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 in 1993, the Florida Panthers have one Eastern Conference title in 21 seasons.
During said time frame, the Panthers have iced the likes of Scott Mellanby, Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo, Robert Svehla, Oli Jokinen, John Vanbiesbrouck, Jay Bouwmeester, Paul Laus, Brian Skrudland, Tom Fitzgerald, Tomas Vokoun and Stephen Weiss.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Defenseman – Robert Svehla
One of the more underrated blue liners of his time, Svehla was a cornerstone player on some of the early Florida teams. An All-Star in 1997 and a gamer, Svehla played in virtually every Panthers game from 1995 to 2002. Svehla was a member of the Panthers Eastern Conference championship squad of 1995-96, recording six assists and 32 penalty minutes in the postseason, suiting up for 22 games. In club history Svehla ranks third in games played (573), sixth in penalty minutes (603), eighth in power play goals (26) and tops in defensive point shares at 28.3.
3. The Goalie – Roberto Luongo
I’ll admit it was tough to go against John Vanbiesbrouck and what he meant to those early Panthers squads but the numbers don’t lie on Luongo. Now in his second stint with Florida, Luongo is the franchise leader in games (392), wins (142), shutouts (29) and ranks second in save percentage (.920) and third in goals against average (2.62). Twice an All-Star with the Panthers, Luongo nearly carried the Panthers back to the postseason in 2014-15 and could have them back in the fold in the near future.
2. The Wild Card – Pavel Bure (RW)
The most exciting offensive player in Panthers history is Pavel Bure. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Bure found new life in Florida, after knee injuries stunted a flourishing young career with the Vancouver Canucks. My first ever NHL game was in Florida in December of 1999 and watching Bure fly down the ice and be able to stop on a dime was incredible. It probably didn’t help his knees though. Regardless, Bure was incredible to watch and a dominant scorer. In a time when goal scoring was at a premium, Bure won consecutive Maurice Richard trophies, leading the league in goals, posting 58 in 1999-00 and 59 in 2000-01. During the 1999-00 season, Bure also paced all scorers with 45 even strength tallies and 14 game winners. Bure was also a two-time All-Star with Florida. In Panthers history, Bure ranks third with 152 goals.
1. The Forward – Scott Mellanby
The heart and soul of the Panthers and a pretty good player in his own right. Scott Mellanby was an original Panther, going back to the old Miami Arena days. Mellanby helped lead the Panthers to their lone Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1995-96. While he also netted 30 goals in Florida’s 1993-94 inaugural campaign, Mellanby’s finest season that of 1995-96. During the 1995-96 season, Mellanby notched 32 goals, 38 helpers and 70 points and was named an NHL All-Star. Mellanby ranks second in franchise history with 157 goals, fourth with 197 assists, third with 354 points and first with 66 power play goals.
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.