when keeping his center of gravity low has also seemed surprisingly better recently and he's been far more effective than he was earlier this year.  Asplund has shown far more of a scoring touch than expected as well.  Tage's improvement could be sustainable, can Rasmus the 3rd's be as well?  Thompson & Asplund are at ages they should be coming into their own and Mitts is nearly there as well.  (Mitts turns 23 early next season, the other 2 turn 24 early next year.)

 

I think they could succeed in that role, but I'd be looking to add a t6 winger after the goalie add, being reasonably confident that one of the "failed" (not ready) 2Cs next year could fill at least a W role in the top 6, Reinhart filling in at 2C, and the t6 winger add then coming into play by replacing the production lost, from missing the C we thought we might have in one of the kids.

If the kids work out fine and we still have the t6 winger - good! We have a lot of ground to make up get to the playoffs next year

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24 minutes ago, breese866 said:

If I were the Sabres I would have Thompson take boxing lessons in the offseason.  First of all he got owned in that fight against the Bruins and second, he still seems a little Bambi-ish to me.  Boxing would help with his balance and coordination.  Ever notice how he seems to fall alot?

As to the point, I think between the Mittelstadt and the Cozens line, we will have a 2nd line next year.  Suddenly this team seem like one good winger and one good goal tender away from being good.

Yeah, when Thompson can maintain a relatively low CoG (like when skating a/ stick on the ice, battling for a puck, or shooting) his coordination seems much improved from even January.  

But, when he's more vertical (e.g., getting stood up by Chara along the boards in Buffalo or that fight) he still seems awkward as ever.

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I think Cozens is the 2nd line center and Casey the 3rd. Mitts isn't as good as Cozens and that's honestly going to be the difference unless Mitts keeps improving at a rate higher than Cozens. 

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36 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

I think Cozens is the 2nd line center and Casey the 3rd. Mitts isn't as good as Cozens and that's honestly going to be the difference unless Mitts keeps improving at a rate higher than Cozens. 

Agreed; the Cozens ceiling and defensive acumen suits him much better to 2nd line, and Casey feasting in the Vanek-Roy-Afinogenov spot is perfect.

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2 hours ago, nfreeman said:

Ideally, Cozens' line would seize the job and put the ATM line into a slot similar to the Vanek-Roy-Max line back in the day -- i.e. a nominal 3rd line that got advantageous matchups and was highly productive and exciting.

I think whichever line is playing that 3rd line competition is going to be highly productive.  Assuming Jack returns to form next season, we will have a true #1 line again (sorry, but the Reinhart line is merely okay, not outstanding), the better of the two middle six groups plays second line and the other line feasts on the other team's third line.

The exciting part I think is that it takes pressure off the fourth line.  Last year the fourth line ate a lot of minutes with the goal of just eating minutes with little production from either team.  They were attritional.  If we have three genuinely good lines, and both middle six lines are capable of playing a shutdown role (seems like they are), then your fourth line can be anything you want it:  a trash bin for failed contracts, a repository for PP and PK specialists, a low-minutes line for prospects almost but not quite ready for the NHL, etc.  It might actually be the best place for Olofsson if he really isn't a great 5v5 guy (although lately DG has even him looking good at even strength).

I think, assuming continued growth by the Casey and Cozens lines, our strength next season will come from our middle six.

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1 hour ago, LGR4GM said:

I think Cozens is the 2nd line center and Casey the 3rd. Mitts isn't as good as Cozens and that's honestly going to be the difference unless Mitts keeps improving at a rate higher than Cozens. 

Cozens currently isn't as good as Mittelstadt in front of his own net IMHO.  And the Mitts line has been getting deployed as the 2nd line; maybe with Cozens back they'll slide back down a peg.  But, the Mitts line also appears to have chemistry which could end up resulting in their 2 lines operating interchangeably as suggested by @nfreeman.

Of course, that said, their apparent chemistry could be a mirage, though am hopeful it isn't.

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6 minutes ago, Taro T said:

Of course, that said, their apparent chemistry could be a mirage, though am hopeful it isn't.

I think that Granato 1) is good at putting lines together that have natural chemistry, and 2) increases that chemistry, like for instance having the Cozens line watch video together and go over their performance before the last game.

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46 minutes ago, Gabrielor said:

Agreed; the Cozens ceiling and defensive acumen suits him much better to 2nd line, and Casey feasting in the Vanek-Roy-Afinogenov spot is perfect.

LT, could see Cozens being higher on the depth chart than Mittelstadt.  But at present, don't like his play in front of his own net as much Mittelstadt there, (and as lost as Mitts was there last year, that is a testament to the work he's done since being sent down) and also don't want to see him forced into situations beyond what he's ready for.  Ceiling helps define where he'll fit in, but not necessarily where he should be today.

He's got a tremendous hockey acumen.  But physically, he's still filling out.  Would he be getting as beat up / injured as he's been if he were playing on a lower line?  Don't know.  But, if his body isn't ready for the rigors of being 2C, don't want him there any more than would want him there if he wasn't ready mentally.

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2 hours ago, Taro T said:

(Mods, if this should be part of the all encompassing Mittelstadt line thread please feel free to move it, but my expectation is this is something a little different as it is geared more specifically towards next season.)

In the past 2 weeks, the Mitts line has been getting 2nd line usage and pretty much thriving IMHO.  Though they do seem to get pinned in their own zone when paired with Dahlin & Jokiharju.

Can that solid play as a 2nd line continue in the new season or is this a function of other teams not taking the line seriously until the game is actually already underway and their own looseness from playing in games that are effectively meaningless towards this season's goal of making the playoffs?

IF this line can be an EFFECTIVE 2nd line, next season's outlook suddenly looks really bright as Cozens has been thriving in the 3C role when healthy.  (Really didn't like his work in his own end the game or 2 that he was the 1C, but he has been good at 2C & 3C.  The kid is a player and Botterill did not screw that pick up (though my preference at the time was Zegras, no remorse at all on how his seems to be working out).)

IF this line can be effective as a 2nd line, & these 3 kids will have a full off-season to continue getting stronger & working on speed, the true hole on the team is a 1A/B goalie to pair with Ullmark (presuming he's back). A top D to take pressure off the 2 Rasmi also moves up on the wish list.  The 1st line, whether Eichel & Reinhart flanked by Skinner or Olofsson will work as long as Jack is actually healthy (unfortunately a big if at present) and the other should thrive getting easier minutes along with the "Workhorse from Whitehorse."  Put another winger with them (Okposo, Bjork, Ruutalainen, could Quinn surprise and be ready a year earlier than yours truly would've expected) and that line could be very solid as well.

The checking line would have Girgensons & probably a couple of guys that aren't here yet but would come relatively cheaply.  Sheahan as 13th F and IF that 2nd line works, they're surprisingly set.

 

What do we need to see from the Mitts line here on out to decide whether they pass the test?  I'd want to see them continue their current play, stop getting pinned in when the Ras-Joki pairing are out, AND win their matchups vs the Aisles (the team the Sabres haven't matched up well against at all).  Would also want to see them not get caved in against the Marchand line who have been caving in all Sabres lines but the Larry line since it was assembled.

The Caps were off their game last night, so this is all taken with a big grain of salt, but CAN these 3 be effective as a 2?  And if they are, what should Adams be looking to bring in from outside?

There are only 2 pieces that Adams brought in that have been effective and 1 of those pieces is likely a mirage (Tokarski) & another has all of a 2 game sample size (Bjork).  A 3rd piece, reshuffling the coaching staff might be a mirage as well.  2 of the 3 might be legit but sample size needs to be larger to say whether they are.  Does keeping the changes this off-season minimal make sense.  Contrary to popular opinion, that was the right call heading out of the lockout as the Sabres that were terrible in the '03 portion of the season actually had one of the better records in the '04 portion and the kids (including Miller) being a full year older had them playing OK to start the next year and the best hockey of anyone when healthy when it mattered.

Belaboring the point, (apologies for that)  can the Mitts line be an effective 2?  Not sure they can, but even a week ago wouldn't even have considered the possibility.    Of course, Thompson's coordination when keeping his center of gravity low has also seemed surprisingly better recently and he's been far more effective than he was earlier this year.  Asplund has shown far more of a scoring touch than expected as well.  Tage's improvement could be sustainable, can Rasmus the 3rd's be as well?  Thompson & Asplund are at ages they should be coming into their own and Mitts is nearly there as well.  (Mitts turns 23 early next season, the other 2 turn 24 early next year.)

 

Excellent analysis and write up. You bring up a lot of interesting questions that will have a little more clarity when the season is concluded and the next camp begins. An issue central to your discussion is assuming that Mitts or Cozens continue with their upward trajectory is which of the two players is better suited a  #2C with the other taking the #3C? Right now I'm not sure which player eventually earns the higher role? 

With respect to Mitts and his current linemates although there is a comfort and fit there is an argument to be made to bring in another second line caliber winger and construct an even more potent line. By buttressing the second line you also benefit by improving the lower line/s with the player/s sliding down due to the addition/s. And just maybe instead of categorizing the lines as second and third line maybe you can piece together a 2A and 2B line.  

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It was too early last month to give up on Casey and Tage.

It is is too early this month to decide we suddenly have a dangerous middle 6 going forward. These 6 guys have combined for 67 NHL goals in their careers. They've played an average of 81 games.

I love how they're playing right now and I want them to play out the season the way they are being used.

Ask me again in a month.

Edited by dudacek
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46 minutes ago, Doohickie said:

I think that Granato 1) is good at putting lines together that have natural chemistry, 

I can't agree with you more, Mitts and Cozens are 2 different players and see the game differently. The best thing for both those guys turned out to be to get the vets off their lines. Let them control things. Cozens is an attacker and plays with his pants on fire and DG put 2 guys on his line that'll follow his lead and can keep up with him. Mitts on the other hand is more of a to put it in basketball terms a point guard who'll slow it down or speed it up depending on the play and can get you the puck if you're open but has the hands and wrist shot to boot. He also has Rasmus A to forecheck for him which is where the chemistry on that line comes in and is an under rated factor on why they're doing so well IMO

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10 minutes ago, dudacek said:

It was too early last month to give up on Casey and Tage.

It is is too early this month to decide we suddenly have a dangerous middle 6. going forward. These 6 guys have combined for 67 NHL goals in their careers. They've played an average of 81 games.

I love how they're playing right now and I want them to play out the season they way they are being used.

Ask me again in a month.

It is.  Thus all the Q's in the OP.

And until last night, the possibility of even asking whether that line could stay the 2 like they've been pretty much since Hall's benching wasn't even on the radar.  But, IMHO, it's an interesting question.

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19 minutes ago, dudacek said:

It was too early last month to give up on Casey and Tage.

It is is too early this month to decide we suddenly have a dangerous middle 6. going forward. These 6 guys have combined for 67 NHL goals in their careers. They've played an average of 81 games.

I love how they're playing right now and I want them to play out the season they way they are being used.

Ask me again in a month.

I will ask you again but for the last 10 games the ATM line has 14 goals total and is a collective +16 in +/- in those same 10 games. It hasn't been a mirage so far.

As for the ABC line, when was the last time you seen the speed these guys have shown in the past 2 games. It's been so long I seriously don't remember. 

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2 minutes ago, jsb said:

I will ask you again but for the last 10 games the ATM line has 14 goals total and is a collective +16 in +/- in those same 10 games. It hasn't been a mirage so far.

Lots of games against good teams coming up - if they hold up well through that stretch, everyone will be much more comfortable making proclamations about next year. 

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9 minutes ago, Randall Flagg said:

Lots of games against good teams coming up - if they hold up well through that stretch, everyone will be much more comfortable making proclamations about next year. 

You're right but they've played everyone except the Penguins & Islanders in these past 10 and they'll get the Pens and Bruins in the next 5. It's been fun watching them again and you're not trying to ruin this for me are you?? 😀😀

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3 hours ago, breese866 said:

If I were the Sabres I would have Thompson take boxing lessons in the offseason.  First of all he got owned in that fight against the Bruins and second, he still seems a little Bambi-ish to me.  Boxing would help with his balance and coordination.  

Let's be fair to Tage, it was good to see him step up and sets an example for the team, but Kevin Miller is probably the toughest guy on a tough team. Good for Tage to just be there and survive.

Having said that though, I don't disagree and the physical side of his game needs to keep being encouraged and developed. I don't think it's really his preferred way to play or his instinctive way to play but it should be. Finish your checks Tage, hit some people, drive the net, and drop them IF you have to, but use that size and keep building muscle.

As for the Mitts line, I'd keep it together as line 3.  They could grow together in that role.  

Unless there are big trades (Eichel, Reinhart, ?) we have to find a way to use Skinner on line 1 or 2 simply because he's here. So, if no trades, signings, etc. Something like this:

Skinner-Reinhart-Olofsson

Rousaleinen-Eichel-Cozens

Asplund-Mitts-Thompson

Eakin, Okposo whoever (I'm assuming Bjork goes to Seattle)

But I expect changes. 

 

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