The Winnipeg Jets have their issues right now, despite being 7-4-1 on the year, but the play of Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, and Brandon Tanev hasn’t been one of them. In fact, on many nights that line has been a saving grace.
The TLC line as fans have affectionately dubbed it, reminiscent of the Tanner Glass, Jim Slater, and Chris Thorburn GST line in the early days of the Jets, has been a smash hit so far. They’re a fourth line on paper getting used like a third line and thriving.
The TLC line, however, has a few things going for it that even GST at their peak never did. Chief among those attributes is offensive ability. In fact, oddly enough for a team loaded with weapons, they’ve been among the Jets more reliable producers at times.
While the offensive shortcomings of some of the Jets other players have been concerning, the Jets aren’t worried about their fourth line that plays like a third. That line’s job is to bang and crash. The offense is just a nice bonus.
There is a unique blend of talents on the TLC line that make them not only pass the eye-test but stand out analytically as well. They’re the perfect combo to play against the other team’s best players. They’re also the kind of line you need when the games matter most.
TLC Evokes Past Playoff Beasts
While the fourth line Jets fans remember best is the old GST line, that comparison seems to sell Tanev, Lowry, and Copp a bit short. After all, Lowry had 15 goals in 2016-17 and would’ve had more last year if not for injury. His underlying metrics were among the best in the entire NHL.
Love to see a player like Adam Lowry get rewarded for some great play this season. He has both #NHLJets goals tonight. Now 2-0.
— Sara Orlesky (@saraorlesky) October 17, 2018
Lowry alone could produce more offense this season than the entire GST line would reliably have done in a year, so that comparison isn’t giving TLC enough credit. But there’s another third line that this group brings back strong memories of.
When the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, much of the focus was on the Noris Trophy-winning tandem of Scott Niedermeyer and Chris Pronger. With the two stalwarts on the back end, one of the best defensemen in the game was always on the ice for the Ducks.
The Ducks third line, however, quietly put together a brilliant playoff run. Samuel Pahlsson, Travis Moen, and Rob Niedermeyer were as responsible as anyone for the only Stanley Cup win in Ducks franchise history.
There are differences between the two lines, of course, but the way they dominate the game is the same. You could match either line against the other teams best because they had the speed to keep up and the physicality to wear them down.
Copp, Lowry, and Tanev all play with speed, and they’re each among the most hard-nosed players the Jets have. Match them up against any line and you can bet that line will come out with bruises all over after the game. You can also bet they’ll outshoot and out-chance them.
Lowry-Copp-Tanev was matched up mostly against the Kings top line of Kopitar-Iafollo-Kovalchuk, started mostly in their own zone, and dominated the Kings in shots all the same. Amazing.
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) October 10, 2018
Sure enough, when the playoffs rolled around last season the TLC line was front and center. As many checkers do, they not only played their role to near perfection but showed off some clutch scoring ability. Tanev had nearly as many playoff goals as regular season markers.
The TLC line will never garner the headlines that Patrik Laine or Mark Scheifele do or the paychecks of those players for that matter, but they will get the job done. This is the kind of line that wins hockey games and, eventually championships.
Lowry Drives the Bus
There’s no dismissing what Copp and Tanev do for the Jets. Copp is a smart checker with good speed and size, and underrated hands. Tanev flies up and down the ice, constantly bangs bodies, and never shies away from clogging a shooting lane.
Make no mistake, however. The TLC lines heart and soul is the man in the middle, and likely the most skilled player of the bunch. So goes Lowry, so goes the Jets bottom six.
Lowry is the perfect third-line center, though on a team as deep as the Jets he will end up playing fourth line minutes at times. He has impressive size, decent hands, and a mean streak. He is frequently among the Jets leaders in hits.
Lowry is currently leading the TLC line in goals with four, and even in his abbreviated year last year he scored eight times. There’s no doubt who will lead that line in scoring and no doubt who’s the first player to move up the depth chart when injuries strike.
Lowry will be effective whoever he’s placed with. His mix of size and skill lends itself to being moved up and down the lineup, and we’ve seen him all over the Jets depth chart, even as high as the second power play unit.
In Tanev and Copp, however, Lowry has found two players that seem to compliment him perfectly. Their playing styles have gelled so well that Winnipeg finds itself with a fourth line that most teams would cheerfully take as their third.
It’s a throwback to the days when the MTS Centre (now Bell-MTS Place) chanted “GST” at the top of their lungs. If the TLC line keeps this up, they’ll accomplish more than their predecessors could ever have hoped to.
They might even approach the legacy of the vaunted Pahlsson-Moen-Niedermeyer line. But then, to do that they’d have to lead Winnipeg to a Stanley Cup. That’s a few months away at least, but it’s not out of the question by any means.