By The Numbers: Best Top Line in the NHL

I started this exercise by looking to see where the Sabres top line measures up around the league.  After pulling a few teams statistics, I realized not very well.  I was then intrigued by what line in the NHL, was the best line.  Before I get into the numbers and how I came to my conclusion, I want state a few things.  First off this isn’t a perfect science by any means.  Also some of the lines may not be the exact top lines on each team, but pretty close.  This was done to be a fun exercise and give people something to discuss.

Total Statistical Ranking

To start the exercise I pulled the statistical data on all three players of the top line of every NHL team.  The stats I looked at were goals, points, +/-, shooting percentage, and I calculated points per game.  I wanted to not only look at the “sexy stats” of goals and points, but also take into account how the line plays defensively with the +/- stats.  I also wanted to calculate how deadly the line was by pulling the shooting percentage of each player.  Lastly to take out the injury factor, I calculated points per game for each player.

After pulling all of the individual player stats, I totaled up all the information to give each team a total number in each statistical category.  The next step was to rank each team from 1st to 30th in every category.  Next, I added up the rankings of every team in each category.  For example, in the five categories a team ranked 2nd, 4th, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd; the total team score would be 12.  The lower the team score, the better.  I decided to call this analysis “total statistical ranking”.

Best Line in Hockey

After all the information was put together, the best line in hockey belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The line of Ryan Callahan, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Kucherov.  The top line of the Bolts graded out by a pretty good margin.  The TSR for this line was a score of 15.  The second place team had a score of 23.  Here is two through fifth ranked teams:

2. St. Louis Blues- Lehtera-Tarasenko-Schwartz (23)

3. Anaheim Ducks- Perry-Getzlaf-Beleskey (30)

4. Pittsburgh- Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist (34)

5. Philadelphia- Voracek-Giroux-Simmonds (36)

I’m not going to list the all the players, but in order here is how the rest of the teams graded out:

Toronto, Dallas, NYR, Detroit, Winnipeg, LA, Columbus, Chicago, SJ, Nashville, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, NYI, Washington, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa, Edmonton, Carolina, NJ, and Florida.

It makes sense for the Lightning to have the best top line, since they are the highest scoring team in the NHL right now.  The Tarasenko line has been terrorizing NHL defenses and the Getzlaf-Perry duo, has always been a dangerous line.

The most intriguing thing I found was how highly rated the top line of the Flyers graded out and yet they’re near the bottom of the NHL standings.

As you look throughout the rankings you’ll see a correlation between the best top lines and NHL standings.  Teams need to have a deep squad in order to be great in this league, but it all starts with the top line.  If you have a lethal top trio, it could take your franchise a long way.