Chemistry. We've all seen it. If you play hockey, maybe you've even been a part of it! When your line has chemistry, every play just feels effortless. No need to look up before making that pass. You already know he's going to be there! When you have chemistry, every player gets the puck in their spots and every player uses their own unique skillset to complement those of their teammates. Chemistry enables teams to play beautiful, free-flowing hockey. When your team has chemistry, linemates feed off of you and you feed off of them! You all see the ice the same way, you all share the same mindset, and everything else just clicks into place. Suddenly the puck starts to follow you around. Suddenly an assist really does feel "just as good as a goal". Suddenly every celly is just that extra bit sweeter. Suddenly you've went from 18 career goals to 43 in one season. Suddenly three "misfits", three players left UNPROTECTED by their former teams in the expansion draft, are one of the best lines in all of hockey. That's chemistry.
Maybe as individuals they were nothing, but together... together, they could do some damage. The Vegas Golden Knights went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season, largely in part to the chemistry of the Misfit Line (comprised of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith). Their incredible success speaks to the importance of chemistry in hockey and raises the following questions:
What makes the Misfit Line so effective?
How can other General Managers look to follow McPhee's success at building lines with strong chemistry?
Personally, I believe what makes Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith so effective as a line is their versatility and ability to adapt. After doing a deep dive on the Misfit Line, I've learned each player's role is pretty interchangeable. Sure, we all know Karlsson is more of a passer, Marchessault is more of a shooter and Smith is more of a two-way guy, but those are just stereotypes! What if I told you Karlsson had the higher shooting percentage over Marchessault this year? Or that Marchessault had 8 more takeaways than Reilly Smith? The Golden Knights trio are not so easily defined! Each player is relatively strong at every aspect of the game despite not being considered "elite" in any one area. This differentiates them from most other dominant chemistry lines in hockey history. Unlike the French Connection which had Hall of Famer Gilbert Perrault, or the Triple Crown which had Marcel Dionne, the Misfit Line doesn't rely on a superstar or even an all-star calibre player to drive the bus. Rather, they focus on each playing a fast, hard-nosed game in all three zones.
As for the second question, George McPhee undoubtedly revolutionized line creation and chemistry in hockey with the Misfit Line. He essentially provided the rest of the league with a blueprint of how to win hockey games, with or without star power. However, it is important to note that he did not invent any ground-breaking solutions or crack any ancient codes to do so. His process was genius in its simplicity!
"We didn’t think in those terms like there would be chemistry. We traded for Reilly Smith because we liked him".
Heading into Vegas, George McPhee had a vision. Like all General Managers, he developed a system by which he felt a team could succeed. Then, he hand-picked players he believed could thrive in that system. He also looked for players that he knew to be hard-working, quality leaders- people that could set a winning culture. There is no major analytical breakthrough or baffling new concept in play here. I wish there was, but there isn't! GM George McPhee simply did the same thing everyone else was doing... but better.
The Misfit Line's chemistry was a byproduct of the vision and culture George McPhee was able to instill in Las Vegas and is the result of his astute asset management and decision-making!
In conclusion, playing on a line with chemistry is arguably the best feeling hockey has to offer. However, because of its organic nature, chemistry can be unpredictable and difficult to attain. There isn't a "magic formula" or any one way to develop chemistry. It just happens. And maybe that's part of the beauty of it! Maybe, just maybe chemistry is like the gold-star a GM gets for sticking to their guns and doing things right.
🏆🔥What are your thoughts on chemistry in hockey? Do you think someone will find a way to quantify or more consistently develop it? Let me know in the comment section below!🔥🏆