NHL: Naming the Current Face of Each Franchise
For every current NHL team, there is one big name player that every die hard fan associates with that team. Like what Wayne Gretzky was to the Oilers in the 1980s, Gordie Howe was to the Red Wings 1950s, and Paul Kariya was to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 1990s and early 2000s, players become synonymous with certain teams due to their popularity, loyalty, and contributions to the franchise. This is a comprehensive list of each franchise's current "face."
Half of the credit for this list must go to current Bleacher Report reader Tony Callens, who helped me quite a bit with both the listing and the writing of this article.
Author's Note: it took us a while to get this piece done, so some of it might be a bit outdated, please keep that in mind when you read this. Thank you
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
Corey Perry can be considered the face of the Anaheim Ducks for the last couple of years. He is third in the NHL in most goals scored since the 2009-10 NHL season and is the reigning NHL Scoring Champion and Hart Memorial Trophy winner. While arguments can be made for both Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, most Ducks fans would agree due his solid play on the ice.
Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas
No, I'm not just saying this because of his incredible playoff run last year that saw the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup. Thomas has been the Bruins' most important asset during their current run of NHL success as well as gaining the most notoriety of any player on the current roster.
Thomas withstood the pressure from current Boston backup goalie Tukka Rask to remain the Bruins' franchise goalie for the last seven years.
He was Bruins' anchor during the 2011 NHL playoffs, turning back the Montreal Canadians, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Presidents Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup.
Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy as well as the Vezina Trophy last year and has solidified his status as the face of the Bruins for the next few years.
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller
Being a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan, I know this one without a doubt. Buffalo has always been known for being a team that produces good goaltenders (Martin Biron excluded) and it seemed like Miller would just be the next goaltender in line to continue the legacy started by Dominik Hasek and Tom Barrasso.
However Miller would exceed expectations, playing in almost 60 or more games each season since becoming the starter.
Miller is also an American sports hero, leading the USA national team to the gold medal game against Canada (they lost in overtime), but Miller was named the MVP of the Olympics. He would win 41 games that year as well as being named for the Vezina Trophy. Not only that, he anchored Buffalo's first ever Presidents Trophy-winning team in 2007 as well as back to back Eastern Conference Final appearances in 2006 and 2007.
Despite his recent struggles this year Miller is still a top five goaltender in the NHL and the face of the Buffalo Sabres without question.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
The unquestionable face of the Calgary Flames is Jarome Iginla. The NHL's newest member of the 500 goal club has been engrained into the Flames franchise since 1995.
A six-time NHL All-Star, he is the Flames' all-time leader in goals, points, and games played, and is second in assists in NHL history to Al McInnis. He led the NHL in goals and points in the 2001-02 season, and won the Lester B. Pearson Award as its most valuable player as voted by the players.
He has been very loyal to the franchise as Calgary is the only NHL team this future hall-of-famer has ever known despite recent trade rumors. In the 2003-04 season he led the Cinderella 6-seed Flames to the Stanley Cup almost winning but coming up just short to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in game 7.
It seems fairly obvious by his accomplishments and contributions to the Flames that he is the face of the franchise.
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal
Eric Staal has recently become the face of the Carolina Hurricanes, the most well known of the Staal brothers. He led the Canes in points during their run to the 2006 Stanley Cup with 28 points.
A telling stat to him being the face of the Carolina Hurricanes is last year when the RBC Center (Carolina's arena) was the site of the NHL All-Star game and he was named the captain of one of the teams.
Staal is a multi-time All-Star, a productive scorer, and a fan favorite amongst the Carolina faithful and will remain so for years to come.
Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews
The third overall pick in the 2006 entry draft, Toews was nominated for the Calder memorial trophy as the rookie of the year in the 2007-08 season. He was the cover boy for NHL 11' after winning the Conn Smythe trophy in the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup victory.
Toews passed Peter Forsberg as the youngest player to join the Triple Gold Club (Olympic Gold, World Championship, Stanley Cup). He was named as the best forward in the 2010 Winter Olympics for Team Canada and was named the Blackhawks' captain at age 20 years and 79 days. He was the third youngest captain in NHL history.
The good part for Toews is that he's only 23 years old, a clear sign that the Blackhawks will be Stanley Cup favorites for as long as Toews is on the team.
Colorado Avalanche: Milan Hejduk
Milan Hejduk has been a part of the Colorado Avalanche since they were known as the Quebec Nordiques by being selected in the 1994 Entry Draft. The team's current captain has won 2 Stanley Cups with the team in 1996 and 2001.
He won the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goalscorer when he scored 50 goals for the Avalanche in the 2002–03 season.
This Czech has been an integral part of the team as he the unquestioned leader for a young developing Avalanche team.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash
Who else but Rick Nash is the face of the Blue Jackets? There is no explanation needed.
Dallas Stars: Brenden Morrow
The Stars' captain has been with the team since 1997 and won a Stanley Cup in 1999. The Stars wanted to reward Morrow for his commitment to the team after he bypassed free agency to sign a long-term (6 year) contract with the team, so they named him the team's captain in the 2006-07 season. This shows a great commitment to the team.
He has a knack for scoring big goals as evidenced by his scoring 3 of the team's last 4 overtime winning goals in the playoffs. Morrow is a team leader and the face of the Dallas Stars.
Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom
The leader, the man who has been a part of the franchise for 19 seasons, is without a shadow of a doubt the face of the Detroit Red Wings. He has won Norris trophies, 4 Stanley Cups and countless other accolades.
He has always been the leader of the Red Wings for his storied, hall-of-fame career. He became the first ever European born and trained captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008.
Lidstrom is the 17th member of the Triple Gold Club and an advocate for the game of hockey.
Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
The rookie sensation has become Edmonton's most popular player and is almost a lock to win the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. He has the potential to become a leader for the Oilers for years to come.
Florida Panthers: Stephen Weiss
Weiss has played for the Panthers franchise since 2001 as an 18 year old and has been a leader for Florida. The current assistant captain to the NHL's most surprising team of the 2011-12 season has become their longest tenured player.
Weiss has yet to play in a playoff game but things are looking up for that to change come April.
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar
On a Los Angeles Kings team with no real defined leader, it's clear that Anze Kopitar is the most productive and durable player on the roster.
Kopitar signed an entry level contract with the Kings in 2005, however he didn't start his NHL career until the 2006-07 season where he accepted an invitation to the Kings rookie camp. He made his debut in October of 2006 and scored two goals in his debut against the Anaheim Ducks.
Since then Kopitar has been the Kings' best player, slowly leading the Kings back into validity in the NHL.
Kopitar holds the record of most consecutive games played for the Kings at 330 games. He has won 11 total team awards in his career including four in 2011. He's been elected to two All-Star games and in 2008, Kopitar signed a seven-year, $47.6 million contract extension with the Kings that would last until 2016.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Kopitar play his entire career in Los Angeles as he is the Los Angeles Kings.
Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec
This may be controversial but hear us out. Many would probably claim that the face of Montreal would either be Brian Gionta or Carey Price. However, Gionta made himself a household name with New Jersey before accepting a big contract with the Canadiens, therefore he's out.
I can see the argument for Price, but it took him a good two to three years before he was considered a "good" goaltender in my eyes: Therefore the face is Tomas Plekanec.
Despite being a die hard Sabres fans, I will admit I believe that Tomas Plekanec is the most underrated player in the NHL today and is one major season away from being a superstar. Drafted by Montreal in 2001, Plekanec was with the club full-time in 2006. Since then, he's been as productive as he is durable, he's played in 401 out of 410 games in the last five years. His best season was 2009-12 where he played in every game and recorded 25 goals and 70 points.
This year he's been a bit less productive this year with the emergence of Max Pacioretty and the addition of Erik Cole, however, Plekanec is only 29 years old.
He's been an anchor in Montreal for the last five years and will continue to do so.
Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu
The younger brother of NHL great Saku Koivu, Mikko Koivu is making his own name in the same style of his older brother.
There are a lot of parallels between the two brothers. Saku made his name as a long time player for the Montreal Canadiens and now Mikko is starting to become synonymous with the Minnesota Wild.
Mikko was drafted sixth overall by the Wild in 2001, but wasn't brought up full time until the 2005-06 season. Since his rookie season, Mikko has been steadily improving his game and the Wild are starting to realize his ultimate value to the team, rewarding him with a franchise record seven-year, $47 million contract extension in July 2010 (which goes into effect this season) and being named the team's first permanent captain in franchise history.
Mikko was named to his first All-Star game this year and at age 28 we can expect big things from the Minnesota Wild when led by Mikko Koivu.
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber
Every NHL fan can agree that the Nashville Predators are a team with a lot to lose in the next six months. When your two best defensive players are free agents, both expecting big paydays, it's not a good thing.
However, everyone can agree that between the two, Nashville can't afford to lose their franchise cornerstone, Shea Weber. Drafted in the second round by the Preds, 49th overall in 2003, Weber slowly began to establish himself as one of the more important players on the team.
Elected to the All-Star game three times in 2009, 2011 and 2012, Weber is the defender who will produce but isn't afraid to rough a dude up.
If Nashville was smart they'd get Shea Weber a monster contract and fast, or risk losing the best player in Predators history.
New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur
On any other team, Zach Parise would be the face of the franchise. Unfortunately, he's on the same team as arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history.
There no question in saying that Martin Brodeur is the New Jersey Devils. He's been the starting goaltender for the last 21 years since being drafted in 1990. His accomplishments speak for themselves: 10 time All-Star, 4 time Vezina Trophy winner, 5 time William M. Jennings Trophy winner, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, Calder Memorial Trophy winner, and most importantly, 3 time Stanley Cup Champion in 1995, 2000, and 2003.
He is the winningest goaltender in NHL history, most games played, most shutouts in NHL history and many more. A definite future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur is everything good about hockey and deserves everything he's ever achieved and more.
New York Islanders: John Tavares
It's no question that not only is John Tavares the best player the New York Islanders have, he's the only bright spot in the dark future for the team with the rejection to build a new arena on the island.
Drafted first overall in 2009, in his first game with the team in the pre-season he spent 22 minutes and 50 seconds on the ice with veterans Doug Weight and Sean Bergenheim. Weight would go on to say, "John’s going to be a big piece of an Islander rebuilding effort."
Tavares finished second behind Matt Duchene among rookies in scoring his first year with 54 points. He would drastically improve his second year with 67 points and so far this year he was elected to his first All-Star game.
It's clear that the Islanders are nothing without John Tavares.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
There is no one more responsible for the stellar play of the New York Rangers this year than their goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
A late round pick in 2000, Lundqvist was thrust into the starting lineup in his rookie season in 2005 after an injury to then-starter Kevin Weekes. Lundqvist would go on to be the first Rangers rookie goaltender to win 20 games since former Rangers great Mike Richter. He would win 30 games that year and would finish third in the running for the Vezina Trophy.
Lundqvist is the only goaltender in NHL history to record more than 30 wins in his first six seasons and is a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist. He holds five Rangers' team records and was named the Rangers' team MVP every year since 2007.
A three-time All-Star, Lundqvist is the Rangers' best player and clearly will be the face of the Rangers for years to come.
Ottawa Senators: Daniel Alfredsson
Late round picks are starting to be major parts in organizations so save your prospects!
Daniel Alfredsson was drafted in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. In his rookie year he won the Calder Memorial Trophy and was the Senators' lone All-Star in the All-Star game—a feat he would accomplish six more times.
People have said that Alfredsson is to the Senators what Steve Yzerman was to the Red Wings in terms of value as he holds numerous team records and is currently the longest serving active captain in the NHL since the 1999-00 season. Hell, April 10, 2010 was named "Daniel Alfredsson Day" in Ottawa in honor of his 1,000th game played with the team.
He has over 400 goals, 600 assists, and over 1,000 points, is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, and is the big face of the franchise for the modern-day Ottawa Senators.
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
The Philadelphia Flyers, while they look to be on the brink of a Stanley Cup win, are currently in limbo as far as the franchise's face goes. In this case, it goes to the best player on the team, Claude Giroux.
A first round pick from 2006, Giroux has improved every year he's played on the main roster, the last two years he's played in every game and has totalled 41 goals and 82 assists for a total of 123 points.
This year has been a breakout year for Giroux in the sense that he could finally be on the map as a superstar: He's been elected to back-to-back All-Star games and was brought up numerous times as the league MVP for the first quarter of this season.
The future is bright for the 24-year-old Giroux playing in a city where the fans could love you one week and hate you the next. So long as he continues his stellar play, Claude Giroux could be a fan favorite in Philadelphia for years to come.
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan
The Phoenix Coyotes have been a very up-and-down franchise for the last five years but one thing's for sure: One definite bright spot has been the loyalty and solid play of Shane Doan.
The last remaining player from the original Winnipeg Jets, Doan was drafted seventh overall in 1995 and played well in his rookie year with the Jets. However the team moved to Phoenix the next year and Doan saw his play drop until the 1999-00 season where he totaled 26 goals and 51 points.
Doan would go on to have nine consecutive 20 goal seasons, which ended after the 2009-10 season where he had 18 goals and 55 points. Doan is a two-time All-Star (in 2004 and 2009) and the 2010 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner for being the player "who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community."
One thing's for sure: No one should ever question the loyalty of Shane Doan.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Is anyone surprised by this? Sid the Kid, despite falling into some injury troubles, is the best player on the Pittsburgh Penguins (sorry Malkin fans). I mean, when Wayne Gretzky says that you're the guy who's gonna break his records, your pretty damn good.
Drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005, Sid the Kid has been playing second fiddle to Alex Ovechkin since they were drafted, but who has a Stanley Cup victory? Yeah, just sayin.
Sid has 11 NHL records so far in his career and he's only 25 years old! Not counting this year, he's played in six NHL seasons and he's recorded over 100 points in four of those seasons. In the 2010-11 season before his concussion, Sid had played in 41 games and already had 66 points. That's incredible, not to mention he's an Olympic Gold Medalist from the 2010 Olympic games (though us Americans would like to forget).
Sid is that good, concussion or no concussion.
St. Louis Blues: Good Question
There really is no defined leader or "face" for the Blues since Keith Tkachuk retired in 2009-10.
A case can be made for a lot of players on the current roster, from David Backes, the current center and 2-time 30 goal scorer, to Barrett Jackman, the longest-tenured player on the roster and an enforcer at heart; from David Perron, the 23-year-old with a bright future, to Jaroslav Halak, the former Montreal Canadien who has manned the pipes in St. Louis for the last two years. And we can't forget Alexander Steen, a guy who made himself in Toronto before coming to St. Louis to post the best statistics of his career.
So we'll leave this up to debate amongst the Bleacher Report faithful.
Who do you believe is the current "face" of the St. Louis Blues organization?
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
This could be a very controversial choice due to the Lightning having two or three players that could be considered "faces" of the franchise.
There's the current captain Vincent LeCavalier and assistant captain Martin St. Louis, both of whom led the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup win in 2004. There's Dwayne Roloson, the ageless wonder in goal who played well enough last season to warrant a one-year extension with Tampa.
However, we're going with the man drafted first overall in 2008, the reigning Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy winner, Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos had 51 goals and 95 points in 2010, 45 goals and 91 points in 2011, and has 48 goals and 81 points in 66 games this season. He won a gold medal in the 2010 Olympic games and is a two-time NHL All-Star.
The scary part about Stamkos? He's only 22 years old. Just imagine how good he's gonna be when he hits his prime. I shudder just thinking about it.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Dion Phaneuf
I'm not just making this pick because of Elisha Cuthbert (but that's a part of it.)Phaneuf is a bright spot in an otherwise dim light that is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After leaving his mark with the Calgary Flames, where he was a two-time All-Star, he was acquired by the Leafs in a multiple player deal in the middle of the 2009-2010 season. Later that year to toast his first full year in Toronto, he was named the 18th captain in team history—a position that he's held since and with that another All-Star selection.
Phaneuf is also known for his charitable work off the ice, where he was nominated by the Flames as an ambassador to the Alberta Children's Hospital, where he participated in events that help sick and injured children during his time in Calgary.
With not much else going for Toronto as their "downward spiral" continues, Dion Phaneuf is the lone star on that team.
Vancouver Canucks: Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Well I couldn't pick just one—it's not right to have one without the other.
Having just one Sedin twin on your team is enough, but having both Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the Vancouver Canucks has been probably one of the bigger reasons for the last two President Trophies.
Somehow in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks pulled off a bunch of trades to acquire the 2nd and 3rd overall selections, allowing them to draft both Daniel and Henrik. Since then, Henrik has established himself as the playmaker of the two twins, while Daniel is the goal scorer.
Henrik was named the team captain in 2010, while Daniel has served as alternate captain since 2008. Henrik is a three-time All-Star (2008, 2011, 2012), while Daniel is a two-time All-Star (2011, 2012). Between the two brothers, there are two Art Ross Trophy wins (Henrik in 2010, Daniel in 2011), a Ted Lindsay award (Daniel), a Hart Trophy win (Henrik), and a Hart Trophy nomination (Daniel). Henrik has also led the league in assists the last three years.
It goes without saying the the Sedin twins are the two most recognizable pro-athletes in the city of Vancouver.
Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin
This is 100 percent obvious. Alexander Ovechkin is arguably the most recognizable face in hockey today. He was drafted by Washington in 2004 first overall and hasn't looked back since.
His resume speaks for itself: Over 330 goals, 340 assists, to total around 679 points, in just seven NHL seasons, a four-time All-Star (2007-2009, 2011), Calder Memorial Trophy winner, 3-time Ted Lindsay Trophy winner, two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, Art Ross Trophy winner, and the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner.
He also became the first man to win the Hart, Ross, Richard, and Lindsay Trophies in the same year, which Ovie did in 2008. Not to mention the numerous NHL records that he's broken so far his career.
Some people like to call Ovie a choke, considering his not-so-stellar playoff record, however I believe that he proved some doubters wrong with his performance this year.
Let the doubters continue to doubt, but Alexander Ovechkin is probably the best player in the NHL today.
Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien
Winnipeg is absolutely thrilled to have their team back, and the players from the former Atlanta Thrashers responded with a terrific season that saw the team finish with 84 points for a 10th place finish barely out of the playoffs but better than any season in Atlanta.
One man who stepped up and led the Jets was Dustin Byfuglien. Acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 after winning the Stanley Cup, the Thrashers (at the time) moved Byfuglien to his natural defense position. Byfuglien responded by having his best season in the NHL with 53 points.
Last year in Winnipeg, Byfuglien once again had 53 points, despite playing in less games. He was elected to the All-Star game the last two years to go with his Stanley Cup win in Chicago. He was also elected to be an alternate captain a few months into the 2010 season.
Needless to say, Dustin Byfuglien seems sure to lead this revamped Winnipeg Jets team back into the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Thanks for Reading
On behalf of myself and my writing partner Tony Callens, we really do appreciate you taking the time to read this piece. These 31 men all can be tied to their contributions to their specific team and are some of the most recognizable faces in hockey, which gives the impression that the NHL will continue to produce exciting and fun-to-watch hockey for years to come.
Thanks for the read.