The National Hockey League has formed countless superstar players that have changed the game and the way people view it forever.
That is thanks in large part to dominant combinations. There have been so many trios that have created records, dominance, dynasties, and legacies.
So many great groups of players have joined forces to change the league. So many trios have formed to make the NHL that much more exciting for its fans.
We have seen players like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Maurice Richard and Mario Lemieux create some of the most dangerous scorers in the hockey universe.
We have been more than fortunate to witness some of the greatest talent ever. But it’s safe to say some of these players would not have existed without the right linemates. Chemistry is a key word that we all need to remember in hockey.
Chemistry creates superstars. What would Gretzky be without some of his linemates? Could Sidney Crosby get it done today without Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel?
The Montreal Canadiens dynasties of the ’50s and ’70s were very reliant on key players working together to become unstoppable.
In more recent times, the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings needed lines full of star trios to lead them to greatness.
How about the Chicago Blackhawks? Could Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane really be where they are today with different linemates? Very possibly, but quite unlikely.
Long story short, star NHL teams and players do not exist without good supporting casts. There has always needed to be teamwork and chemistry to get the engine running.
These are 15 trios that just changed history by working together. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 greatest trio of players in the history of the National Hockey League.
15. Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza
Though they were only together for four years, there is no doubt that the Ottawa Senators top three players changed scoring, coming out of another dead puck era in the post-lockout times.
Though they made it to the Stanley Cup Final once together in 2007 before losing to the Anaheim Ducks, I’ve never seen a more dominant group.
Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson combined for 1,057 points together in four seasons.
There were five 40-goal seasons and three 100-point seasons between them. This line should have lasted longer if Heatley didn’t request a trade prior to the 2009-10 season, but this line was just something else.
14. Bobby Clarke, Gary Dornhoefer, and Rick MaCleish
These three men were the keys to bringing home consecutive Stanley Cup championships to the City of Brotherly Love in 1973 and 1974.
Captain Bobby Clarke had scored over 30 goals in both Cup seasons. Him and Rick MacLeish each registered 100-plus points in 1973.
Dornhoefer was no slack, himself. He had 57 goals during their second Stanley Cup season.
The three men played eight seasons together. Four 100-point seasons and 11 30-goal seasons proves that these three men made up the core of the Flyers’ 1970s Broadstreet Bullies era.
13. Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews
These three could be higher, but the fact remains the Chicago Blackhawks 2010s dynasty really has had such a strong supporting cast all-around.
It’s hard to narrow it down to three, but how can you not?
Jonathan Toews has been the best captain in the NHL since Steve Yzerman. No one has the crafty hands Patrick Kane has and Duncan Keith has been the best all-around defenseman not named Nicklas Lidstrom since the lockout.
These three have been the three keys in guiding the ‘Hawks to three Stanley Cup titles. Kane has a knack for clutch overtime playoff goals while Keith shuts down the best forwards in the playoffs.
Toews is a combination of both. In 20 years when we tell our kids about Chicago’s dynasty, everyone will bring up these three first.
12. Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, and Bobby Bauer (Kraut Line)
“The Kraut Line” name came from three good Ontario Boys who all had German descent. Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer.
The Bruins won two Stanley Cups; in 1939 and 1941, thanks in large part to these three carrying them.
Schmidt was the leader of the Bruins squad. They finished top three in scoring in the 1939-40 season.
These men were more than just hockey players. They were the best line in the NHL during World War II. They had a huge impact on the game on both sides of the border. Nonetheless, they were one dominant trio and paved the way for future superstar lines to come into their own.
11. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, and Steve Yzerman
In truth, the entire Detroit Red Wings epic run, that lasted throughout the ’90s until the end of the 2000s, was full of strong players.
Pavel Datsyuk was a bottom-six forward on the Wings during their 2001-02 Stanley Cup season.
But these three men stand out the most; they were parts of the Red Wings that won the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
Shanahan joined the Wings in 1996-97. Three 40-goal seasons for Shanahan ensued. At that point, Stevie Y wasn’t in his prime where he put up 60 goals and 100 points, but no one was a leader the way he was.
He didn’t need to score with all the talent around him. And no need to explain how dominant Lidstrom was. Arguably the best defenseman ever, he won Seven Norris trophies and consistently posted 50-point seasons.
These three lasted together for nine seasons before Shanahan joined the New York Rangers in 2006-07 as Yzerman retired after the 2005-06 season.
But what a trio it was.
10. Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, and Joe Sakic
Two elite playmaking centers in their primes, plus arguably the greatest goaltender of all-time?
The only problem is how this team only managed two Stanley Cups. Alas, these three men really put hockey on the map, with Cup seasons in 1996 and 2001.
Forsberg was often injured, but he posted two 100-point seasons and had 21 points during the Avs’ first Cup season.
Sakic had two 50-goal seasons, two 1oo-point seasons and took home the Hart and Conn Smythe in 2001.
All Roy did was post 30-win seasons in seven of eight years in Colorado. The one season he didn’t, the Avalanche won the Cup in 1996.
Yeah, this trio was something else.
9. Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, and Scott Stevens
Like the Avalanche and Red Wings, the New Jersey Devils had many key players throughout their championship years (1995, 2000 and 2003).
But these were the three cornerstones of the team. Two of the top defensemen ever and maybe the best goalie of his generation.
Scott Stevens hit NHL players like no one else. Scott Niedermayer was a forgotten Nicklas Lidstrom-caliber player.
Brodeur had seven 40-win seasons with New Jersey. Putting up eight straight of 37-plus with Stevens.
Niedermayer was a lock for double-digit goals. These three played together for 12 seasons, and they delivered. A struggling franchise became a perennial Cup contender that won three Stanley Cups.
There was just no defenseman pairing and goalie combination like this one.
8. Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, and Rick Martin (French Connection)
This group was so dominant, it’s a shock they did not win a Stanley Cup together.
Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin changed the Buffalo Sabres and revolutionized trios when they took the NHL by storm.
With all three men being born in Quebec, it helped them earn the fitting nick name: “The French Connection.”
In their seven seasons together, no player failed to reach 20 goals. In that frame, they also combined for 16 seasons of 70-plus points.
A struggling team made the playoffs every year together under this dangerous trio.
7. Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, and Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux is arguably the greatest NHL player of all-time. Jaromir Jagr is fourth all-time in scoring. Ron Francis is fifth-all time.
This trio was instrumental in bringing the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. The Penguins were a force to be reckoned with.
They played six full seasons together, as injuries forced Lemieux to miss time and retire briefly, where he sat out 1997-98 when Francis joined the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lemieux had three seasons of 130-plus points. Jagr had six 30-plus goal seasons. Francis had two 100-point seasons.
They combined for 10 NHL regular season awards while they were together.
This Penguins trio was one like no other during the 1990s. Maybe the best one ever. One of the most underrated ones, also.
6. Yvan Cournoyer, Guy LaFleur, and Steve Shutt
These three men played seven seasons together. Man, did they anchor one of the most prolific dynasties in sports.
Together, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy LaFleur and Steve Shutt guided the Canadiens to five Stanley Cups throughout the 1970s.
“The Flower” had 100 point seasons in the all of the last five years these guys were together. They did nothing but score. He also had five seasons of 50-plus goals with these two.
Shutt reached at least 30 goals during their tenure together. Cournoyer added 20-plus in all of them.
5. Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, and Brian Trottier
The New York Islanders had hockey put on the map for one reason: Their 1980s dynasty that won them Four Stanley Cups.
That was thanks to one key reason: The trio of Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies and Brian Trottier.
Bossy is the most dynamic sniper the league has probably ever seen. Five 60-goal seasons, four more 50-goal ones. Seven seasons of 100-plus points.
Few men played in the clutch like Trottier; he totaled 100 points campaigns in six of seven seasons from 1977-78 to 1983-84 with five seasons of 40-plus goals.
Winger Clark Gillies was no joke himself. A power forward, who made his presence known with the Isles.
These three men were responsible for one of the most dynamic dynasties in sports history. All they did was score and win.
4. Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, and Bobby Orr
The three cornerstone players for the Boston Bruins during the 1970s, Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr created quite a legacy together.
Boston won two Cups in the ’70s. Powered by Orr, the best defenseman ever, and his six-straight seasons of 100-plus points, the Bruins achieved dominance. Orr also reached 30-plus goals in five different seasons with the Bruins.
Esposito and Orr shared seven Art Ross trophies, with Esposito winning five of them. He led the league in goals for six-straight seasons, including a 76-goal season in 1970-71.
Bucyk played the role of one of the more underrated and forgotten superstars on Boston. During the ’70s, he had scored 20-plus goals seven times.
This trio was truly one of a kind during its time.
3. Toe Blake, Elmer Lach, and Maurice Richard (Punch Line)
Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and Maurice Richard formed “The Punch Line,” which became synonymous in hockey lore.
The three men were the top three scorers in the NHL in 1944-45. Their line led the Montreal Canadiens to two Stanley Cup titles.
They only played five seasons together, but they set the stage for the Habs dominance of the NHL to come for three decades following their break up.
They hit double-digit goals every year they played together. Richard had two 40-goal seasons. Blake had four 20-goal seasons.
And the Habs incredible runs were just getting started under these guys.
2. Sid Abel, Gordie Howe, and Ted Lindsay (Production Line)
Sid Abel, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay.
One of the league’s most feared lines ever during its height of power and dominance in the 1940s. All three of them made the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Abel was nearing the end of his career but seemed rejuvenated with two of the best forwards in hockey on his side.
The three men played six seasons together, winning two Stanley Cups. Abel had his two best seasons as a pro under this line, with 69 and 61 point seasons in 1940-50 and 1950-51, respectively.
Howe led the league in goals and points twice with this line, while Lindsay hit 20-plus goals in each of his seasons with the Wings.
One of hockey’s first true dominant lines is not forgotten more than half a century later.
1. Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, and Wayne Gretzky
When you have the NHL’s greatest player and leading scorer of all-time to go along with the greatest captain of all-time who was second in goals, plus a defenseman who is second all-time in scoring at his position, you’ll win lots.
Lots and lots. The Oilers won five Stanley Cups from 1984-1990. Of course, the last one came without “The Great One,” but that doesn’t take away that no trio dominated in hockey like this one.
They had eleven 100-point seasons between them. Gretzky scored a record 92 goals in 1981-82 and 215 points in 1985-86. It’s no coincident that Gretzky won the Art Ross in all seven seasons the trio was together.
Yeah, no trio will ever be topped the way this one worked. It was just something you’ll see once in a lifetime.
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