Skip to main content

The good, the bad, and the scary: A look at the NHL's best and worst lines

What are the most frightening forward lines in the league? Here are two of the scariest lines out there -- for completely opposite reasons.

Today is Halloween, a day to celebrate the scariest things the world has to offer. In honor of this spooky holiday, we here at THN decided to highlight something truly terrifying to many hockey fans, specifically the most frightening forward lines in the league.

What makes a line scary? There are two ways.

The scary good lines are the ones always hanging around the offensive zone. They won’t leave. And every time time they’re there it always feels like something bad is about to happen (unless they’re on your team). Even if they’re not scoring, every time they hop over the boards, the opposition is usually on their heels hanging on for dear life.

The scary bad lines are the ones always hanging around the defensive zone. They won’t leave. And every time time they’re there it always feels like something bad is going to happen (unless they’re on the other team). Even if they’re not getting scored on, every time they hop over the boards, they’re usually on their heels hanging on for dear life.

How scary they are depends on which side you’re on. That scary good line is terrifying for 29 other teams, while the scary bad line only really scares one. Coaches love mixing things up, so it’s hard to find trios that are consistently together (especially the scary bad ones), but we managed to find one of each. Here are two of the scariest lines in the league -- for completely opposite reasons.

Scary Good

Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle - Milan Lucic

TOI Together: 97 minutes

Relative Corsi: 11.2 percent, +25.6 shot attempts per 60

Really, this line could be “Connor McDavid - Me - My Dog” and it would still be one of the most terrifying lines in the league. He’s that good. The fact that he’s got a talented sniper in Jordan Eberle on one side and one of the league’s best power forwards in Milan Lucic on the other is downright frightening.

Together the trio has scored four goals together at five-on-five and only given up one so far, while controlling 56 percent of the shot attempt battle. Any time they’re off the ice, the Oilers are only at 45 percent which is probably what you’d expect from the Oilers. They have been very good together and are the engine driving the team’s success so far. That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone really. Eberle and Lucic mesh really well with McDavid’s skill set and the trio’s individual strengths really complement each other to create a potent and balanced attack.

But let’s not mince words here, this is really all about McDavid. That’s not to take anything away from Eberle and Lucic who are very good players in their own right, McDavid is just in another stratosphere compared to them and the rest of the league. The kid is a one man highlight reel that routinely terrifies opposing defenses pretty much every time he hits the ice with his blistering speed. He gets at least a couple breakaways every game because of how fast he is along with his quick hands and high hockey IQ. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising he doesn’t score on all of them given his knack for finding the net.

He also has a knack for finding his teammates in seemingly impossible situations. A play can seem dead, but he has the ability to save it somehow. He’s a gifted playmaker, an über talented goal-scorer and he’s challenging for the throne for best player in the league already.

He’s basically the hockey version of Will Smith playing basketball in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He can pretty much do almost anything on the ice and what he does is almost absurd to even think about. He’s unstoppable and the Oilers best chance at winning is usually the same strategy as Bel Air Academy: “just pass it to Will” except in this case it’s “just pass it to Connor.”

The Oilers are still not very good when he’s not on the ice, but they’re pretty incredible when he is and that’s one of the biggest reasons the team is off to a 7-2-0 start. His line with Eberle and Lucic is rightfully one of the scariest lines in the league, and it’s mostly thanks to him being one of the best players on Earth.

Scary Bad

Luke Glendening - Drew Miller - Steve Ott

TOI Together: 40 minutes

Relative Corsi: -14.7 percent, -29.8 shot attempts per 60

Almost every team has that one guy who drags the team down, but Detroit has taken that even further with its fourth line this year. Instead of just one guy, they’ve got three. Say hello to the OMG Line.

“The OMG Line?” you may ask. It’s the acronym for the guys that are on it and it also perfectly describes their play. For example, “OMG why can’t we get the puck out of our zone.” Or “OMG we waived two promising young players for this.” Or “OMG why did you do that. Or “OMG that shift was a disaster.” Or “OMG seriously how is the puck still in our zone.” But mostly it’s “OMG why are all three of these guys on the ice together at the same time.” The name is extremely versatile in describing their ability.

So what exactly makes this line that bad? All three are among the worst in the league at controlling play. Whenever each player is on the ice they struggle to create offense and are regularly hemmed in their own zone, creating problems on defense.

Last season, with Miller on the ice, the Red Wings were almost 28 shot attempts worse per 60 minutes compared to when he was off the ice. That number was better for Ott and Glendening, but still awful. Basically, anyone who plays with any of these three performs significantly worse than when they play with any other player. The obvious solution? Put them all together onto one line and see what happens.

On their first night together they didn’t disappoint, going -13 in shot attempts in just six minutes of five-on-five ice time. I didn’t think it was possible to be that bad in such a short period of time, but they proved me wrong. The trio was immediately broken up for the next game, but injuries forced Ott back into the lineup and they’ve been inseparable ever since.

Since their reunion they haven’t been as bad as that first night, but for the season they’re still all comfortably at the bottom of Detroit’s Corsi leaderboard. All three are currently posting a shot attempts percentage below 40 percent, with Miller being the worst offender at a shocking 37 percent. Other than Danny DeKeyser at 39.3 percent, the next worst Red Wing is hovering at 43.

To put all that into perspective, the only NHL team to ever play below 40 percent for an entire year was the historically bad 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres, a team that was built specifically to lose. Their -14.7 percent relative Corsi is second worst for any regular forward line this season.

Despite having the worst line in hockey, the Red Wings are off to a surprising 6-4-0 start. Still, they haven’t looked very good in the process, and the OMG Line isn’t helping that. A team that was once a puck possession powerhouse, sits third last in score-adjusted Corsi at 46.3 percent according to Corsica and it’s only a matter of time before their record starts reflecting their play.

If they keep the OMG Line together, expect that sooner rather than later. Based on Game Score, the algorithm we used for pre-season projections, the OMG Line is collectively worth -2.4 wins, which is far and away the worst mark in the entire league for any trio of forwards. That could end up being the difference between the draft lottery and a postseason berth.



World Junior Roundup: Finland, Sweden, Canada, Czechia Advance to Semifinal

The four teams that will play for medals at the World Junior Championship have been decided, with tournament heavyweights USA bowing out after a loss to Czechia to close out quarterfinal action on Wednesday.

Emil Andrae

World Juniors: Emil Andrae is Taking Over

The Philadelphia Flyers prospect and captain of the Tre Kronor is bringing offense - and a lot more - to the back end at the tournament.

P.K. Subban

NHL Free Agency: Top 3 Landing Spots for PK Subban

Training camps are fast approaching, and PK Subban remains unsigned. Here's a look at a few of the top destinations for the defenseman.