When you look at Mount Rushmore, the four American presidents staring back were selected by sculptor Gutzon Borglum to define the first 130 years of American history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson shared an era, Abraham Lincoln defined his, and Theodore Roosevelt was a symbol of expansion and development of the nation that the others had built.
Lingering in the shadows of that mountain is context. The battle scars, the sins, the regretful parts of our history. That is represented in those craggy faces, too, although not observably. But look hard enough, and you see it: the good, the bad, the entirety of the story that defines that portion of American history.
In constructing a "Mount Puckmore" for all 31 NHL franchises, creating the full view of the teams' histories was paramount. It's not enough to just pick the four top statistical leaders and slap them on a mountainside. It's about selecting four players who define the team's history, through different eras and ebbs and flows of success. Celebrating what went right in some cases, and recalling what went wrong in others.
A few parameters we established:
This is just for players. Coaches and general managers are listed separately for each team.
Players' contributions during their time with the team are what we've taken into account, rather than their career as a whole. Just because Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur played for the Blues for a minute doesn't mean they make Mount Puckmore for St. Louis.
There are no positional requirements. In some cases, teams won't have a goalie on the mountain. In other cases, they'll have more than one.
Many of these picks were made by the editorial staff, but in over a dozen cases, we've reached out to fans on background to pick their brains about specific teams.
Again, we're looking for players synonymous with their teams, ones who define specific eras for the franchises and without whom the total picture of that organization's story can't be properly framed.
With that in mind, please collect your ropes, grappling hooks and climbing shoes, as we're about to scale 31 different versions of Mount Puckmore in the NHL. The Central Division is next up in our rundown. Here are our picks:
Bobby Hull, LW (1957-72)
Stan Mikita, C/RW (1958-1980)
Tony Esposito, G (1969-84)
Jonathan Toews, (2007-present)
Potential replacements: Chris Chelios, D (1990-99); Glenn Hall, G (1957-67); Steve Larmer, RW (1981-93); Patrick Kane, RW (2007-present); Pierre Pilote, D (1955-68); Jeremy Roenick, C (1989-96); Denis Savard, C (1980-90); Doug Wilson, D (1978-91).
Puckmore coach: Joel Quenneville (2009-present)
Puckmore GM: Tommy Ivan (1954-77)
For a franchise that dates to 1927, the Blackhawks' Mount Puckmore legacy begins around 1957 with Hull and Mikita, who are still first and second in games played, goals and points in franchise history. Esposito is first in wins (418) and games played (873) for a goalie, and was a hugely popular player.
But the mountain also needs someone to personify the quasi-dynasty of the last decade for the Blackhawks. Kane has the points and the star power. Toews has the intangibles, the league-wide respect and (for better or worse) that nebulous virtue of "leadership." We'll go with Toews.
Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques
Puckmore coach: Bob Hartley (1999-2003)
Puckmore GM: Pierre Lacroix (1994-2006)
Everyone save for Roy wore the baby blue of the Nords, so that satisfies that connection. (Although we'd have no qualms with Stastny, a Hall of Famer, being added to the mountain.) Sakic and Forsberg are Hall of Fame royalty. Roy changed the trajectory of the franchise (and owns all of its goaltending records). Foote is third in career games (967) and was a defensive rock on which the team built two championships (and not just because he moved at a glacial pace).
Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars
Puckmore coach: Ken Hitchcock (1996-2002; 2017-18)
Puckmore GM: Bob Gainey (1992-2002)
Broten and Modano are the connective tissue between the Dallas and Minnesota years, along with being franchise leaders in games and points. Stars fans have been crusading to get Zubov into the Hall of Fame for his epic run on the Dallas blue line.
The last spot came down to Benn and Lehtinen. Benn is third in franchise history in points when adjusted for era, so he gets the nod, even if the Stars haven't had nearly the success they had when Lehtinen was shutting folks down defensively.
Puckmore coach: Jacques Lemaire (2001-09)
Puckmore GM: Doug Risebrough (1999-2009)
Gaborik was the franchise's first star player and still leads the team in goals (219), which speaks to the lack of other great offensive players in the franchise's history. Parise was one when they acquired him, and he's third in goals in Wild history despite some injury issues during his tenure. His place on Mount Puckmore also covers the franchise-shifting free agent splurge that brought him to Minny, so no need to double up with Suter. That allows us to use a spot on Brunette, the super-popular forward who also speaks to the team's long-cherished blue-collar aesthetic.
Finally, Koivu is a no-brainer with the most games (925) and points (695) in team history. He'd also have a Selke Trophy right now, but apparently some voters just discovered he's in the league about two years ago.
Puckmore coach: Barry Trotz (1999-2014)
Puckmore GM: David Poile (1999-present)
This was a fun one, if only because it's entertaining to figure out where the dividing lines are for a particular franchise's eras. For the Predators, we'd argue that it's all tied to Weber. The pre-Weber era was a wasteland, with one playoff appearance and few players worthy of consideration on Mount Puckmore. (Legwand never reached his expectations, Timonen started to really receive renown only near the end of his run.)
Then Weber arrived along with Rinne, and after Weber was traded for P.K. Subban, it was Josi who inherited the mantle of top defenseman. Why Fisher? The Predators fans we polled felt his enormous popularity and general dedication to the team warranted inclusion. Which is fine, for now -- his face can easily be re-chiseled into that of Filip Forsberg in a couple of years.
Potential replacements: Barret Jackman, D (2001-15); Curtis Joseph, G (1989-95); Brian Sutter, LW (1976-88); Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (2012-present); Keith Tkachuk, LW (2000-07; 2007-10); Garry Unger, C (1970-79)
Puckmore coach: Joel Quenneville (1997-2004)
Puckmore GM: Ron Caron (1983-94)
Hall of Famer Federko is the franchise leader in games played (927) and points (1,073), and Hull had 527 goals and the status as the team's biggest star. Plager might not be Mount Puckmore material for most other teams in the league, but he's a tie to their expansion years. (There's also the fact that the Blues haven't made the Stanley Cup Final since 1970, so "faces of the franchise" are in short order.)
The final spot came down to MacInnis vs. Sutter. The Blues fans we spoke to all pointed to MacInnis, who won the Norris Trophy and was a finalist a second time (at age 39!), and Sutter had longevity and a stint as head coach on his side.
Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers
Potential replacements: Toby Enstrom, D (2007-present); Patrik Laine, LW (2016-present); Ondrej Pavelec, G (2007-17); Mark Scheifele, C (2011-present); Chris Thorburn, RW (2007-17), Andrew Ladd, LW (2010-16); Dany Heatley (2001-04)
Puckmore coach: Paul Maurice (2013-present)
Puckmore GM: Don Waddell (1998-2010).
Kovalchuk remains the franchise leader in goals (328), and perhaps the most prominent relic of the late great Thrashers besides weird jerseys. The other three skated for Atlanta and then made the move to Winnipeg, and have flourished there: Byfuglien as a pushing defenseman and popular star; Little as the leader in games played (754) and captain Wheeler as the franchise leader in assists (323). Arguments could be made for Scheifele and even Laine as the next face of the franchise, but we're going with Kovy and the ThrasherJets.