This post was originally written in November 2012.
Growing up in the 1970’s as a hockey fan in Los Angeles, I was intimately familiar with three things very few Angelenos had even a remote grasp upon: 1) Los Angeles had an NHL hockey team, 2) said hockey team was named the Kings, and 3) the Triple Crown Line was bitchin’, man.
Thirty years later, after having been swept up by an exhilarating Cup run, the nouveau-riche of belated La-La Land hockey fans finally understands the city indeed has a team and its moniker is in fact the Kings. However, being 45 years late to the party, they remain largely clueless about the team’s history, especially that of events that occurred pre-Gretzky. The Triple Crown Line might as well be a railway route or a designer drug, as they know virtually nothing about the players or the accomplishments of one of history’s signature scoring lines.
Background of the Triple Crown Line
On January 13, 1979, the Kings were well on their way to another ho-hum season (34-34-12, first round loss) when former head coach Bob Berry made what turned out to be a brilliant move, promoting left winger Charlie Simmer to the top line to combine with perennial all-star center Marcel Dionne and prolific right winger Dave Taylor to form what would eventually be coined the ‘Triple Crown Line’. Simmer, at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, was the perfect net presence to contrast with the feisty, aggressive Taylor and the shifty, speedy, all-world Dionne. By the end of that season, Dionne notched a typical 59 goal, 130 point campaign, with Taylor registering 43 goals and 91 points and Simmer — in just 38 games, mind you — scoring 21 goals and 48 points.
The reason? For those of you who believe chemistry only belongs in a Bunsen burner, think again. “It was chemistry because nobody had a big ego,” said center Marcel Dionne. “We complimented one another and we never had a bad game because we would also pick up the slack for each other on nights when it was needed.”
Hitting Their Stride
That half season was, of course, just the beginning. With all three horses together for the entire 1979-80 campaign, production soared. Dionne won the Art Ross trophy after a league-leading 137 points. Charlie Simmer tied for the top spot in goals with 56 and finished 7th in the NHL with 101 points. Dave Taylor “only” registered 37 goals and 90 points, the latter ending up 17th best in the league. The Kings’ defense and goaltending failed them that season, finishing tied for fourth-worst in the newly expanded 21-team NHL, but the groundwork was laid for better days to come.
In 1980-81, those days came with a vengeance. The perennially mediocre Los Angeles Kings almost won the Norris Division, ending up with 99 points, edged out by Montreal for the title. The defense improved a bit but still finished in the bottom third of the league with 290 goals allowed.
Much to the delight of the fans, however, that team didn’t operate with a defensive mindset; it was the supercharged offense that led the way in L.A. With that said, the numbers produced by Dionne, Taylor and Simmer were nothing short of breathtaking. To wit: it was the first time in NHL history that three players from the same team recorded 100+ points. Dionne ended the season with 58 goals and 135 points, second in both categories to Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky, respectively. Dave Taylor had 47 goals and 112 points, and Charlie Simmer finished with 56 goals and 105 points in just 65 games.
Frustratingly, without the injured Charlie Simmer, that Kings team lost in the first round to the New York Rangers 3 games to 1, as goaltender Mario Lessard was torched to the tune of a 5.45 playoff G.A.A.
The Remaining Tenure of the Triple Crown Line
The following season saw the line take a step back, as although Dionne (117) and Taylor (106) remained amongst the league-leaders in points, Simmer dropped back to a mere 39 in an injury-plagued season. As the Triple Crown Line went, so went the Kings, falling to a 24-41-15 record and yet, amazingly, actually squeaking into the playoffs and even winning their first round series.