Hot Shots are our version of Hot Taeks. These are short, quick takes on topics important to the Lightning, the organization, or the NHL in general.
With Vladislav Namestnikov signed for two more years, the best thing that can happen for him now is for the Tampa Bay Lightning to move on from center Valtteri Filppula. Namestnikov is a natural center. Since making it with the Lightning though, he’s been forced to shift back and forth between the center and the left wing. He’s played up and down the line up from the first line to the press box.
Steven Stamkos being re-signed by the team firmly puts him in the first center position with Tyler Johnson taking the second line spot. Right now, Filppula is the third center and Brian Boyle is the fourth center on the depth chart. Boyle is a much different player type from Namestnikov and really belongs where he has been since coming to Tampa Bay as the fourth line center that logs heavy defensive minutes and is a mainstay on the penalty kill.
For Namestnikov to really succeed, he needs a more set responsibility. Further, he needs set line mates that will allow him to develop chemistry. Moving Filppula out would open up the third line center position for Namestnikov to do just that. Ideally at the beginning of the season with Ryan Callahan out, I would like to see Namestnikov paired with Cory Conacher on the left wing and J.T. Brown on the right wing.
All three players have speed and energy to burn. Conacher has the shooting prowess to bury the puck in the net. Namestnikov brings the play making and responsible defensive play to the line. Brown would add energy and some muscle to the line. Brown has trouble finishing chances, but with a play maker like Namestnikov and also Conacher’s creativity, Brown could see a nice uptick in his point production.
The Pittsburgh Penguins showed in the playoffs that you need to have three serious scoring lines with speed to win. Stacking all of your talent on one or two lines and having a defensive third line and a grinding fourth line just doesn’t cut it. Namestnikov can be the offensive catalyst to a speedy third line that Filppula was unable to bring to the table any more.
Namestnikov had 35 points last season. Putting him with an offensively minded winger like Conacher and some muscle in either Brown or Callahan when he returns to the line-up, could be just the spark he needs to put up a 40+ point season. He can also be the catalyst to propel whoever his wingers are to even better offensive production.