Fourth line provides spark for Jackets
Enforcers, scrappers, "the energy guys"...there is a never-ending supply of titles for members of a hockey club’s fourth line.
More often than not, players on the top two or three lines capture the headlines and find themselves on the highlight reels. Members of the fourth line usually sneak into the spotlight with bone-crunching hits and fights that even a prize fighter would admire.
They don’t often receive all of the glory, but don’t be fooled – the fourth line plays a vital role in the game-to-game success of a hockey club and the Blue Jackets are no different.
For the Jackets, like any team, the fourth line is continuously changing. Injuries, poor and excellent performances and other factors play into players shuffling in and out of the unit.
When healthy, Jared Boll is a consistent member of the fourth line and he makes his presence felt—literally. In his seven-year career, Boll has dropped the gloves a whopping 133 times.
“I’ve made a career out of it,” Boll said matter-of-factly.
Boll embraces the role of playing on the fourth line and emphasized the vital role it plays for the Blue Jackets, who used all 12 forwards en route to a second playoff berth in team history and a franchise-record 43 wins in the regular season.
“We were pretty good and pretty consistent with rolling four lines,” Boll said. “We wore down teams.”
Fellow fourth-liner Corey Tropp echoed Boll’s belief of the fourth line’s importance, noting that the fourth line is a vital part of the club’s identity.
“We want all four lines to play a hard-nosed, in-your-face style,” Tropp told BlueJackets.com. “Everyone has to be in-sync and playing the same way.”
Tropp said the fourth line welcomes the responsibility of being physical and looking after teammates, but he quickly noted that the fourth line’s goal is not to fly around the ice with no regard for discipline.
“The main focus is playing good, responsible hockey on both ends of the ice,” Tropp said. “Be physical, but be smart while doing so.”
Physicality and energy were some of the first words Tropp and Boll used to describe the Jackets' fourth line, but both noted that the game has changed. Having a fourth line that can chip in goals can separate good hockey clubs from great hockey clubs.
Two of the best squads in the league, Stanley Cup finalists New York and Los Angeles, sit on the cusp of hockey greatness due to contributions from all four lines.
The success of New York and Los Angeles is a characteristic that Columbus is attempting to emulate going into the 2014-15 campaign. The play of the fourth line, according to Tropp, will be just as crucial as the play of lines one through three.
“Every line is an important piece of the team and so is every guy on the team," Tropp said.