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 original Winnipeg Jets reached the postseason eleven times in 17 seasons, before moving to Arizona in 1996.
During said time frame, the Jets iced the likes of Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Phil Housley, Bob Essensa, Paul MacLean, Doug Smail, Laurie Boschman, Morris Lukowich, Fredrik Olausson, Dave Babych, Randy Carlyle, Bobby Hull, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk, Dave Ellett, Brian Mullen, Alexei Zhamnov, Brian Hayward, Teppo Numminen, Nikolai Khabibulin and Daniel Berthiaume.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Goalie – Bob Essensa
Essensa played parts of six seasons with the Jets. During the 1989-90 season, Essensa was selected to the NHL All-Rookie First Team. In the 1991-92 campaign, Essensa topped all goaltenders with five shutouts and finished third in Vezina Trophy voting. Essensa’s 33 victories in 1992-93 are tied with Brian Hayward for the most in a single season by a Jets goalie. In Jets franchise history, Essensa ranks first in games played (281), wins (116) and shutouts (14) and second in goals-against average (3.38) and save percentage (.894).
3. The Defenseman – Phil Housley
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Housley was a force, despite only playing three seasons with Winnipeg. Housley was a three-time All-Star. In 1991-92, Housley finished third in Norris Trophy voting, while finishing fifth in 1992-93. Housley’s 79 helpers and 97 points in 1992-93 are the most by a Winnipeg blueliner in a single season. Among Winnipeg defensemen, Housley ranks fifth in goals (64), sixth in assists (195) and points (259), fourth in power play goals (29) and game-winning tallies (nine).
2. The Wild Card – Thomas Steen
Steen played 14 seasons with the Jets. Steen was a solid two-way forward, whose No. 25 was retired by the club in 1995. Steen was a Jets co-captain from 1989-1991. Steen notched one 30 goal season and five campaigns of 20 plus goals. Across 56 postseason contests, Steen notched 44 points. In Jets franchise history, Steen ranks first in games played (950), assists (553), second in points (817), goals (264), short-handed goals (13) and third in power play tallies (74).
1. The Forward – Dale Hawerchuk
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Dale Hawerchuk played nine seasons with the Jets. Hawerchuk was a four-time All-Star with Winnipeg. In 1981-82, Hawerchuk recorded 103 points and earned the Calder Memorial Trophy. He registered six seasons of more than 100 points. In 1984-85, Hawerchuk netted 53 markers, notched 77 helpers and totaled a career-best 130 points, finishing second in Hart Memorial Trophy voting.
With Winnipeg, Hawerchuk recorded one season of more than 50 goals and seven seasons with 40 or more tallies. Hawerchuk captained the club from 1984-1989. In Jets franchise history, Dale ranks first in goals (379), points (929), power play goals (122), second in game-winning goals (29) and assists (550) and third in short-handed goals (12).
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.