Several of the finest lines in the NHL were split up in the offseason, opening the door for some emerging combinations to take the stage for the 2009-10 season. Although most of these threesomes won't be matched up on a regular basis, it's a great option for the coaches to assemble these lines when they're in need of a late game goal. Here are the top 9 finest (potential) lines in hockey:
9 - Spezza / Alfredsson / Kovalev
At some point this season, the third slot may read Michalek or Cheechoo, but out of the shoot, Kovalev will replace Heatley on what used to be one of the top 3 lines in the game. If Kovalev can turn back the clock and find motivation, this could be a dominating line once again in Canada's capital.
8 - Lecavalier / St. Louis / Tanguay
Once again, the third piece in this puzzle is interchangeable, with Stamkos being a prime candidate. Either way, the Lightning will be putting all their offensive hopes on one strong first line, as they have for the last several seasons. St. Louis should keep up his consistent scoring, and Lecavalier is due for a good year, making this a potentially explosive all-Canadian front three.
7 - Toews / Kane / Hossa
While this line won't even have the chance to meet until late December, it should be worth the wait. When healthy, Hossa will be the best player on a great team, featuring a whole lot of offensive talent. Toews and Kane are about to reach the upper echelon, and this line could be unstoppable by the end of the season.
6 - Datsyuk / Zetterberg / Franzen
What's not to like about this threesome? Put them out there to score or kill penalties, and you'll be equally pleased. With Franzen's goalscoring progression over the past couple seasons, you can't even say who's the weak link on this line. Probably because there is no weak link on this line.
5 - Carter / Richards / Gagne
Two brilliant goal scorers flanking the total package in the middle. This line wins games. Problem is, with Carter and Richards both taking draws, and with so much talent on lines 2 & 3, these guys will rarely see time together. Even so, the Flyers could easily make a case for placing a second line in the top 10.
4 - Thornton / Heatley / Setoguchi
What was already one of the strongest lines in the game last year just got more deadly. And this is a line you will actually see together to start the season. If Heatley can keep his head on straight, this line will be downright scary. And if the Sharks can somehow resist trading Marleau, they could have the best 1-2 punch in top lines in the NHL.
3 - Crosby / Malkin / Kunitz
OK. You could replace Kunitz with Fedotenko, Guerin, Coach Bylsma, or a pair of old wet shoes, and you'd still have to rank the line in the top 3. Crosby and Malkin showed last season and throughout the playoffs that when paired together, goals will be scored. Imagine if they landed a top 10 winger in Pittsburgh.
2 - Getzlaf / Ryan / Perry
Like the Sharks line, this group may likely stay together for much of the season. Which is great news if you've drafted one or more of them. All three of these guys will top 30 goals and the trio should top 100 combined. That's a lot of scoring on one line.
1 - Ovechkin / Backstrom / Semin
If Semin stays healthy, this is undoubtedly the best line in hockey. Two amazing goal scorers, getting dishes from an outstanding playmaker. And all three are just entering their prime. This trio could combine for 300+ points this season, and be the first team since Pittsburgh in 1996 to post 3 100 point scorers.