Florida's top line has been deadly and is a big reason the team is off to its best start since 1999. (Photo by Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images)
Nothing gets a fantasy owner excited like a review of line combinations. The prevalent theory is if a player plays with skilled linemates, that player stands a better chance of increasing his production. Makes sense to me.
The problem is, of course, coaches change line combinations more frequently than they change their socks. But occasionally a threesome really clicks and they stay together for a prolonged period of time. With the right chemistry, a line combination can help elevate a weaker player to become a huge fantasy asset. Best-case scenario, the line combos will mesh and help all three players. There is a tool out there that, with one click, brings up the most productive lines in the league. Once again, I give the nod to (http://www.dobberhockey.com/frozenpool) Frozen Pool for this. So let’s take a look at the Top 10 most productive lines from the past month.
But before we start, there are two types of situations that resulted in bumping some very good lines out of the top 10. These statistics are actual results based on goals that were scored while these forwards were on the ice. So if one player on the line was switched for another player from a different line for a few games, the results are recorded as if from a completely differently line, which it technically is. Furthermore, if a fourth forward is on the ice (i.e. on the power play), then the program treats it as a foursome that is different from the usual threesome.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
With apologies to Sidney Crosby, to me, this is the most exciting line in hockey right now. Since Crosby can’t clone himself, his line is exciting because of just him. This Oiler trio, however, is dynamic and really fun to watch. The three of them have combined for 15 points in the past month, which places them in a tie for 14th.
However, in a power play situation, the Oilers throw Shawn Horcoff out there with them - a mixture that’s been clicking well. This foursome has accumulated a combined 16 points in that span. Since Horcoff has five power play points in the past month, we can deduce the three kids have 11. Add the 11 to the 15 and you get 26. That moves the ‘Kid Line’ into a tie for third in the league.
This scenario also impacts Evgeni Malkin, Steve Sullivan and James Neal, who have had Chris Kunitz join them on the PP and thus skews the totals.
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul – Toronto Maple Leafs
With Tim Connolly on the line, the three combined for 13 points since Oct. 23, placing them tied for 22nd. With Tyler Bozak on the line, the three tallied 16 points, good for an 11th place tie. This same issue affected the Sedin twins in Vancouver. Ryan Kesler, Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for 14 points, but when the brothers were put together with Jannik Hansen the three managed 13.
With those exceptions explained, let’s move onto...
10. Jason Spezza, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek – Ottawa Senators – 17 points
How long can this line remain healthy? Both Spezza and Michalek are known for their fragility and Greening will ride their coattails for as long as they avoid the injury bug.
9. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Viktor Stalberg – Chicago Blackhawks – 18 points
Toews is a very reliable player. However, for the past several years Hossa has been getting hurt at the worst times. He’s still a top player, but he needs to shake that trend in order to prove it over a full season. The big winner here is Stalberg.
8. Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney – Phoenix Coyotes – 19 points
Whitney is the clear driver on this line. Hanzal has some potential and Vrbata is incredibly streaky, but it’s the reliable 39-year-old pulling the other two along with him. However, things have cooled off with this line of late and they have been broken up. Whitney now plays with Shane Doan and Boyd Gordon.
7. David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton – Boston Bruins – 20 points
I love a coach who sticks to his lines through thick and thin. These three had a real tough start, but are coming around now and the Bruins are winning as a result.
6. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne – Anaheim Ducks – 22 points
These guys are slumping. Imagine their point totals if they were actually on fire right now.
5. Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora – New Jersey Devils – 23 points
While the other team keys in on Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, this second line is getting a free run of things. I don’t expect either Zubrus or Sykora to reach 45 points, so this line does have a ceiling. But Elias looks good for 65.
4. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks – 24 points
This line would have more, but Logan Couture has subbed in for Marleau at times, thereby splitting the totals. In fact, the line with Couture in it ranks 23rd.
3. Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins – 26 points
The emergence of Seguin is what has driven this line - otherwise Bergeron and Marchand would be destined for 55 points each. Instead, they are on pace for 60 and 63 respectively.
2. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr – Philadelphia Flyers – 29 points
The injury to Jagr stopped the momentum here. Once he returns to the lineup for good he will continue his production thanks to the emerging superstar that is Giroux.
1. Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg – Florida Panthers – 38 points
By a wide margin, these three are flying. Weiss has been scheduled for a career season for about three years now, so it’s about time. Now that the Panthers have given him decent guys to play with, he’s running with it. As for Fleischmann, I’ve been saying for a long time he’s a great dark horse. He was emerging last year before being sidelined. Versteeg is the big surprise. I thought he could be a 65-point player in Toronto, but by the end of last year I was convinced he was a 55-player at best. The “whole” is better than the “sum of its parts” here.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.