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.
An “Original Six” squad, there’s no shortage of sensational star power with the Chicago Blackhawks. Since their inception in 1926, the Blackhawks have won six Stanley Cup titles.
Through the years the team has boasted the likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard, Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Tony Amonte, Duncan Keith, Chris Chelios, Pierre Pilote, Doug Wilson, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Ed Belfour.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Tony Esposito
Like Hall and Belfour, Esposito is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Unlike those two, save for 13 games with Montreal, Esposito did it all with Chicago. Esposito was a six-time All-Star, Calder Memorial Trophy and three-time Vezina Trophy winner. Esposito led the league in wins twice and shutouts thrice. Additionally, Esposito is the all-time club goaltending leader in games (873), wins (418) and shutouts (74).
3. The Defenseman – Duncan Keith
As difficult as it is to pick against the Hall of Fame inductees Chelios and Pilote and the great Wilson, for my money, Keith is the guy. Keith has two James Norris Memorial trophies and won the 2014-15 Conn Smythe Trophy. Keith has been the top defenseman on three Stanley Cup championship clubs. In winning the Conn Smythe, Keith led all players with 18 helpers and a plus 16 rating and averaged 31:07 on ice when Chicago was essentially playing four deep on the blue line. Keith is also a three-time All-Star. Call it a bit of a projection but Keith is entering the prime of his career, on a team which is the class of the league.
2. The Wild Card – Stan Mikita (C)
Mikita is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. In Blackhawks history, Mikita is the all-time leader in games (1,394), assists (926), points (1,467) and goals created (547.2). When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1960-61, Mikita led all postseason scorers with six tallies. In his career, Mikita was also a nine-time All-Star, four-time Art Ross Trophy winner, Hart Trophy recipient and twice a winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
1. The Forward – Bobby Hull
The most prolific scorer in Blackhawks history, “The Golden Jet.” Hull is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hull’s 604 markers are tops in club history and his 1,153 points rank second. Five-times Hull recorded more than 50 tallies in a season and eight-times Hull registered 40 plus goals. Hull led the NHL in goals seven-times. A 12-time All-Star, Hull earned the Hart Memorial Trophy twice, Art Ross Trophy thrice and a Lady Byng Trophy. In addition to carrying Chicago to a Stanley Cup championship in 1960-61, Hull totaled 129 points across 119 career postseason contests.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.