Let’s get philosophical for a moment. What is a fourth line in the NHL these days? The short answer is, whatever each team needs it to be.
That could be a place for young players not ready for big minutes and/or older veterans who still have a purpose but aren’t top-nine material anymore. For organizations that lack depth or can’t spend to the salary cap, it could be a place to hide marginal NHL forwards. Or maybe it’s little more than a repository for effective penalty killers who, at even strength, cycle the puck to keep opponents in their defensive zone.
It could be much more, of course. It could be a line that, in terms of talent, is a mini-me version of one of a club’s top lines, a trio that can not only bring energy and be defensively responsible but also can contribute offensively.
That’s a model that’s tough to build in the salary cap era, so it takes a particularly clever general manager.
If you surmised that’s an obvious segue to Jim Rutherford, give yourself a black and gold star.