The Triple Crown Line
The Triple Crown line is one of the more famous lines in hockey history. Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, and Charlie Simmer played together for five and a half years between 1979 and 1984. During that time they made history as the first line in which each member scored 100 points.
I thought it would be interesting to look at how the members of this line performed while playing together as opposed to over the rest of their careers. I'm primarily interested in their even-strength play here.
First, when and how often did they play together? Here I'll look at the percentage of even-strength goals that each member of the line participated in with the others. Numbers from a dataset compiled by matnor from Hockey Summary Project data.
Linemates don't participate in every goal together, of course, so 50-70% should be regarded as playing full-time together. Injuries also complicate things a bit.
Based on the above data, I'll consider that the line played together from 1979-80 to 1983-84 for Taylor and Dionne. Simmer played with Dionne and Taylor for most of the games he was healthy in 1978-79, so I'll include that year for Simmer as a Triple Crown year.
How much did each player benefit by playing on the line?
(Glossary of statistical terms at the end).
Dionne was the best player on the line, and had the most success outside of the Triple Crown years. Dionne was an established NHL scoring star before he ever played with Dave Taylor, having scored over 120 points in two separate seasons. However, his plus-minus numbers were ordinary. Nick Libett, Danny Grant, Mike Murphy, Gene Carr, and his other linemates weren't providing what he needed to have a dominant two-way line.
With Dave Taylor, Dionne's even-strength scoring remained at the same level. But his goals against dropped, and his plus-minus improved quite a bit.
When Charlie Simmer was added, Dionne's even-strength scoring rose, and his goals for rose even more. His plus-minus results were superb while playing with the Triple Crown line, especially when compared to the rest of the team.
In 1986-87, Simmer had been gone for two seasons, and Dionne was finally separated from his longtime linemate Dave Taylor. Dionne centred Luc Robitaille and Bryan Erickson, while Taylor patrolled Jimmy Carson's right side. Late in the season Dionne was traded to the New York Rangers. Dionne had little success after being separated from Taylor, and was clearly in decline at this point.
Dave Taylor entered a very favourable situation in Los Angeles, as he was placed on Marcel Dionne's right wing as a rookie and would remain there for almost a decade. Taylor wasn't merely lucky, however, as he earned that spot.
Taylor's even strength scoring dropped in the latter part of his career playing without Dionne and Simmer. His plus-minus numbers were respectable playing without Dionne, but were much better when together with Dionne, and were excellent with the full Triple Crown Line.
Simmer struggled with injuries and had relatively little success outside of the Triple Crown years. Even within those years he had trouble staying in the lineup, but when he was playing, he and his linemates dominated.
Finally, here are the numbers for the three members of their line during their peak (1979-80 to 1981-82).
They were #1, #3, and #5 in adjusted plus-minus during these three seasons.
I think the Triple Crown Line is a very good example of the effect of linemates on each other's stats. Taylor and Simmer both scored at a much higher rate while on the Triple Crown Line than they did at other times. Marcel Dionne, as the offensive leader for the line, saw his scoring increase by a more modest amount.
The biggest statistical effect by far was in their plus-minus, especially when adjusted for team. Dionne, Taylor and Simmer all had decent to good plus-minus numbers when apart. Dionne and Taylor together had excellent plus-minus numbers. And the full Triple Crown line together was absolutely dominant from a plus-minus perspective.
The line had very little team success, except for an upset of the Edmonton Oilers in 1982. The off-ice numbers suggest that their depth beyond the line was very poor. LA seems to have thought their best chance to win was to play their three best forwards together. Maybe it was, but the team gave away too much when they were off the ice to be competitive.
Glossary of terms
Seasons: Number of seasons worth of games played in the time period.
$ESP/G: Even strength points per game, normalized to a 200 ESG per team-season scoring environment.
$ESGF/G: Even-strength goals for per game, normalized to a 200 ESG scoring environment.
$ESGA/G: Even-strength goals against per game, normalized to a 200 ESG scoring environment.
R-ON: Even strength GF/GA ratio when the player is on the ice.
R-OFF: Even-strength GF/GA ratio when the player is off the ice.
XEV+/-: Expected even-strength plus-minus, which is an estimate of the plus-minus that an average player would post given the R-OFF environment.
EV+/-: Even–strength plus-minus, adjusted for scoring level. $ESGF - $ESGA
AEV+/-: Adjusted even-strength plus-minus, which is even-strength plus-minus minus expected even-strength plus-minus.
Triple Crown Greatness:
..Thank You for the exhaustive assessment of the great L.A. King`s trio.. These familiar set lines are missed in the context of today`s hockey.
I loved this line.
Don't you think players in prime years will outproduce themaelves anyway compared to other years, so how would your analisis take that into account for each player involved?
Taken from a comment on a TSN.ca thread: the only triple crown in todays NHL, is that of the Oilers.... Triple-Crown of Incompetence.
I calculated this for a post in another thread, so thought I would add it to this one as well.
Dionne was the straw that stirred the drink, but it's not like his linemates dropped off the proverbial cliff once they were no longer playing with him (league GPG weighted by GP in parentheses):
'82-85 LAK (ages 27-30): 214 GP, 89 G, 212 Pts, 0.99 PPG (7.85)
'85-87 BOS (ages 30-33): 198 GP, 98 G, 192 Pts, 0.97 PPG (7.65)
'84-86 (ages 27-30): 218 GP, 94 G, 232 Pts, 1.06 PPG (7.86)
'87-89 (ages 30-33): 205 GP, 70 G, 192 Pts, 0.94 PPG (7.41)
That's not far different from the decrease one might expect from a player simply due to age. Simmer doesn't really decline at all and Taylor's decrease is not more than would be expected due to age and decrease in league GPG. In fact, I'd say the decline from their last 3 years with Dionne to their next 3 years without him was less than most would expect, even without considering the difference in having (or not having) Dionne as their center.
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