The best forward lines of all-time

By VMBM · Mar 25, 2019 · Updated Mar 27, 2019
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  1. VMBM

    VMBM Touch a mountain... m'kay?

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    My top 10 list (not in a definitive order, but in a sort of order):

    Tikkanen-Gretzky-Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)


    Aka Finnish Sandwich. I don’t know if it was even the best of Gretzky’s lines, but a very well balanced version of the Oilers’ top line it was in my opinion; one offensive wizard and best playmaker of all-time, one two-way player with a lethal shot, and one, well, nutter. :D (No no, Tikkanen was a fine all-round player.) They were a joy to watch and a nightmare for the opponents in the mid-/late-‘80s. Not just in the NHL, but they also had a strong performance vs the Soviets in the 1987 Rendez-Vous. Gretzky and Kurri (or sometimes Tikkanen?) were also a dangerous pair on the penalty kill.

    Krutov-Larionov-Makarov (CSKA Moscow, USSR)


    KLM. Maybe the best line of all-time? (At least if the we talk about the whole Green Unit.) Played together from the 1981-82 season to 1988-89. Rarely played a poor game or a game where they didn’t score, no matter who they faced. I’m glad that in recent years Sergei Makarov has finally gotten the appreciation he deserves; he is one of the best forwards ever, period. I’ve never been overly high on Larionov, but no question that he was a skilled, smart player who took care of his defensive duties and who fit in well with his more explosive wingers. Krutov was equally at home in speedy skill game as well as battling with defencemen in front of the net, a terrific goal-scorer. They certainly got help from their steady defencemen (especially Fetisov), but were by no means dependent on them. Notice also Krutov and Makarov’s terrific penalty-killing tandem.
    The greatest goals scored by the Green Unit

    Gillies-Trottier-Bossy (New York Islanders)


    Trio Grande. A personal favourite of the North American lines, not sure why. Despite one player being clearly inferior to the other two, it was still in other ways a well-balanced forward line; Bossy was one of the greatest goal-scorers of all-time and a pure ‘finesse player’, Trottier a physical two-way player and playmaker, and Gillies a huge physical presence who could also put the puck in the net and pass it too when needed. Obviously they got great help from Denis Potvin also. Their success in the NHL and contribution to 4 Stanley Cups needs no further introduction, but they also had some strong and productive international performances, like the 1981 Canada Cup (despite the disastrous final for the team), and the first two games of the Challenge Cup (basically Team Canada vs USSR).

    Shutt-Lemaire-Lafleur (Montreal Canadiens)


    Dynasty Line. I guess this version of the Habs’ top line of the mid-/late 1970s was the best rather than the one with Pete Mahovlich instead of Lemaire? Lafleur was the obvious superstar offensive dynamo, Lemaire a speedy two-way center with also reputation of timely goal-scoring and Shutt - forgive me the term - a pure goal-scorer. Very fun to watch (much thanks to Lafleur), and I guess mostly they could pretty much concentrate on the attack, with players like Robinson and Savard, or Lapointe, on defence.

    Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov (CSKA Moscow, USSR)


    The KLM of the seventies. All in all, played about 11 years together. Mikhailov, Kharlamov and Petrov hold the number one, two and four spots, respectively, in the World championship scoring. Kharlamov was the biggest talent who could make devastating plays and score devastating goals, Petrov a strong two-way center with big slapshot and good passing skills, and Mikhailov the most productive goal-scorer with also a physical side (and sometimes downright nastiness) to his game. They never had a top notch defensive pairing who played behind them on the national team year after year (Vasiliev-Gusev was probably the longest-serving one). Somewhat unfortunately, the trio didn’t play together in the 1972 Summit Series, except for a few power plays. In the 1975-76 Super Series vs NHL teams, they played (very productively, I might add) in the first two games vs the Rangers and the Canadiens, but the last two games against the Bruins and the Flyers was with Maltsev at centre. In the 1979 Challenge Cup, Kharlamov was injured already in the first game. None of them played in the 1976 Canada Cup. This is probably why they are not quite as famous in North America as in Russia/Europe. Petrov and Mikhailov were also heavily used penalty killers.
    Kharlamov - Petrov - Mikhailov

    Leach-Clarke-Barber (Philadelphia Flyers)


    LCB line. According to Clarke, at one time Scotty Bowman considered this the best line in the world (around 1975?). In any case, while Leach and Barber were not exactly slouches, I think it is fair to say that the greatness of this line rested fairly heavily on Bobby Clarke’s shoulder. He was not only the top defensive player but also the top offensive player (though actually the weakest goal-scorer) of the line; quite a rare feat. Leach’s main contribution was his scoring, Barber had some versatility. In addition to their work in the NHL, they also played in the 1976 Canada Cup; overall, their performance was a disappointment in the tournament, but the line still deserves some credit for their timely scoring in the important round robin game against the Soviet Union and in the 2nd game of the final against Czechoslovakia. The line had a big performance against CSKA in 1976 too.

    Lindsay-Abel-Howe (Detroit Red Wings)


    Production line. This was the best version of the line, right? I’d say on paper and the most dominant at least. In any case, it is the wingers who mostly made any version of the line legendary. Howe was obviously the best player and at least eventually the best goal-scorer as well as playmaker of the line. Well, the best at about everything. Abel, as the clear senior of the trio, probably had an important nurturing role in the beginning and was occasionally even the best performer of the three, and Lindsay was a small but nasty instigator with good goal-scoring and playmaking skills. Skill mixed with toughness, old-time hockey, yeah!

    Hodge-Esposito-Cashman (Boston Bruins)


    The Intro Line (one of the nicknames anyway). Not among my favourite lines of all-time per se, as they represented the ‘dump and chase’ hockey too much for my liking, and it also has to be one of the worst-skating and slowest top lines ever, but one cannot dismiss their very high productivity in the early 1970s. Cashman was one of the best ‘cornermen’ ever, feeding Esposito, who was possibly the best slot man in the history of hockey. Esposito might also be somewhat underrated as a passer/playmaker. Hodge and his role on the line is somewhat more obscure for me, but he was a big man who at least occasionally used his size to his and his team’s advantage and could both score and set up goals pretty well. Bobby Orr’s big influence on this line cannot be forgotten either. Esposito and Cashman did not only show their power in the NHL but also the Soviets had problems with their mastery of dump and chase and physicality in the 1972 series (games 2 and 3).

    Lemieux-Francis-Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins)


    They didn’t play very long together, and didn’t even win a cup, but Lemieux and Jagr (and to lesser extent, Francis) on the same NHL line had to warrant a place on the list (I also considered the Stevens-Lemieux-Jagr line, but Jagr wasn’t quite a superstar yet back then). Lemieux and Jagr are among the best scorers and players of all-time, while Francis added some defensive game to the line, with good playmaking too. Despite the big size of all three players, the line didn’t appear to be overly physical, but it’s not like they could be bullied either. I think they might have had the biggest scoring potential of any line ever, but unfortunately their time together was fairly short.

    Blake-Lach-Richard (Montreal Canadiens)

    Punch Line. Shined and dominated the scoring during/a few years after WWII. Richard was the superstar and one of the greatest goal-scorers and one of the most dangerous players from the blueline in ever. Lach was a tough and hard-working playmaker who won the scoring title twice, and Blake completed the line with also prolific scoring, strong playoff performances and leadership qualities. Blake's injury ended the line's dominance in 1948.


    Sorry for the possibly somewhat superficial characterizations of some players and/or their roles at times. You can’t always get everything right.

    I also thought about e.g. G-A-G line, French Connection, (Punch line), Kraut line, Winnipeg Jets’ Hot Line (or at least some line with Bobby Hull), and whether players like Crosby, Ovechkin, Béliveau, to name a few, and any of their lines could be included. I considered some of the legendary Czechoslovak lines, like B. Stastny-Novak-Martinec, and some other European lines, but it would have been a bit of a stretch to include them in the top 10. Possibly I favoured the 1970s/1980s too much.

    Suggestions, links to highlights, whatnot?
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
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  2. VMBM

    VMBM Touch a mountain... m'kay?

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    Oops, my top 9 actually! :laugh: (I've always had this thing about math...)

    I'm too tired to consider the 10th right now. Maybe I'll add one later on.
     
  3. filinski77

    filinski77 Registered User

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    Very well thought out list, which got me to thinking about some of the best post-lockout forward lines, off the top of my head would be Ovi-Backstrom-Semin, only downside being that Semin was switched around on the top 2 lines quite a bit, but he is all over Ovechkings Even-Strength scoring logs.

    2009/2010:
    -Ovi was 1st in goals/gp and 1st in points/gp
    -Semin was 5th in goals/gp and 7th in points/gp
    -Backstrom was 5th in points/gp

    2008/2009:
    -Ovi was 1st in goals/gp and points/gp
    -Semin was 4th in goals/gp and 4th in points/gp
    -Backstrom was 9th in points

    Bergeron/Marchand/Pastrnak too this year currently:
    -Marchand is 6th in points
    -Pastrnak is 5th in goals/gp
    -Bergeron is 10th in goals/gp and 7th in points/gp

    Kucherov's line would be up there too if the 2nd winger was better
     
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  4. decma

    decma Registered User

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    Triple Crown
    Statsnys
     
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  5. Mandar

    Mandar The Real Maven

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    surprised to not see the GAG line for the great Rangers teams of the late 60's/early 70's in your top 10 (saw the honorable mention).....Hadfield-Ratelle-Gilbert. Probably the second best line in hockey during those years (after the Espo line).

    I would also suggest the Legion of Doom line for the Flyers....for a few years, the LeClair-Lindros-Renberg line was unstoppable.
     
  6. SealsFan

    SealsFan Registered User

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    Personal favorites include the French Connection (Perreault/Martin/Robert), GAG Line (Ratelle/Hadfield/Gilbert), the three Stastny brothers, and Bobby Hull/Nilsson/Hedberg.
     
  7. tony d

    tony d HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

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    Not the best line ever but the Flyers once rolled a line called the Crazy 8's of Brent Fedyk, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi.
     
  8. double5son10

    double5son10 Registered User

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    I think a pretty good argument for either of the Habs top 2 lines of the 50s could be made. Olmstead/Bonin-Believeau-Geoffrion and Moore-Richard-Richard: both lines had scoring champions during the 5-Cup run in Believeau and Moore (x2), and Geoffrion was the scoring leader the yrs. that bookended the dynasty (though the lines weren't the same the yrs. he won). 5 HOFers between the two lines.
     
  9. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    I'll add the Punch Line. Off the top of my head it's the only line, that lasted for an extended period at the very least, with three Hart winners. Richard and Lach each won the trophy while playing on the line.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
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  10. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Possibly the best line when you think about it. All three are comfortably in the HHOF. Lach is incredibly underrated on all-time lists. Whenever a line goes 1-2-3 in league scoring it is worth noting. Sure it was 1945 when they did this during WWII, but still.

    I would have loved to have seen what the KLM could have done in the NHL had they played together.

    The Triple Crown line was the first line to have three 100 point scorers.

    The French Connection was incredibly fun to watch.

    I am going to have to say though that the best line was probably Moore-Richard-Richard or the Production Line with Lindsay-Abel-Howe. Just because they were together for a while and won Cups. Esposito's line was great too but two of the players aren't even in the HHOF.

    It is hard to say because even in the original 6 lines didn't last an entire decade either. It is very hard to have a line last long.
     
  11. crobro

    crobro Registered User

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    Mogilney-Bure-Fedorov

    Gretzky-Perrault-Lafleur
     
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  12. BenchBrawl

    BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    Denneny-Nighbor-Darragh
    Denneny-Nighbor-Broadbent
    Denneny-Nighbor-H.Smith

    Those were the usual combinations throughout the 1920's Ottawa Dynasty.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
  13. BenchBrawl

    BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    delete
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
  14. BenchBrawl

    BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    Most likely biggest omission from the OP.
     
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  15. Tuna Tatarrrrrr

    Tuna Tatarrrrrr Here Is The Legendary Rat Of HFBoards! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    Exactly! How can the OP have forgotten the famous Punch Line and the great Rocket Richard... :dunno:
     
  16. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Frank Boucher centering Bill and Bun Cook.
    Howie Morenz centering, Aurele Joliat and Johnny Gagnon.
    Nels Stewart centering Hooley Smith and Babe Siebert.
    Joe Primeau centering Charlie Conacher and Busher Jackson.
    Milt Schmidt centering Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart.
    Max Bentley centering Doug Bentley and Bill Mosienko.
    Stan Mikita centering Ken Wharram and Doug Mohns.
     
  17. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    They also had very high plus/minus numbers on a team with bad goaltending and poor defensemen.
     
  18. Robert Gordon Orr

    Robert Gordon Orr Registered User

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    Speaking of lines. Not a listworthy line, but "Les Trois Denis" line in the QMJHL (late 70s) was pretty cool.

    Denis Savard - Born February 4, 1961
    Denis Cyr - Born February 4, 1961
    Denis Tremblay - Born February 4, 1961

    That's pretty unique. A line where three players shared the same first name and the exact same birthday.

    Savard and Cyr were drafted in the first round and both played in the NHL, Savard of course ending up being a Hall of Famer, but why wasn't Tremblay even drafted? He had good size (listed as 6'2" and 196 Ibs).
    On top of that he scored 289 points in 246 games.

    Apparently Tremblay had a tryout with the Boston Bruins and made an impression on both Ray Bourque and Harry Sinden. Despite this he was sent down to the minor leagues, and it is said that the coach in Springfield Johnny Wilson had a bad history with Tremblay (did their paths even cross?).
    That whole episode abruptly ended his NHL ambitions and he retired in 1981.
    Tremblay ended up being a letter carrier for Canada Post.

    [​IMG]
    Denis Cyr - Denis Savard - Denis Tremblay - All born on February 4, 1961


     
  19. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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  20. decma

    decma Registered User

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    Not a best line of all time, but a very effective line in the early 80s (and my favorite as a kid) was:
    Naslund-Mondou-Tremblay.
     
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  21. nabby12

    nabby12 Registered User

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    The Kid Line in Toronto from the late 20's to 30's of Joe Primeau, Charlie Conacher, Busher Jackson was pretty dynamic.

    The Kid Line - Wikipedia
     
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  22. BenchBrawl

    BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    Excellent.
     
  23. BigBadBruins7708

    BigBadBruins7708 Registered User

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    came here to mention The Kraut Line

    if not for WW2 taking 4 of their prime years, that line is an all timer. As it is all 3 are in the HOF and won 2 Cups in 3 years from 1939-41

    WW2 cost each of them:

    Schmidt: ages 24-27
    Dumart: ages 25-28
    Bauer: ages 26-29
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
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  24. Rpenny

    Rpenny Registered User

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    Triple crown line.
     
  25. Bluesguru

    Bluesguru Registered User

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    Savard - Secord- Larmer
     

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