In NHL hockey, 18 skaters dress for each game, including four forwards lines of three players each. While forwards get mixed and matched on different lines every season, each team has also had a few lines that stick together (or at least should stick together) for an extended amount of time. Sometimes the chemistry is just that good. It’s hard to explain sometimes. Without further ado, without using the same player twice, here are my picks for the best four forward lines (dream team of 12 forwards for an all-time hockey game) in Sharks history.
No. 4: Scott Thornton—Mike Ricci—Niklas Sundstrom
In the early 2000’s, the Sharks stumbled into this trio of players that became known amongst San Jose fans as the best third line in hockey. They were all defensively sound, and could contribute offensively as well. These three clicked like no other Sharks players did during the those early years of the new millennium. Even with guys like Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse, and Patrick Marleau, it was this third line trio that fans remember as the best and most consistent forward line.
No. 3: Sergei Makarov—Igor Larionov—Johan Garpenlov
The “OV” line in the early 1990s was arguably San Jose’s first famous line led by hall of famer Igor in the middle and fan favorite Sergei Makarov. Along with Garpenlov, these three forwards helped the Sharks knock off the Detroit Red Wings as an eighth seed vs top seed in the 1994 playoffs.
No. 2: Milan Michalek—Patrick Marleau—Steve Bernier
First things first, shout-out to colleague Dan Rice for a great interview piece with how Bernier has managed to carve out an extended career as a fourth liner after some down years. With the Sharks Bernier was a blossoming young top-six forward before his career took a downward turn, and he had great chemistry during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons with Marleau in the middle and Milan Michalek on the opposite side. The trio was a staple of the Sharks during the first couple years after the missed season in 2004-05. They had a great combination of size, speed, Bernier’s right-handed shot, play-making and finishing abilities. They had some great moments in the playoffs as well.
No. 1. Tomas Hertl—Joe Thornton—Brent Burns
These lines aren’t necessarily ordered in terms of most memorable, but just the line number that would be associated with them in an imaginary all timers game. The combination of Thornton-Burns was nearly unstoppable in the year and change that it lasted. At the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Hertl came into the league and set the league on fire next to his two giant linemates. In the postseason last year, the Sharks may have lost to the Kings but they were 2-1 in three games during the series with this trio as their top line. It baffles many in the hockey world why the Sharks have elected to go away from this line.
Have a different opinion? Let me know in the comments below.
Andrew has been credentialed to cover the Sharks since 2010 and the 49ers since 2012. He graduated with his BA in Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts in 2013 from San Francisco State University.