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Graney: Golden Knights’ Misfit Line eyes fifth season together

There are two sides to the argument, no?

This whole business about continuity between athletes really depends on the names and situations involved.

Example: There is a list of the top 50 wide receivers Tom Brady has thrown to in his career. Fifty.

Brady has won seven Super Bowls.

The guy could toss out routes to the beer guy and win it all.

But the Golden Knights wouldn’t have won as many games and crept as deep into the playoffs the past four years without some serious production from a specific line.

The Knights assuredly wouldn’t have knocked out favored Colorado last season.

Misfit: A person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way.

Forget that last part. There has been nothing uncomfortable about center William Karlsson teaming with wingers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. It began — the Misfit Line — as a way to identify three of the more valuable players from a magical expansion season in 2017.

It has grown into a second line most believe is the identity of the organization.

Cup over chemistry

“It would be a lot different on (another line) in getting a similar connection with other players,” Marchessault said. “We’ve haven’t built just chemistry together, but careers. It’s something special. We communicate really well. But these two guys are also my two best friends off the ice. Hopefully things don’t get shaken up. It would definitely be hard.”

And yet …

The Knights who open against the expansion Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena do so with the same belief as always — that they are good enough to lift the Stanley Cup at season’s end.

But such a quest has fallen short, the past few years in the conference finals.

“We’ve been shut down at the toughest time of the year, including (the second line),” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “You’re always weighing changes, but you don’t change just to change. I’m also not blind to the fact we have to be open to other combinations.

“Those guys have been exceptional for us, and there’s very few lines like them around the league. But we’re going to be open to everything in order to try and take another step here.”

As they should be.

Maybe they’re just words from DeBoer to motivate. Maybe a slow start from the line would lead him to mix things up on a more permanent basis. Maybe the trio will be together for a fifth straight season.

There are obviously more talented lines than the Misfits that have remained together across the NHL, but four years of longevity in Las Vegas has produced some impressive results.

While playing almost exclusively together, the trio have combined for 270 goals and 366 assists.

“I think the chemistry is still there,” Karlsson said. “If I get to choose who I play with, it’s those two guys. But we haven’t won anything yet. Whatever it takes to win has to be the ultimate mindset, which means it’s on us to perform together. When you don’t, things get shaken up. It always comes down to us.”

Control own destiny

Smith is an unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. Karlsson is signed through 2026-27, and Marchessault through 2023-24. This isn’t lasting forever. Perhaps not even through this season.

But when the history of the Golden Knights is written many, many years from now, a certain second line will absolutely deserve its own chapter. They’re hardly a Misfit bunch in the purest form.

“We make our lives easier,” Marchessault said. “We’re in control of our own destiny as a line. That’s the way it is. At the end of day, we have to win.”

That part also hasn’t changed.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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