November 23 2013 11:06AM
The idea of three scoring lines has been around for a long time (my intro was the 1970-71 Bruins) but it is a rare, rare item. Imagine a hockey team SO strong they had nine forwards who could score goals at a rate that suggested an offensive, or scoring line. The mind boggles.
Recently, the Oilers have had some success with three different lines and that has people talking again. THREE scoring lines? Really?
The 1970-71 Bruins boasted three scoring lines:
- Phil Esposito-Wayne Cashman-Ken Hodge combined for 140 goals
- Fred Stanfield-Johnny Bucyk-Johnny McKenzie combined for 106 goals
- Derek Sanderson-Wayne Carleton-Ed Westfall combined for 76 goals
That's three scoring lines (in a 78 game season) I can get behind. For me, that kind of offense is extremely rare, and most teams had a designated 'checking' line which made the third line a more defensive one (Bruins checking line was Sanderson-Westfall, but they scored all the damn time).
The 1983-84 Oilers boasted three scoring lines:
- Wayne Gretzky-Dave Semenko-Jari Kurri combined for 145 goals*
- Mark Messier-Willy Lindstrom-Glenn Anderson combined for 113 goals*
- Kevin McClelland-Dave Hunter-Pat Hughes combined for 57 goals*
- Ken Linseman-Jaroslav Pouzar-Dave Lumley combined for 37 goals*
*this is wildly misleading, and I apologize. The Oilers lines that season were in constant motion, with Messier's move to C placing Linseman on a lesser line (but he was still a major part of the offense). The top 9 would have included Linseman and excluded Semenko most of the time, but it would be insincere of me to list Linseman with 99 and Jari Kurri. Suffice to say they had three scoring lines. My personal thanks to Bruce McCurdy for his fantastic memory.
In order for the Oilers to boast three scoring lines (even in this era of more defensive hockey compared to the 70s and 80s) we'd need to see impressive goals per game totals. With the season 24 games old—and the knowledge that these lines haven't been together for long—it's interesting to see how well these players are doing offensively.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Taylor Hall-Jordan Eberle have combined for 19 goals
- Boyd Gordon-Ryan Smyth-David Perron have combined for 17 goals
- Sam Gagner-Nail Yakupov-Ales Hemsky have combined for 9 goals
The problem usually occurs when players don't get enough powerplay time, but if Dallas Eakins runs 5 forwards on the powerplay we may see two of these lines perform at or near a point per game this season. All three? UNICORN!
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
No, not yet. There's a lot of talent here, though. I think it best to bet against three scoring lines for the Edmonton Oilers this era. It'll be a pleasant surprise should it arrive.