Each NHL Team's Most Iconic Player
There are players that are automatically identified with their teams. Their picture for want of a better word becomes an icon for that organization. They come not only to symbolize their team but to attract veneration in their own right.
Gordie Howe for all intents and purposes is the Detroit Red Wings. Jean Beliveau is the Montreal Canadiens.
This is my attempt to name each NHL team's most iconic, easily identifiable player. This is the player whose picture instantly evokes the team he played for.
Anaheim Ducks : Teemu Selanne
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Teemu Selanne is an iconic NHL player. He was a Winnipeg Jet draft pick who scored 76 goals for them as a rookie.
Traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in a cost cutting measure by Winnipeg he had a great first run with them. He made it to the playoffs twice and scored over 50 goals and over 105 points in a season twice for the Ducks while teamed with Anaheim Mighty Duck first round pick Paul Kariya.
Selanne went on to play in San Jose and then Colorado with Paul Kariya again. Injuries had curtailed his production.
After the lockout he signed with the Mighty Ducks again. The time off had allowed him to rehabilitate his knee and he scored 90 points with Anaheim that year. He was a key member of that team as they made it to the conference finals in 2005-06.
The next year he had 15 points in 21 playoff games as the Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup finals.
Selanne has stayed in Anaheim and continued to contribute offensively from the second line. It looks like he will finish his career in Anaheim.
Candidates: Paul Kariya, Scott Niedermayer, J.S. Giguere, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry
Boston Bruins: Milt Schmidt
The easy iconic pick for the Boston Bruins is of course Bobby Orr. I will not argue with anyone who suggests Bobby Orr should be the Boston Bruins most iconic player.
Milt Schmidt however was the Boston Bruins most iconic player of the 1940's and early 1950's. He was a key member of the 1938-39 and 1940-41 Stanley Cup winning teams in Boston.
He coached the Bruins from his retirement in 1955 until 1961. After a year and a half away he came back to coach the Bruins until 1967.
Schmidt was the general manager in Boston who orchestrated the deal that brought in Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Blackhawks for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris. This is often regarded as one of the best (or worst if you are a Blackhawk fan) hockey trades of all time.
Schmidt was a key player for two Boston Bruin Stanley cups and the general manager for two more of their six total Stanley Cup victories. That earns him some support I believe to be considered the Boston Bruins most iconic player ever.
Candidates: Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk
Buffalo Sabres: Gilbert Perreault
Gilbert Perreault was the Buffalo Sabres first draft pick ever and probably the most talented player ever to put on a Sabre uniform. He is one of the greatest talents ever to play in the NHL. He was capable of doing more things at top speed than almost any player I have ever watched play the game.
A lot of love has come Perreault's way the last few years. He made TSN's 10 most talented hockey players of all time list last year. New Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula had nothing but praise for the former Sabre star.
Generally for Buffalo, who, like Vancouver, has never won a cup since they joined the league in 1971 there aren't a lot of other good choices for their most iconic player. Great players have come and gone but few have spent their careers in Buffalo.
Perhaps if this version of the team finally wins a cup Ryan Miller or another star from the present day will become the player automatically recognized as Mr. Sabre.
Candidates: Dominik Hasek, Pat Lafontaine, Phil Housley, Tim Horton
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
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Captain Jarome Iginla has been the face of the Flames since he came over to Calgary with Corey Millen in a deal for Joe Nieuwendyk back in 1996. He is currently starting his 15th regular season in Calgary.
Iginla became the star on a team that was dumping all their expensive players through the late nineties. He and the Flames missed the playoffs for the first seven full seasons he spent there. Yet Iginla was a constant quality player for the team. His talent, good attitude and genial nature allowed him to endure the years of sub par teams that Calgary ownership put on the ice.
Iginla became team captain in 2003 and put an end to the revolving door that previous team captains through the 1990's and early 2000's had been rotated through.
Jarome Iginla is a tough as nails power forward who despite not winning a cup in Calgary has made himself the face of the Flames and their most iconic player.
Candidates: Lanny Macdonald, Mike Vernon, Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmour
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal
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A young captain who led a young team to Stanley Cup success early in his tenure is an easy choice as the most iconic Carolina Hurricane ever. Eric Staal and Cam Ward are the unifying elements on what generally have been competitive and even dangerous Hurricane teams.
Staal has been a consistent 70 point a year player since his second season in the NHL. The team named him captain in 2005 while he was still only 25.
There really is no other choice for most iconic Hurricane though Rod Brinadamour and Cam Ward probably deserve honourable mentions.
If the team's history in Hartford is considered than Ron Francis has to be considered. Eric Staal probably still gets the nod because his entire career has been in Carolina and he was a key member of the cup winning team in 2006 and during the cup run in 2009.
Candidates: Cam Ward, Ron Francis, Rod Brindamour
Chicago Blackhawks: Bobby Hull
Bobby Hull is the iconic Chicago Blackhawk. He entered the league as a 19-year-old kid who was expected to take the NHL by storm. In his third year he led the NHL with 39 goals and 81 points in 70 games.
He scored 50 goals during the 1961-62 season becoming only the third NHL player ever to do that in a regular season after Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion. Hull went on to score 50 or more goals in a season three more times. He lead the NHL in goal scoring in seven of his 15 seasons.
Bobby helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 1961, their first in 33 years.
The golden jet was a fast skating hard shooting NHL icon let alone a Chicago Blackhawk icon. With Hull in the lineup the Blackhawks were a constant threat to win the Stanley Cup. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals three more times with Hull in the lineup.
Despite his defection to the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA Bobby Hull is the iconic Chicago Blackhawk.
Candidates: Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote, Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito
Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic
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There are three possible answers to this question: Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy. I settled on the player who spent his entire great career with the organization that was to become the Colorado Avalanche.
Burnaby Joe played 13 seasons in Colorado after seven in Quebec. He won two Stanley Cups with Colorado and was one of the reasons they were such a dangerous teams in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
Candidates: Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash
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Rick Nash is another young captain who is the major and for the longest time only star. He was thrown into the NHL fire as an 18-year-old back in 2002-03. Even while never playing with a legitimate first line NHL offensive center he has scored 30 goals or more in a season in six of his previous eight NHL seasons. He scored 40 or more goals twice. Finally teamed with a real first line center in Jeff Carter the hope is that he will take a step forward offensively.
Nash and his Blue Jackets have only made the playoffs once (2008-09) and that season they lost four straight games to the Detroit Red Wings. A little more success would insure Rick a long tenure as the iconic Columbus Blue Jacket. Right now he holds the spot because there is no one else.
Dallas Stars: Mike Modano
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Mike Modano burst into the NHL as a 19-year-old rookie with 75 points in 80 games with Minnesota North Stars. He went on to play 20 great seasons with the organization including 16 in Dallas.
He was a point a game player during their Stanley Cup winning run in 1998-99 and the next year in the playoffs when they lost in the final to the New Jersey Devils.
Modano had 1374 points in 1499 NHL regular season games. During the Bulk of his career in Dallas he was a slick point a game center.
There is no one in the organization who matches Modano for offensive production and longevity.
Detroit Red Wings: Gordie Howe
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Gordie Howe is one of the greatest players ever to play NHL hockey. Mr. Hockey lead the NHL in career scoring from the time he broke Maurice "Rocket" Richard's record in 1963 until Wayne Gretzky surpassed him in 1989.
Gordie was the best NHL player of the 1950's winning four of his six Hart Memorial MVP trophies and five of his six scoring championship Art Ross trophies in that decade. Maurice Richard on his retirement in 1960 acknowledged Howe as the greatest NHL player at the time.
Gordie still gets in the conversation of greatest NHL players ever. Now though he usually comes in fourth behind Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux in the greatest player discussion. The Hockey News had him third when they came out with their list of the top 100 NHL players ever back in 1997.
Gordie was certainly the most durable NHL player ever. The question has to be asked too, would a team of Wayne Gretzky's survive a seven game series against a team of Gordie Howe's? Maybe not.
Candidates: Steve Yzerman, Ted Lindsay, Nicklas Lidstrom, Terry Sawchuck
Edmonton Oilers: Wayne Gretzky
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When the greatest player of all time plays for your organization he is your most iconic player even if he is traded away in the middle of his career.
Candidates: Mark Messier, Paul Coffey
Florida Panthers: Scott Mellanby
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When you are an organization that has had as little success as the Florida Panthers have your most memorable player may just be the one who killed the rat. Scott Mellanby played seven and a half seasons in Florida.
He had a career best 32 goals and 70 points for them during the 1995-96 season. He was a team leader in the playoff run that took them to the Stanley Cup finals that year where they lost to Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche in four straight games.
He was rewarded by being named the second captain in Panther history in 1997 following Brian Skrudland.
Candidates: John Vanbiesbrouck, Robert Svehla, Pavel Bure
Los Angeles Kings : Wayne Gretzky
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My apologies to Marcel Dionne but when the greatest player of all time spends even seven and a half seasons on your team and gets you to your one and only Stanley Cup final appearance in 43 NHL seasons he is your iconic player.
Candidates: Marcel Dionne, Rogatien Vachon
Minnesota Wild: Marion Gaborik
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Part of the problem with younger organizations that have yet to experience NHL success is that they don't have a player who automatically represents the team in people's minds.
The most talented Wild player in their brief history was Marion Gaborik. he was the first pick the Wild ever made in the NHL entry draft. In 2000 they took the Slovakian scorer third overall behind Rick Dipietro and Dany Heatley.
The 18 year old was thrust into the Wild line-up immediately and managed to produce 36 points that first season. In many ways the offensively explosive Gaborik plays a game that is the antithesis of the safe, controlled style the Wild adapted early under their first coach Jacques Lemaire.
Marion Gaborik often makes you think of the qualities that are the opposite of what the Minnesota Wild have come to be known for. Despite that he was a solid 30 goal scorer who showed explosive bursts of speed. He had 17 points in 18 playoff games when the Wild made it to the Western Conference finals in 2003.
Gaborik's high risk style also left him open to injuries. His expensive contract and the fact that he has played an average 54.4 regular season games a year for his last five years in Minnesota made him expendable in that organizations estimation.
Despite that and until someone better comes along Marion Gaborik is/was the most iconic Minnesota Wild player to date.
Future success might see a more complete player like a Mikko Koivu becoming the image of the franchise.
Candidates: Mikko Koivu, Nicklas Backstrom
Montreal Canadiens: Jean Beliveau
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Jean Beliveau is one of the most beloved players in Montreal Canadiens history. He spent a decade as Montreal Canadiens captain and always comported himself with style and dignity.
Beliveau won ten Stanley Cups in his 18 years in the NHL. He only missed the playoffs once in that time. The talented Beliveau was the complete offensive player, scorer, passer and stick handler extraordinaire. He lead the league in point scoring once, goal scoring twice and in assists twice.
Beliveau was an early, slightly less frenetic version of Mario Lemieux. He had a stickhandling ability that rarely is matched by anyone I've ever watched play in the NHL.
The big was also regarded as one of the most gentlemanly players ever to play the game. People who hated the Montreal Canadiens often still had a high regard for "le Gros Bill", Jean Beliveau.
Candidates: Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Guy Lafleur
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber
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The Nashville Predators are another difficult franchise to find an iconic player for. The team philosophy has involved not seeking out free agents but drafting and developing their own players. They have been very successful at the latter. Unfortunately when those players develop they tend to sign with other teams. No one it seems is ever likely to be a career Predator.
The latest great player the Predators appear to be in danger of losing is their current best player defenseman Shea Weber. Weber went to arbitration with Nashville this offseason and was awarded a one year $7.5 million contract. This number represents the biggest cap hit for any defenseman in the NHL this year.
Weber, fellow defensive pillar Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne are all free agents at the end of this season. While Weber is still a restricted free agent Suter and Rinne are unrestricted and all three were crucial to Nashville's success in the playoffs last year.
Nashville has to wonder where they will get the money to pay for all of them. This time next year the Nashville Predators may be breaking in their new, latest 'iconic" player.
Candidates: Ryan Suter
New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur
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Martin Brodeur brought success to the once decried "Mickey Mouse" franchise in New Jersey. He played for them as a 19-year-old during the 1991-92 season. In two years he was the team starter. By 1994-95 he lead them to the first New Jersey Devil Stanley Cup with a 16-4 record and .927 save percentage in the playoffs. He was nudged out for the Conn Smythe trophy that year by the Stanley Cup losing goalie J.S. Giguere of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Brodeur was the goalie of record for three more Stanley Cup runs, two of them successful, by the Devils. It was only as Brodeur aged and his skills declined that New Jersey stopped being an annual threat to win the cup.
Candidates: Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Holik,
New York Islanders: Denis Potvin
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Denis Potvin was one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game. He was the first great player that the New York Islanders drafted. He went first overall in 1973, the Islanders second draft in the league. He lasted until 1988 and was a key member in all four New York Islander Stanley Cups.
Denis Potvin was the perfect blending of offensive skill and physical nastiness. He played on great teams with great players but Potvin was the greatest of all of them.
Candidates: Brian Trottier, Mike Bossy, Butch Goring, Billy Smith, John Tonelli
New York Rangers: Brian Leetch
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Brian Leetch was the Conn Smythe trophy winner when the New York Rangers won their Stanley Cup back in 1994. It was their fourth cup in franchise history but their first since 1940. A defenseman, it was Leetch who lead the Rangers in playoff scoring that offseason not Mark Messier.
Leetch scored 34 points in 23 playoff games that year. He was second all time to only Paul Coffey who scored 37 points in the playoffs in 1985 when the Oilers won their second Stanley Cup in a row.
Candidates: Andy Bathgate, Rod Gilbert, Mark Messier, Mike Richter
Ottawa Senators : Daniel Alfredsson
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Daniel Alfredsson has spent his career as an Ottawa Senator. He was the NHL Rookie of the Year winner back in the 1995-96 season when he broke in with Ottawa. This despite being a sixth round (133rd overall) entry draft pick in 1994. He has had a much more successful run than Ottawa's first round pick (third overall) that year, Radek Bonk.
He has scored 1027 points in 1062 regular season games, to date, in the NHL. He has 88 points in 107 playoff games for Ottawa so far. He is nine goals away from hitting the 400 goal mark this season, again all done as an Ottawa Senator.
Daniel has been one of the best NHL players period, over the last decade in the league. He has been a constant stabilizing force on an Ottawa team that has gone through a complete rebuilding to competing to rebuilding cycle during his tenure. Through that time Alfredsson has been the one, consistently good, constant.
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan
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Shane Doan began his career as a Winnipeg Jet. He was taken seventh overall in the 1995 NHL entry draft. The Jets moved to Phoenix the next year and Doan is the only player to play for Phoenix in every year they have been in existence.
Doan has consistently played quality hard-nosed hockey for the beleaguered desert dogs. He has scored at least 20 goals in a season for the Coyotes 10 times.
He has just turned 35 and has three goals and seven points in four games to lead the Coyotes in scoring so far this year.
Doan is a quality NHL power forward who supplies durability along with talent to his Arizona team.
Candidates: Keith Tkachuk, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeremy Roenick
Phialdelphia Flyers: Bobby Clarke
The Philadelphia Flyers have produced the greatest group of star NHL players of any of the teams that joined the league in the 1967 expansion. Bobby Clarke is the greatest Flyer ever to play the game.
The indefatigable Clarke is the iconic Philadelphia Flyer. His willingness to do anything to win a hockey game became legendary.
Bobby Clarke helped the Philadelphia Flyers become the first NHL expansion team to win a Stanley Cup and they won two in a row in an era that featured Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins, Guy Lafleur and the Montreal Canadiens, Gilbert Perreault and the Buffalo Sabres and Brad Park and the New York Rangers.
Clarke managed his diabetes in order to become a professional hockey player.
With Clarke leading them the Philadelphia Flyers were always a dangerous team to play and a threat to win the Stanley Cup. He was the leagues most valuable player three times in his career.
He went on to become the General Manager of the Flyers and lead them through another era of success when Eric Lindros starred in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux
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When one the greatest players of all time plays for your organization and leads you to the first two Stanley Cups in team history and then returns to rescue the struggling team from financial ruin he is that team's most iconic player.
Sidney Crosby will be hard pressed ever to supplant Mario Lemieux as the Pittsburgh Penguin icon. Only a generational star could hope to do it.
Candidates: Sidney Crosby
St. Louis Blues: Brett Hull
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The St Louis Blues were one of those second six expansion teams who have been good enough to survive since the 1967 expansion but, like the Los Angeles Kings, not good enough to win a Stanley Cup.
The playoff structure that saw the six expansion teams placed in one division allowed them to make it to the Stanley Cup finals for their first three years in existence. Unfortunately these expansion teams couldn't compete with the champions who came from the Eastern Division which consisted entirely of the original six franchises. Those Blues teams in their first three years of existence went 0-12 in three Stanley Cup finals.
Since then St Louis has almost always been a good team, making the playoffs most years, but have only made it to the conference finals twice since then.
Brett Hull is one of the most talented players ever to play with the St Louis Blues. One of the greatest goal scorers of all time he had seasons where he scored 86, 72 and 70 goals in St Louis.
As with most players who starred with the Blues his career was only partly in St Louis. Still the ten years he spent in St Louis were 10 of the best offensive years any player has had ever. The Calgary Flame cast-off found his niche with the Blues and established himself as one of the NHL's all-time best snipers.
Candidates: Gary Unger, Bernie Federko
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau
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The San Jose Sharks are an NHL team embarking on their 20th year in the league who have yet to win a cup. The last two seasons where they finally made it to the conference finals only to lose have been their best. Their only other best chance to win a cup came when they lost to the Calgary Flames in six games back in the 2004 conference finals.
Patrick Marleau, like Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa, is a talented player who has been with his team since he was drafted. Though good players who constantly contributed to the point of becoming team icons, they have also become identified with their teams inability to win a Stanley Cup.
Marleau was a second overall draft pick back in 1997 and expectations have dogged him throughout his career. Still he has put in ten NHL seasons where he has scored more than 20 goals and five where he scored more than 30, all for the Sharks.
While Alfredsson's story is mostly told the 32 year old Marleau still has the chance to rewrite his, especially if the San Jose Sharks can finally manage to win a Stanley Cup.
Candidates: Joe Thornton, Vincent Damphousse
Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St Louis
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Martin St. Louis was a Calgary Flames cast-off who came to Tampa Bay back in 2000 with little fanfare. Never drafted into the NHL St. Louis is one of a host of great NHLers who at one point in their careers were considered too small to play in the NHL.
St. Louis is playing in his 11th great season for the Lightning. He won the NHL's scoring trophy and the league's MVP trophy back in 2003-04 when holding and obstruction were rampant. The assumption at the time was you had to be a power forward to skate through that mess. St Louis was simply fast enough to skate past it.
Last season at the age of 35 he was second in the NHL in scoring with 99 points.
Steven Stamkos at some time will be Tampa Bay's iconic player. Right now though it is still the amazingly improbable Martin St. Louis.
Candidates: Vincent Lecavalier, Nikolai Khabibulin, Brad Richards, Dan Boyle
Toronto Maple Leafs: Dave Keon
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Dave Keon was the Conn Smythe trophy winner the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, back after the 1966-67 season.
Dave Keon won four Stanley cups with the Maple Leafs and was a key contributor on each team. Keon who should have been an honoured veteran in Toronto was driven to the WHA by owner Harold Ballard.
It's rare when a player who was so iconic for an organization becomes so unconnected to that seem team.
Candidates: Ted "Teeder" Kennedy, Johnny Bower , Tim Horton, Frank Mahovlich, Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Darryl Sittler
Vancouver Canucks: Trevor Linden
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When the Vancouver Canucks finally win a Stanley Cup Trevor Linden will likely be displaced as Mr Canuck. Until that time, the player from Medicine Hat, Alberta who spent most of his first ten and last six seasons in Vancouver is likely to be the one you think of when you think Vancouver Canucks.
Trevor was the second overall pick in the 1988 NHL entry draft. The 18-year-old joined the team an scored 30 goals and 59 points that first year. Visions of him being a 50 goal scorer and 100 point man had to be dancing through every Canuck fans head.
Unfortunately Trevor Linden, while a complete NHL forward with offensive skills (scored 30 goals six times in a season) he was never the offensive force fans hoped he would be. His best season came in 1995-96 when he had 80 points in 82 games. He also made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994 and had 25 points in 24 playoff games as he and the Canucks lost to the New York rangers in the final.
Look for him to be supplanted at some time but right now Linden is still the iconic Canuck.
Candidates: Markus Naslund, Pavel Bure, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin
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Last year the mercuric Alexander Ovechkin would have been the undisputed iconic Capital. As his offensive production wanes criticism or at least concern is starting to emerge around the NHL.
During his short six year career Alex has scored over 105 points and 50 goals more in four of those seasons. He won the Calder Memorial trophy as the rookie of the year in 2005-06 beating out fellow Wunderkind Sidney Crosby.
He won the Art Ross trophy as the leagues leading scorer in 2007-08. He has won two Hart Memorial trophies as the leagues most valuable player and three Ted Lindsay trophies as the Players Association MVP. He has won the Maurice Richard trophy as the leagues leading goal scorer twice.
Many great players have played for the Washington Capitals but none have threatened to be the league's best player before.
Ovechkin needs to win a Stanley Cup to cement his spot in NHL and Washington Capital history. he still has plenty of time to do it.
Candidates: Petr Bondra, Rod Langway, Olaf Kolzig, Mike Gartner
Original Winnipeg Jets
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The original Winnipeg Jets, a team that became the Phoenix Coyotes of course had their own history and their own stars. Bobby Hull, the Golden Jet, was their iconic player. His signing not only insured the Jets success for years to come but helped make the fledgling WHA look legitimate.
Candidates: Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Thomas Steen, Phil Housley
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele ?
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The new franchise in Winnipeg made it's first big move when they drafted Mark Schiefele seventh overall in the 2011 entry draft.
Scheifele has started well for the struggling ex-Thrashers. He scored his first goal last night in a shoot-out loss to the Leafs.
In a perfect world the Jets' first first round draft pick develops into that iconic player that leads them to eventual success. The youngster sprang to the top of the Winnipeg talent pool immediately when he was drafted.
The Atlanta Thrashers before them drafted a fair number of talented players but were never able to become a consistent playoff team, let alone a successful one.
Winnipeg with a new owner dedicated to winning is hoping for more.
Candidates: Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evander Kane