An interesting by-product of debating the value of players like Luke Gazdic is the insight that you gain into how some fans view a team's fourth line. For some the fourth line simply doesn't matter. "It's five minutes a night, who cares?" was something I heard more times than I can count, and I can't say that I agree. Five minutes might not seem like much but it's not an insignificant amount of the game - last season five minutes a night totaled more than 10% of the team's total five-on-five time - and for a team like the Oilers giving away any minutes is probably not a good idea.
This year though, having seen the benefits of a much more effective fourth line, opinions have started to change. And so when Will Acton found himself on the fourth line and Matt Hendricks up on the third last night it was a decision questioned by many fans. When Acton posted a single digit Corsi% that equaled his ice time it was question be even more fans. Not to worry though, Acton has been placed on waivers and a replacement, as yet unknown, will meet the team before tomorrow's game against the Bruins.
With Will Acton going on waivers the Oilers obviously will re-calling a forward for tomorrow's game in Boston
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 5, 2014
However, as is customary with the Oilers, even when it's good it's still bad. The roster spot Acton filled last night was created on Saturday night when Taylor Hall got hurt, but if Acton was considered to be so borderline that one game would see him returned to the AHL it's worth asking why he even in the lineup. The answer is fantastic.
With Hall out of the lineup, Coach Eakins says the #Oilers will recall a winger to play with Leon & Nail while keeping 23-27-6 together.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 5, 2014
Basically that's the coach admitting that the lineup he iced last night was not the lineup that he would have preferred but he did it because Acton deserved it. He was the good soldier. This isn't elementary school, not everybody gets a turn at this level. This is the NHL and you're either good enough to be here or you're not; Acton isn't and the coaching staff knows as much.
Make no mistake, the Oilers didn't lose last night's game because Acton was on the fourth line, but the coaching staff didn't give the team it's best shot at winning by having him in the lineup either. That is their job and it's inexcusable they they opted not to do it to the best of their abilities last night.