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.
Since entering the NHL from the WHA in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers have won five Stanley Cup titles in 35 seasons.
During said time frame, the Oilers have iced the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Ryan Smyth, Doug Weight, Charlie Huddy and Bill Ranford.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Grant Fuhr
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Grant Fuhr was as tough as they come in net and a true workhorse. In fact, during the 1987-88 campaign, Fuhr won the Vezina Trophy by virtue of leading the league in wins (40), saves (1,820), minutes (4,304) and shutouts (4). Fuhr was a six-time All-Star and helped backstop the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships. Fuhr ranks second in club history in games played (423), first in victories (226), second in saves (8,842), second in minutes (23,910) and third in shutouts (9).
3. The Defenseman – Paul Coffey
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Coffey won three Stanley Cup titles with the Oilers. Coffey was a five-time All-Star for Edmonton and twice a recipient of the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Coffey was a gamer with the Oilers, leading the league in games played for three consecutive seasons, from 1982-1985. During Edmonton’s Stanley Cup run in 1984-85, Coffey totaled 37 points and a postseason high four game winning goals. From 1983-1986, Coffey registered three consecutive seasons of 100 plus points, the last of which he led the league with nine short-handed tallies. Coffey scored more than 40 goals in a season twice for the Oilers. Coffey ranks sixth in club history with 209 goals, fifth in helpers with 460 and in points with 669. Coffey led the rush for an Edmonton dynasty.
2. The Wild Card – Mark Messier (C)
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Mark Messier was a power center with the Oilers. Mess helped guide the Oilers to five Stanley Cup titles, the last one without “The Great One.” Messier was an eight-time All-Star with Edmonton, won the 1983-84 Conn Smythe Trophy and in 1989-90, won the Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. During Edmonton’s last Cup run, Messier paced all postseason performers with 22 helpers and 31 points. Messier netted 50-goals once with the Oilers, 40-goals three times and more than 30-goals nine times. Messier ranks fourth in club history in goals (392), second in assists (642) and third in points (1,034).
1. The Forward – Wayne Gretzky
Save for greater New England and perhaps parts of Detroit and Pittsburgh, one would argue “The Great One” belongs at the top of an NHL “Mount Rushmore.” A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and virtually every offensive record, Gretzky helped carry the Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles and was an eight-time All-Star with Edmonton. Gretzky’s additional hardware in Edmonton encompasses eight Hart Memorial trophies, two Conn Smythe trophies, seven Art Ross trophies, one Lady Byng Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award five-times. From 1979-1987, Gretzky paced the league in points for eight consecutive seasons. Plus, from 1979-1988, Gretzky led the league in helpers for nine straight campaigns. Gretzky registered more than 200 points, four-times with Edmonton and eclipsed the century mark in all nine seasons he played with the Oilers. From 1979-1988, Gretzky’s single season goals totals read this way: 51, 55, 92, 71, 87, 73, 52, 62 and 40. Five times Gretzky led all postseason scorers in points. In Oilers history, Gretzky tops the charts in goals (583), assists (1,086), points (1,669), even strength goals (403), short-handed goals (55) and points per game (2.40).
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.