When you look at Mount Rushmore, the four American presidents staring back were selected by sculptor Gutzon Borglum to define the first 130 years of American history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shared an era, Abraham Lincoln defined his and Theodore Roosevelt was a symbol of expansion and development of the nation that the others had built.
Lingering in the shadows of that mountain is context. The battle scars, the sins, the regretful parts of our history. That is represented in those craggy faces, too, although not observably. But look hard enough, and you see it: the good, the bad, the entirety of the story that defines that portion of American history.
In constructing a “Mount Puckmore” for all 31 NHL franchises, creating the full view of the teams’ histories was paramount. It’s not enough to just pick the four top statistical leaders and slap them on a mountainside. It’s about selecting four players who define the team’s history, through different eras and ebbs and flows of success. Celebrating what went right in some cases, and recalling what went wrong in others.
If every NHL team created a monument of its history, which faces would be included? Here are our picks for the Central Division.
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A few parameters we established:
This is just for players. Coaches and general managers are listed separately for each team.
Players’ contributions during their time with the team are what we’ve taken into account, rather than their career as a whole. Just because Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur played for the Blues for a minute doesn’t mean they make Mount Puckmore for St. Louis. However, some players made the cut for multiple teams.
There are no positional requirements. In some cases, teams won’t have a goalie on the mountain. In other cases, they’ll have more than one.
Many of these picks were made by the editorial staff, but in more than a dozen cases, we’ve reached out to fans on background to pick their brains about specific teams.
Again, we’re looking for players synonymous with their teams, ones who define specific eras for the franchises and without whom the total picture of that organization’s story can’t be properly framed.
With that in mind, please collect your ropes, grappling hooks and climbing shoes, as we’re about to scale 31 different versions of Mount Puckmore in the NHL. We close out our series with a look at the four players that defined each team in the Pacific Division:
Ryan Getzlaf, C (2005-present)
Paul Kariya, LW (1994-2002)
Scott Niedermayer, D (2005-10)
Teemu Selanne, RW (1996-2001; 2005-14)
Potential replacements: Francois Beauchemin, D (2005-09; 2011-15; 2017-18); Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G (2000-09); Guy Hebert, G (1993-2001); Corey Perry, RW (2005-present); Steve Rucchin, C (1994-2004); Ruslan Salei, D (1996-2006)
Puckmore coach: Randy Carlyle (2005-12, 2016-present)
Puckmore GM: Brian Burke (2005-08)
Selanne is the absolute lock, as a Hall of Famer who spanned the Mighty Ducks-to-Ducks eras and who leads the franchise in games (966), goals (457) and points (988). Kariya, his partner is crime, was the Ducks’ first homegrown superstar and arguably still the most popular player in franchise history. Niedermayer was there for only 371 games, but was the Conn Smythe-winning last piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle for Anaheim. Getzlaf is the current franchise standard-bearer, and its all-time leader in assists (628) and plus-minus (165).
It’s difficult to leave Giguere off this list, given the run he had in 2003 that helped define the franchise before it actually won the chalice. But honestly, who would you have chiseled off the mountain to put him there?
Shane Doan, RW (1995-2017)
Dale Hawerchuk, C (1981-90)
Teppo Numminen, D (1988-2003)
Keith Tkachuk, LW (1991-2001)
Potential replacements: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (2010-present); Nikolai Khabibulin, G (1994-99); Jeremy Roenick, C (1996-2001); Mike Smith, G (2011-17); Thomas Steen, C (1981-95); Teemu Selanne, RW (1992-96)
Puckmore coach: Dave Tippett (2009-17)
Puckmore GM: John Ferguson Sr. (1978-88)
This was a tough balancing act, as this Mount Puckmore needed to honor the O.G. Jets (11 playoff appearances in 17 years) and the Coyotes (three playoff appearances since 2002). While the easy answer would have been “just link the old Jets with the new Jets, dummy” that obviously doesn’t work when the Coyotes have honored former Winnipeg players as part of their past. It’s also, like, really super mean to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Anyhow, Doan is the career franchise leader in basically everything. Though he never played in Arizona, Hawerchuk was the Jets’ biggest star for a decade and a Hall of Famer. Numminen spanned the two cities and is second to Doan in games played (1,098). Tkachuk also played for the Jets and Coyotes, amassing 323 goals and looked rather incredible in that peyote-inspired Coyotes jersey back in the 1990s. Finally, there’s Selanne, whose time with the franchise was brief, but whose 76 goals as a rookie is a record unlikely to be broken; overall, he scored 0.64 goals per game and 1.33 points per game as a Jet.
Theo Fleury, RW (1988-99)
Jarome Iginla, RW (1996-2013)
Al MacInnis, D (1981-94)
Mike Vernon, G (1982-94)
Potential replacements: Mark Giordano, D (2005-present); Miikka Kiprusoff, G (2003-13); Lanny McDonald, RW (1981-89); Joe Nieuwendyk, C (1986-95); Kent Nilsson, C (1980-85); Gary Roberts, LW (1986-96); Gary Suter, D (1985-94)
Puckmore coach: Terry Crisp (1987-90)
Puckmore GM: Cliff Fletcher (1972-91)
The recently retired Iginla, the immensely popular Fleury and the all-around greatness (and monster shot) of MacInnis were the locks here.
It’s that fourth spot that was a bit of a conundrum, if only because Vernon, Kiprusoff and McDonald’s mustache could all lay claim to it. In the end, we’ll take Vernon’s Cup victory over Kipper’s Vezina, with McDonald missing by a considerable whisker.
Wayne Gretzky, C (1979-88)
Jari Kurri, RW (1980-90)
Mark Messier, C (1979-91)
Connor McDavid, C (2015-present)
Potential replacements: Glenn Anderson, RW (1980-91; 1995-96); Paul Coffey, D (1980-87); Grant Fuhr, G (1981-91); Kevin Lowe, D (1979-92); Ryan Smyth (1994-2006; 2011-14)
Puckmore coach: Glen Sather (1980-94)
Puckmore GM: Glen Sather (1980-2000)
Messier’s legacy in the sport was cemented when he brought the Stanley Cup back to Madison Square Garden for the first time in 54 years, but we’ve honestly always been just as in awe of his achievement in 1990. That’s when the Oilers, in their second season following the Gretzky trade, won their first Stanley Cup without The Great One on the roster, one year after losing to Gretzky’s Kings in the first round of the playoffs. Messier had 129 points in the regular season and 31 more in the postseason. Just astounding.
Gretzky, of course, leads the franchise in goals, assists, points and with a points per game average of 2.40(!) in his Oilers career. The next honored member of the dynasty years could have been any number of players — Lowe came closest — but Kurri’s numbers and unique ability to hang with Gretzky earned him the nod.
As for McDavid, you might gaze upon his stone visage on Mount Puckmore and cry out “too soon!” But then ask yourself how a player who instantly gave the franchise gravitas and direction just by putting on their jersey doesn’t then define it in some way — especially when that player already has two scoring titles and two player of the year awards to his credit.
Marcel Dionne, C (1975-87)
Drew Doughty, D (2008-present)
Wayne Gretzky, C (1988-96)
Luc Robitaille, LW (1986-94)
Potential replacements: Rob Blake, D (1989-2001); Dustin Brown, RW (2003-present); Anze Kopitar, C (2006-present); Bernie Nicholls, C (1981-90); Jonathan Quick, G (2007-present); Dave Taylor, RW (1977-94); Rogie Vachon, G (1971-78)
Puckmore coach: Darryl Sutter (2012-17)
Puckmore GM: Dean Lombardi (2006-17)
This Gretzky fellow made an impact in his 539 games in Hollywood, leading the Kings in points per game (1.70), finishing fourth in overall points (918) and convincing Sean Penn and Sylvester Stallone to attend Kings games. Also, as the ultimate cliché goes, there wouldn’t be Mount Puckmores for any teams in nontraditional U.S. cities were it not for Gretzky — because they wouldn’t exist.
The Kings, however, predated Gretzky, with Dionne having amassed 1,307 points in just 921 games and Lucky Luc leading the franchise with 557 goals before literally leading the franchise as team president years later. Doughty gets the nod as the modern era representative for the Kings’ Stanley Cup wins over the past decade.
Patrick Marleau, C (1997-2017)
Evgeni Nabokov, G (1999-2010)
Owen Nolan, RW (1995-2002)
Joe Thornton, C (2005-present)
Potential replacements: Brent Burns, D (2011-present); Logan Couture, C (2009-present); Arturs Irbe, G (1991-96); Joe Pavelski, C (2006-present) Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D (2006-present)
Puckmore coach: Todd McLellan (2008-15)
Puckmore GM: Doug Wilson (2003-present)
This Mount Puckmore was built around Marleau and Thornton, the two pillars of the Sharks for over a decade. But while a few members of the team’s current incarnation warrant consideration, we’ll dedicate the final two spots to Nolan, the team’s first true star, and Nabokov, who is statistically the best goalie in franchise history even if he could never scale the peaks of the playoffs.
Pavel Bure, RW (1991-98)
Trevor Linden, RW (1988-97, 2001-08)
Henrik Sedin, C (2000-18)
Stan Smyl, RW (1978-91)
Potential replacements: Roberto Luongo, G (2006-14); Kirk McLean, G (1987-98); Markus Naslund, LW (1995-2008); Daniel Sedin, RW (2000-18); Harold Snepsts, D (1974-84)
Puckmore coach: Pat Quinn (1991-96)
Puckmore GM: Pat Quinn (1987-97)
Linden and Bure are stone-cold locks for the mountain. Smyl represents the “Flying V” years (and remains the fifth-leading scorer in franchise history). Those three belong on any monument to the Canucks, which left us one spot … for two twins.
Now, we could just put Henrik and Daniel on the mountain as some sort of two-headed mutant, as including them as one entity makes total sense. (cc: Hockey Hall of Fame.) Or, we could all just admit that Henrik was a slightly better player, the best center in franchise history and therefore the proxy for both twins on this mountain.
Deryk Engelland, D (2017-present)
Marc-Andre Fleury, G (2017-present)
William Karlsson, C (2017-present)
Jonathan Marchessault, C (2017-present)
Potential replacements: David Perron, LW (2017-18); James Neal, RW (2017-18); Nate Schmidt, D (2017-present)
Puckmore coach: Gerard Gallant (2017-present)
Puckmore GM: George McPhee (2017-present)
Look, when we said “for all 31 teams” we meant “for all 31 teams.” Honestly, there’s a little debate to be had here after Fleury and Karlsson. Is Marchessault redundant? Should Neal have made the list as the biggest name veteran forward? What about a fourth-line folk hero like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare?
In the end, we like these four as the faces of the franchise after Year 1. Just make sure Flower’s got a smile chiseled on his face.