The Franchise Four. The Mount Rushmore. Four players who tell the story of an organization. In this series I’ll be taking a look at the history of all 30 NHL squads. For criteria, I’m choosing one forward, defenceman, goaltender and a wild card from any position.
If you’re reading this list as a series, the Boston Bruins are our first team, with a history extending beyond the 1990s. The top-shelf spot needs no explanation and I don’t know if one needs to argue the other slots either. When your franchise has been around for 90 years, there’s bound to be a lengthy list of worthy players and some of whom will get squeezed.
4. The Goalie – Tim Thomas
Yes, I’m well aware Gerry Cheevers is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and helped guide the B’s to a pair of titles. That said, it’s impossible to discount the dominance of Thomas. Across eight seasons, Thomas was a four-time All-Star, twice a Vezina Trophy winner, a one-time recipient of the William M. Jennings Trophy and earned the 2010-11 Conn Smythe Trophy, leading the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title. Along with his 31 shutouts and six more in the postseason, Thomas essentially accomplished all of this at an older age and that is more commendable than anything.
3. The Forward – Phil Esposito
I could have gone Cam Neely or Johnny Bucyk here, but I’m going with “Espo.” Esposito has his No. 7 retired in Boston and he’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Esposito also ranks second in club history with 459 goals, fourth in assists with 553 and third in points at 1,012. Esposito was a seven-time All-Star and two-time Stanley Cup champion with Boston. Six times Esposito led the league in goals, three times in assists and five times in points. Plus, Espositio was a five-time recipient of the Art Ross Trophy and twice a winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award.
2. The Wild Card – Ray Bourque (D)
Only on the Bruins would one Raymond Bourque be a wild-card selection and the club’s second best blue liner. Like Esposito, Bourque is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and has his No. 77 retired by the Bruins. Bourque was an 18-time All-Star with Boston. Breaking into the league, Bourque won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1979-80. Plus, Bourque was a five-time recipient of the James Norris Memorial Trophy and also took home the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. In franchise history, Bourque ranks first in games played (1,518), fourth in goals (395), first in assists (1,111) and first in points (1,506).
1. The Defenseman – Bobby Orr
In all of greater New England and many parts elsewhere, you’ll get an argument which says No. 4, Bobby Orr, should rank atop the NHL Franchise Four. There’s no disputing Orr tops the list in Boston. Perhaps the smoothest skater in the history of the game, Orr is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and his No. 4 hangs from the rafters in Boston. In club history, Orr ranks eighth in goals (264), third in assists (624) and fifth in points (888), all across ten seasons. Like Bourque, Orr broke into the league and won the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 1966-67 season. Orr was an eight-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy, a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy recipient, twice an Art Ross Trophy winner, once a Ted Lindsay Award winner and twice a Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Orr, a seven-time All-Star, helped skate the B’s to a pair of Stanley Cup titles. It was Orr’s iconic overtime wining goal that clinched the Bruins the 1969-70 Stanley Cup title.