By Bruce Penton
Colorado Avalanche may not be near the top of the National Hockey League standings, and indeed, they’re a longshot for Stanley Cup consideration, but there’s little argument the top line in the league resides in Denver.
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and team captain Gabriel Landeskog — a Canadian, a Finn and a Swede, respectively — have started the 2018-19 season with a major splash, averaging more than four points per game as the league approached the one-fifth mark of the season.
In a league featuring the likes of superstars Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews, it was the relatively unknown Rantanen sitting atop the scoring derby in early November. MacKinnon, Crosby’s buddy from Nova Scotia, was second in the scoring race and Landeskog was 15th. Their 27 goals through 15 games represented more than 50 per cent of Colorado’s offence.
"A fun line to watch," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper recently said to CBC Sports. "You pre-scout the games and you take your opposing coach hat off and just admire their line.”
Bobby Ryan of Ottawa says the three Avalanche stars “do everything right.”
“They cycle the puck, they don't make turnovers at the top of the blue line and they get everything low," said Ryan. "They attack from a lot of different angles. They keep you guessing.”
The Avalanche trio have competition for the NHL’s top line. Boston’s best of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pasternak would rank No. 2 if lines were ranked.
Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmeiri might be third on this phantom listing of best NHL lines, but all three of the aforementioned trios pale in comparison to some of the NHL’s all-time best lines. Remember the Bryan Trottier-Mike Bossy-Clark Gillies line that led the Islanders to three Stanley Cups in the 80s? The Habs’ line (The Punch Line) of Rocket Richard, Elmer Lach and Toe Blake in the 1940s was pretty good, while the 1950s line of Gordie Howe-Ted Lindsay-Sid Abel has been glorified to the point of near-sainthood in Detroit.
It’s impossible to compare players or lines from different eras, but it’s safe to say the MacKinnon-Rantanen-Landeskog line would get consideration for being among the best of all time. So just sit back and enjoy their talents.
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The cruise ship Titanic II is set to make its maiden voyage in 2022. And in a related story, Vince McMahon just named it the official cruise ship of the XFL.
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “USC has to pay $215 million in a sex-abuse lawsuit. Out of habit, USC mistakenly sent cheques to top high school football players.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Reuters reports Robert Marchand, 104, became the oldest person to cycle around France’s national velodrome. He rode 15 laps in just under 30 minutes and six bathroom breaks.”
• Mets manager Casey Stengel, during an early-1960s mound visit with pitcher Roger Craig, with Giants slugger Willie McCovey about to bat: “Where do you want to pitch him, upper deck or lower deck?”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach, the Raiders, 49ers, Giants and Cardinals duelling for the NFL’s worst record and No. 1 draft choice. “It’s getting so bad, those teams are being flagged for excessive celebration when their opponent scores.”
• Retired Leafs star Wendel Clark, to the Toronto Sun, after his son Kody signed with the Capitals: “Maybe now he can pay for his own sticks — and my car payments.”
• Alex Kaseberg again: “Because Boston's Mookie Betts stole a base in the World Series, everyone got a free taco from Taco Bell. And because of Dodger Manny Machado's play in the World Series, for limited time, Taco Bell will let everyone choke on a chalupa.”
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “Clayton Kershaw has re-signed for three years with Los Angeles. Good news! —for anyone who might play Dodgers in the post-season.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the Raptors and Clippers hiring ex-sportswriters for front-office positions: “Sportswriters are experts at late check-ins at hotels, finding steakhouses and strip clubs, and making sure someone else picks up the tab. Does all that really translate to winning NBA titles?”
• Janice Hough again: “New York Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said Tim Tebow has earned the right to start 2019 season for a Triple A team. Does that mean Tebow will be starting for the Mets?”
• Another one from Dwight Perry: “A man using a blowtorch to kill spiders burned down his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif. He reportedly got the idea watching Jon Gruden tinker with the Raiders’ roster.”
• RJ Currie again: “If Milwaukee hoops star Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes Google’s top search, is that trending the Buck?”