January 18, 2010
Hadn't really thought of this until Costa Tsiokos pointed it out on Population Statistic today: Where oh where have all the good line names gone in the NHL?
There's no Legion of Doom. No Crash Line. No Russian Five or Swedish Five. To our knowledge, there aren't even many quirky combination-of-names lines; unless you count the stupendously lousy ZZ Pops line of Travis Zajac(notes), Zach Parise(notes) and Jamie Langenbrunner(notes) with the New Jersey Devils, which has gained baffling traction.
What gives? Tsiokos sees it as a problem with stability:
Coaches seem quicker to mix and match players whenever goal production dips for more than a couple of games, thus making it hard for three players to form a recognizably cohesive unit. If anything, it seems like a two-player rapport develops on the top lines, with the left-wing slot usually being a revolving door for a plugger. Longer-term, free agency makes it harder to keep line partners together (although trades and minor-league demotions in the past probably created just as much player movement, so I doubt that's much of an impediment).
It's a shame to see this unique hockey contribution to the greater sports lexicon fall into disuse. I don't know what can be done to revive it -- the emergence of a hotshot offensive line? Grassroots marketing from the league/media/fans? -- but whatever it takes, I'd like to start hearing those clever nicknames again.
As Pierre LeBrun wrote on ESPN, the parity and player movement in today's capped League prevent a lot of players from growing roots with any particular team. We'd add that the cap also forces top-line talent to fill holes throughout the lineup: Look at the Washington Capitals' potential mega line, which has seen Alex Semin drop down in the batting order several times this year.
It is a little surprising, as Tsiokos notes, that the proliferation of new media for hockey fans hasn't produced more line nicknames. We've had player nicknames emerge from blogs -- Brooks "Free Candy" Orpik via Penguins bloggers, Dan "Big Sexy" Sexton from Anaheim blogs -- but not many memorable line monikers.
You know who this falls on? Broadcasters. They're usually the ones to give us these gems in the first place. The Crash Line was a Doc Emrick creation for the Devils, for example. Randy Hahn of the San Jose Sharks put out the call for a Dany Heatley(notes)-Joe Thornton-Patrick Marleau(notes) line name. But The Jumbo Line? The MaTH Line? Sheesh.
Are there any current line nicknames in your fan communities worth mentioning? Are line nicknames/long-standing line combinations yet another cap casualty for the NHL? Oh, and finally: Favorite line nickname? Personal favorite: Semak, Zelepukin, Lemieux for the Devils ... the SiZzLe Line.