What exactly defines a successful offensive duo in the NHL? It's a very difficult question to answer and there's no clear cut way of telling. If you asked 20 different avid NHL fans who would be among the top 15 most successful duos, you'd likely get 20 different answers. There are commonalities between the duos atop of the list. It goes without saying that there needs to be chemistry between a duo in order to be successful, but there also needs to be statistical evidence to back up their success. Elite duos not only have insane point production, but they maintain it over a long period of time. They also have the personal awards to back it up, most notably the Art Ross Memorial trophy and more recently "The Rocket" Richard trophy.
Of course, hockey is a team sport and while personal accolades during the regular season are fine and dandy (can't say dandy without thinking of Bob Cole), players are judged by how they perform when the stakes are the highest. For example, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have been a staple of consistency in the regular season for a decade. They seem to be aging like wine as they light the lamp in the regular season year after year. But there's always a scoff when their names are mentioned because of their lack of success in the postseason. Some of the duos that are about to be mentioned reflected sheer dominance and could have been so much higher on the list had they simply achieved more success in the playoffs. Without further ado, here are the top 15 most successful duos in NHL history!
16 16. Henrik and Daniel Sedin
15 Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
14 Eric Lindros and John LeClair
They were 2/3's of the "Legion of Doom" line. While they never won the cup, they were arguably the most physically dominating line of all time. They would use their large frames to their advantage and were seemingly impossible to take off the puck. They also weren't shy when it came to the rough stuff, notably with Lindros who engaged in it so much that he developed concussion problems that cut his career short. The L.O.D. line was formed in 1994, when they combined LeClair and Lindros with Mikael Renberg. It was love at first sight for these guys, as the line put up 80 goals and 96 assists for the Flyers. The next season, they were unbelievably even more productive as they combined for 121 goals and 134 assists.
13 Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis
Their longevity was incredible, as Lecavalier and St. Louis were linemates for 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. There was no doubt that these two possessed spectacular skills, but they were still an unlikely offensive duo in a way. Normally a successful offensive tandem has a sniper and a guy that feeds him his passes. In the case of Marty and Vinny, defenseman didn't know who was going to pass or take the shot as they were equally satisfied with passing or burying, as long as the puck ended up in the net.
12 Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane
11 Brett Hull and Adam Oates
10 Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
9 Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier
8 Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg
A quiet, reserved, and smooth skating Canadian and a fierce, hard hitting Swede? Don Cherry is still in denial about this one. The rarest commodity in the league is a premiere center. Teams spend years trying to find one, whether it's through the draft or via trade. Colorado (and Quebec in the early years) were lucky enough to have two. The city of Quebec almost had a riot when Eric Lindros refused to put their jersey on, but the trade ended up being beneficial in the end... for Colorado (poor Quebec). The two were a staple up the middle for nearly a decade and led the Avs to two Stanley Cups. "Burnaby Joe" was a slick player that had a knack for stepping up at key moments and his 1996 Smythe trophy would echo that sentiment. On his side was Forsberg, who was just a freak of nature. His ferocious play left him ridden with injuries but he always found his way back. He somehow led the 2002 playoffs in scoring despite missing the entire regular season that year. What's crazier than that is that he didn't even win the cup that year, as they were eliminated in the Conference Finals by the Red Wings.
7 Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux
Oh what could have been...these two were perfect for each other, like peanut butter and jelly. When Jagr burst onto the scene in the 1990-91 season, Lemieux was already a superstar and was a serious challenger to Wayne Gretzky's records. As a team, however, they were just missing a little something to get them over that hump. That little something was Jaromir Jagr, as they won back to back Stanley Cups in 91 and 92. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe in both triumphs, but Jagr played an intricate role.
Unfortunately their assault on the league as tag team got cut way too short, as Lemieux's health cost the tandem three full seasons together. Once Lemieux went on hiatus, Jagr took over the reigns as the league's top scorer. But it's hard to imagine them not pulling in another Cup or two had Lemieux not had health issues.
6 Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay
5 Maurice and Henri Richard
"The Rocket" and the "Pocket Rocket" were so different, but both incredibly successful. When Henri showed up to training camp in 1995, the public thought it was a joke. People were suggesting that he was only there because he was Maurice's brother. The other players scoffed, as Henri was only 5'7 and a meager 160 pounds. Nobody was laughing when the brothers went on to lead the Habs to a record-setting five Stanley Cups in a row.
Maurice was a powerful, fiery player with incredible determination. When the puck was on his stick, the look in his eyes was frightening. Saying this man enjoyed scoring goals is an understatement. He was the first player to notch 500 goals, and score 50 in a single season.
4 Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy
They're definitely the most underrated duo in NHL history. For some reason, when people talk about the all time greats, Bossy and Trottier seem to slip their minds. With the lack of success that's marred Long Island for the past 15 years (although they're currently improving), it's tough for modern fans to imagine the Isles as a force to be reckoned with. But they were indeed a dynasty that won four Stanley Cups in a row, and it was in large part to Trottier and Bossy's chemistry.
Trottier was the type of player that every team wants, as he was a two-way center with a gritty attitude that would never give up on a play. When people hear the term "two-way center," they automatically think of a shut down guy that will chip in offensively here and there. Trottier's 1,425 points in 1279 games is a little more than "chipping in."
3 Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull
They played together for 13 seasons and racked up a lot of hardware, to put it mildly. They combined for four Hart trophies and seven scoring titles. But it wasn't always smooth sailing, particularly for Mikita. While Hull was a natural and could do as he pleased, coming to the NHL was a huge adaptation for Mikita. His first full season was a bust as he only notched 26 points and spent most of his time in the penalty box.
Management didn't give up on Mikita and neither did Bobby Hull, as the two developed into one of the most prolific duos in the league's history. Mikita progressively turned into a superstar, earning himself four Art Ross trophies in five seasons, while Hull earned three of his own.
2 Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr
We will never see another Bobby Orr, he was just that special. Was he an offensive defenseman or a defensive defenseman? He was both, and he was the all-time best in both aspects. He won the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman, an unprecedented eight times. He also won the Art Ross as the top scorer twice. He is the only defenseman to ever win the trophy and probably will be the last. For our younger readers, catch an old school Bruins game on ESPN Classic and you'll have your mind blown.
Esposito was one of the most charismatic players to ever play the game. He was a tremendous leader and never pulled any punches (see his Summit Series speech). He was a cocky guy but he could back up every word as he took home five Art Ross titles on his own.
1 Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky
Kurri was known as Gretzky's "right hand man" or sidekick. That tends to happen when you're playing with the best player to ever play the game. There was also a myth that anyone could play with Wayne Gretzky, but that wasn't true. Coach Glen Sather struggled to find linemates for Gretzky in the 1980-81 season. By the season's mid point, Sather finally put Kurri on Gretzky's wing based on a hunch. They ended up scoring 429 goals together in Edmonton!
The two fed off each other, so it's no coincidence that their most productive years were while they were playing together. Gretzky went on to obliterate the record books, but Kurri went on to dispel certain stereotypes about European born players. Notable records that Gretzky achieved alongside Kurri were: most goals in a season (92), most points (215), and the most impressive of all, 50 goals in 39 games. Kurri, on the other hand, was the first Finnish player to ever record a 50 goal season and to collect 100 points in a season. Most importantly, he smashed the myth that Europeans couldn't produce in the playoffs, as he capped off his career with 233 points in 200 playoff games.
The duo also achieved team success as well, winning four Stanley Cups with the Oilers. Granted, they were part of some of the most powerful teams in league history, but it was still a 21 team league as opposed to six teams, where some of the other duos thrived.
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