Guess who’s back for an all-out attack and that all out attack is… well, by the ‘Triple Crown Line’! What a perfect hip-hop segue for us to jump back into our favorite time machines (I personally prefer the DeLorean, complete with a Flux Capacitor and a Mr. Fusion for the garbage I need to use as fuel, well except any garbage that has an Anaheim Ducks logo on it of course. Mr. Fusion just spits that out with disgust), and let’s jump back to January of 1979, when things started to happen and change for the better for our beloved Los Angeles Kings. Okay, here we go!
It was beautifully-sunny in the greater Los Angeles area (well duh!) in January of 1979 and the Los Angeles Kings were in the midst of another season of .500-level hockey when head coach Bob Berry had an idea to salvage the season. In practice that day, Berry strategically changed his team’s lines and decided to put three specifically-talented players together, and then he liked their chemistry so much that these three players were now stuck together, not just for their remaining years playing with the Kings, but also in franchise history.
Dubbed by the media as the “Triple Crown Line”, the center position was occupied by the world-class all-star Marcel Dionne. His right-hand man was the 6-foot, 195-pound, and very aggressive, Dave Taylor (forget Daredevil; Taylor was the “Man with no fear”!), while on the left was the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Charlie Simmer from the Kings’ minor-league affiliate, the Springfield Indians, who loved to hover around the net with his presence and sniff for loose pucks (think Michael Mersch). Not only was their instant chemistry, the Triple Crown Line also became an instant hit with all of the Kings’ fans and with the media.
The Kings still ended up finishing that year with a .500 record with 34 wins, 34 losses, 12 ties (remember those?) and 80 points, which was good enough to make the playoffs by placing third in the Norris Division (Yes, the Kings were playing in the Norris division back then). But what was different from the norm was that the ‘Triple Crown’ players all reached career-high stats while playing together. Dionne, who was already an all-star scoring machine at this point in his career, reached 59 goals, 71 assists and 130 points! Taylor finished with 43 goals and 91 points while Simmer had 48 points in 37 games. The Kings were eliminated in two-straight games (the first round was a Best-of-3 back then), against the Phil Esposito-led New York Rangers. Regardless, the Triple Crown Line was sweeping the hearts and minds of everyone in the Kingdom.
In the following years (including 1980 where Dionne would go on to win the Art Ross Trophy over some kid named Wayne Gretzky when they finished that season tied with 137 points), Dionne, Taylor and Simmer were inseparable both on and off the ice. They would hang out together, do autograph sessions together, heck, they even made a music video together!
They reached their peak in 1981 when they led the Kings to second place in the division with a 43-24-15 and 99-point record. The Triple Crown Line was so good and dangerous that year that all three players were selected for the NHL All-Star Game, which was being held in Los Angeles/Inglewood at The Forum). Dionne ended the incredible all-star year with 58 goals, 77 assists and 135 points. Taylor had 47 goals, 65 assists and 112 points while Simmer accomplished 56 goals, 49 assists and 105 points in only 65 games! The Triple Crown Line were beasts during the regular season, but unfortunately, as dominant as they were, they struggled to help the Kings get past the first round of the playoffs — well until 1982, but more on that for another time.
Unfortunately, injuries started to interfere with the Triple Crown’s success.
The injury bug hit Simmer first during the 1980 season by only allowing him to play 64 games. It happened again in the All-Star year of 1981 when he only played in 65 games, yet in those two injury plagued seasons, Simmer was still able to get back to business and heavily produce when he returned to the ice after re-joining his linemates. In 1982 though, Simmer was only able to provide 39 points in 50 games, but during the 1983-84 season, Simmer was healthy again and returned with 44 goals and 92 points. Sadly, the Kings failed to have made the playoffs and that 83-84 season turned out to be Simmer’s last productive season for the Kings as he was then traded to the Boston Bruins the following year, officially ending the Triple Crown Line era.
Taylor also had some injury issues while the line was still together. He only played 46 games in 1982-83 but still got 58 points and in 1983-84 he finished with 69 points in 63 games. With Simmer and Taylor struggling on and off with various injuries, Dionne kept trucking along with his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, but without the Triple Crown Line together to raise some hell, the Kings fell to the bottom of the Norris Division standings in those last two seasons and failed to make the playoffs.
So, the Buffalo Sabres had the ‘French Connection’, and the Philadelphia Flyers had the ‘Legion of Doom’ lines, and in Los Angeles, we had the ‘Triple Crown Line’ and they were second-to-none. They provided Kings fans at the time with thrilling and explosive, all-star-level hockey, but even more importantly, they brought to them some hope during a time when hope was badly needed for the still-young franchise and it’s fanbase. Sure, the Kings, even with the Triple Crown Line didn’t accomplish much overall in the playoffs — and didn’t make the playoffs at all during their two final seasons together — but no one can deny how important it was to have an All-Star line finally be formed in Los Angeles and the attention and skilled hockey it brought to the area and to the game. Like I said, the ‘Triple Crown Line’ was second-to-none.
But not every playoff series the line was involved with was completely unsuccessful. There was that one series in 1982 where they ended up becoming legendary. It became a series that Kings fans still proudly talk and boast about today in 2017. They called it a “miracle” and it was, in a way. Of course I mean the 1982 first-round playoff series against the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers and the action-packed Game 3 where this miracle happened. That is exactly where our next time traveling trip is going to take us, so gear up and make sure to keep your time traveling machines ready because baby, we’re gonna be heading straight for the “Miracle on Manchester!” BOOM!