The Franchise Four. The Mount Rushmore. Four players who tell the story of an organization. For criteria, I’m choosing one forward, defenceman, goaltender and a wild card from any position.
Entering the NHL from the WHA in 1979, the Hartford Whalers reached the postseason eight times in 18 seasons, winning the Adams Division in 1986-87.
During said time frame, the Whalers iced the likes of Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Ulf Samuelsson, Mike Liut, Pat Verbeek, Blaine Stoughton, Geoff Sanderson, Ray Ferraro, Andrew Cassels, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Sylvain Turgeon, Sean Burke, Dave Babych and Dean Evason.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Mike Liut
Playing six seasons in Hartford, Liut is the all-time franchise leader with 115 wins and 13 shutouts. Luit recorded three straight seasons of 20 wins or more. Liut’s 31 win campaign in 1986-87, is a single season franchise best. Backstopping the Whalers to an Adams Division crown, Liut led the league with four shutouts, finished second in Vezina Trophy voting and third in Hart Trophy voting. In the season prior, Liut topped all postseason netminders with a .938 save percentage, 1.90 goal-against average and one shutout.
3. The Defenseman – Ulf Samuelsson
A tough, physical blueliner, Samuelsson skated seven seasons with Hartford. Samuelsson was a career plus-70 with the Whalers, tops in franchise history. In Whalers franchise history, Samuelsson ranks fifth in games played (463) and fourth in penalty minutes (1,110).
2. The Wild Card – Kevin Dineen
A Whaler until the bitter end, Dineen played two stints, across ten seasons with Hartford. In 1997, captain Dineen scored the final goal by a Whalers player at the Hartford Civic Center. Dineen was a two-time All-Star. During his time with the Whalers, Dineen posted two seasons of more than 40 goals and three seasons with 30 or more. Across 38 postseason contests, Dineen notched 31 points, including two overtime winning goals. In Whalers franchise history, Dineen ranks second in games played (587), goals (235), assists (268), points (503), penalty minutes (1,237), game-winning goals (35) and third in power play goals (71) and short-handed goals (seven).
1. The Forward – Ron Francis
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, man known as “Ronny Franchise,” Francis played ten seasons with the Whalers. Francis notched three seasons of 30 goals or more with Hartford. Francis led the club in scoring four-times. Francis was a three-time All-Star with Hartford. During the 1989-90 campaign, Francis set the single season franchise mark with 69 helpers. Across 33 postseason contests, Francis registered 22 points. In Whalers franchise history, Francis ranks first in games played (714), goals (264), assists (557), points (821), power play goals (83) and game-winning goals (40). Francis captained the Whalers from 1985-1990.
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.