How's your summer going?
Since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup back in June, I've had a hectic travel schedule of work, charity events and pleasure. Wisconsin twice in June for an Andy North charity golf event and Blake Geoffrion's charity hockey game, then off to Los Angeles for an ESPYS charity golf outing and a SportsCenter broadcast from ESPN's L.A. studio.
After that, a wedding in North Carolina with college buddies, then a week on Cape Cod with the kids. Al Pacino told me never to be a name-dropper, but I've had breakfast with Aaron Rodgers, interviewed J.J. Watt, had cold beverages with Adam Burish and rode an ESPYS golf shuttle while a chatty Barry Sanders asked me 50 questions about my job at ESPN.
August is back to a normal work schedule. Sunday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight anchoring SportsCenter. So, why not throw in some hockey interweb content for you to chew on? Here we go.
Back in February 2009, I constructed a players-only Mount Rushmore for all 30 NHL teams. The criteria: a combination of impact, love and production, determined by using both sides of the brain, some research and some feel. It's not all about numbers.
August is the one month of the year when the lights on the NHL house are mostly off. So, to give you some by-the-water summertime reading, I decided to go back and look at the list again. Will the list for your favorite team be the same, or will it have changed in 6½ years?
I've included what I wrote in 2009, and an assessment of what has (or hasn't) changed since then. The players chosen for each team are in alphabetical order.
2009 team/theory: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Paul Kariya, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. Giguere has a Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Kariya was the face of the franchise for 606 games. Niedermayer was the difference in winning the Cup, and Selanne is the franchise leader in games and goals.
2015: Well, things have changed for the Ducks. Corey Perry has won a Maurice Richard Trophy and a Hart Trophy. Ryan Getzlaf is going to be a 1,200-game/1,000-point Hall of Famer. I think Getzlaf actually could and should be more productive if he put his mind to winning a scoring title. His goal should be three shots per game. Kariya played 606 games with the Ducks, so you could put Getzlaf or Perry on the mountain now, with each having a Cup and a long-term contract. Niedermayer, while the best player of the mountain in terms of overall career, played just 371 games for the Ducks, so he also could be replaced. You could probably replace Kariya and Niedermayer with Getzlaf and Perry right now. So: Getzlaf, Giguere, Perry, Selanne.
2009 team/theory: Ray Ferraro, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Odgers. Kovalchuk is the only lock in Atlanta. Heatley played only 190 games there, but he was a symbol of so much hope for the franchise. Chicken Parm was popular wherever he played, and hey, it's my Mount Rushmore list. Odgers was popular and fearless. You wonder why this franchise is in so much trouble? It has Mount Rushmore issues.
2015: When we did the initial construction, the Atlanta Thrashers were still a thing. We will retire this Mount Rushmore and wait on the recently minted Winnipeg Jets for a few more years. Plus, the Jets have a Coyotes connection below.
2009 team/theory: Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, Cam Neely and Bobby Orr. Orr would be on the NHL's all-time Mount Rushmore monument. Bourque, who played in more games than any other Bruin, was made of stone. Esposito scored more goals per game than any other Bruin, and it's hard to ignore his massive totals. Neely scored almost as many goals per game as Esposito, and no Bruin combined more toughness and talent than Neely. He forechecked, he body checked, he fought and he scored.
2015: This is not likely change for a long time. Patrice Bergeron would have a shot at the Bruins' No. 2 Mount Rushmore team. If he unexpectedly has a very productive career in his 30s and wins another Cup, Bergeron could threaten Esposito or Neely, but I don't think he will have the numbers and the Bruins look like they won't be an elite Eastern team for a while. The Tyler Seguin trade took care of that. So: Bourque, Esposito, Neely, Orr.
2009 team/theory: Dominik Hasek, Pat LaFontaine, Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault. Six Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies as MVP for Hasek. He's the greatest Sabre of all time. Perreault is the franchise's all-time leader in games, goals and assists. Martin is one of the most underrated offensive players of all time. But determining the fourth Sabres player on the team's Mount Rushmore took some time. Because of LaFontaine's personality, talent, popularity, incredible fundraising and most goals per game in Sabres history, I gave him the nod.
2015: Nothing has changed here. The hope is that Jack Eichel can get on the list by 2027. So: Hasek, LaFontaine, Martin, Perreault.
Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames
2009 team/theory: Theo Fleury, Jarome Iginla, Al MacInnis and Mike Vernon. The Flames were a tough one. Even though he hasn't won a Cup, Iginla is Mr. Flame. No one has played more games in a Calgary uniform. MacInnis won the Conn Smythe Trophy in Calgary and drips class. Only Iginla has more goals than Theo, and only MacInnis has more career assists in Calgary. The fourth one was tough. I love Gary Roberts. I love Joe Nieuwendyk. But I gave the edge to the Calgary-born Vernon. By the way, Hakan Loob gets his own mountain.
2015: After we made this list, the Flames missed the playoffs every season until the most recent one. This mountain is safe for a long time. So: Fleury, Iginla, MacInnis, Vernon.
Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers
2009 team/theory: Rod Brind'Amour, Kevin Dineen, Ron Francis and Eric Staal. Francis is hockey royalty, the greatest Whale of them all. Dineen is hockey heart and soul. Staal is a stallion on skates. Brind'Amour is a coach's dream, the ultimate self-motivator.
2015: Three coaches and no playoffs for the Hurricanes since this original Mount Rushmore was constructed. The Hurricanes have made the playoffs five times in 17 years in North Carolina, and the Penguins just hired the man who was Carolina's GM for all but the final season of that run. So: Brind'Amour, Dineen, Francis, Staal.
2009 team/theory: Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard. Hull and Mikita are the locks on this mountain. You could have Glenn Hall, Doug Wilson or Steve Larmer on your mountain. Heck, Al Secord might have moved you with his heart and courage. Esposito didn't win a Cup, as Hall did, but he won 143 more games and played at least 200 more in net. No Blackhawk averaged more assists per game than Savard, and only Mikita and Hull had more career points as Hawks. Plus, Savard was so exciting: a small man who made Chicago Stadium shake with his magic.
2015: The Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane first overall in 2007, named Joel Quenneville head coach four games into the 2008-09 season, and everything changed. In the past seven seasons, the Blackhawks have won three Cups, been to two other conference finals, and have had just two first-round exits. So: Hull, Kane, Mikita, Toews.
Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques
2009 team/theory: Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Peter Stastny. This was fun. Forsberg, Sakic and Roy are locks. The Quebec years still outnumber the Denver years, but the success isn't close. Michel Goulet was a prodigious Nordique. Stastny averaged as many assists per game as Forsberg. He was an under-the-radar player during his day.
2015: Sakic and Roy now run the team with a lot of young players. Nathan MacKinnon is the one guy who could get going and build a Rushmore career. I was surprised MacKinnon regressed last season, but remember, he was just 19 years old for the entire season. He turns 20 on Sept 1, and is one of the players I'm most curious about this coming season. So: Forsberg, Roy, Sakic, Stastny.
2009 team/theory: Steve Mason, Rick Nash, Jody Shelley and David Vyborny. Columbus is the only existing team that hasn't yet made the postseason in its franchise history. Nash is certainly Mr. Blue Jacket. Shelley married an Ohio girl -- that's a major plus. Vyborny was a real good player for 500 games in Columbus. I am projecting Mason as a franchise goalie, and once he gets healthy, he will help lead the Jackets to their first playoff berth. I love his athleticism and intensity. I like my goalies to be extroverts.
2015: Mason did lead the Jackets to their first playoff appearances that season, but he had a poor playoff series against Detroit and is now a Flyer. With 289 goals in 674 games with the team, Nash would remain on the mountain. Sergei Bobrovsky replaces Mason, having won the Vezina Trophy in 2012-13. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ryan Johansen keeps improving and seems destined for the mountain. Johansen shot less last season, and while his goals went down, his assists went up. I hope he gets his shots up this season and tries to be a 30-goal, 60-assist guy. The Blue Jackets are surrounding him with better players, which will help his production. Columbus hopes Brandon Saad will develop into the 30-goal guy he is trending toward becoming. Saad will be a first-line guy playing with a great player in Johansen. Saad's increased ice time and shots on goal should mean 30-plus goals. So: Bobrovsky, Johansen, Nash, Vyborny.
Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars
2009 team/theory: Neal Broten, Dino Ciccarelli, Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov. This one was tough. Modano is a lock. Broten is a Minnesota icon. No player in Stars history scored more goals per game than Ciccarelli, and he was a great playoff performer. Plus, he deserves at least one major hockey award. You could go a few ways on the fourth head, but I love Zubov's game. He's an artist and a multiple-Cup winner.
2015: Dallas has made the playoffs only once since the original list, but the Stars haven't been terrible. That means their draft picks weren't single-digit ones, and in the socialist salary-cap system, that can keep a team average for a long time. Luckily, the Stars will be bailed out after being handed Tyler Seguin. A healthy next decade and Seguin will be on the mountain, and he will likely take Jamie Benn up with him. So: Benn, Modano, Seguin, Zubov.
2009 team/theory: Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Terry Sawchuk and Steve Yzerman. Eleven Stanley Cups for the Red Wings. I believe Gordie, Lidstrom and Stevie Y are locks. I went with Sawchuk. He won three Cups in four seasons as the Wings' netminder in the early '50s.
2009 team/theory: Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Todd Marchant played more games as an Oiler than Coffey, but Coffey's skate blades had a lovely relationship with Edmonton ice. Gretzky had 583 goals in 696 games as an Oiler. Re-read that sentence 14 times and see whether you feel lightheaded. You could argue Glenn Anderson or Jari Kurri in the place of Fuhr.
2015: Can't imagine this mountain ever changing. So: Coffey, Fuhr, Gretzky, Messier.
2015: Four playoff appearances in the Panthers' 21 seasons. The last playoff series they won was the 1996 Eastern Conference finals (or, since I was hired by ESPN; sorry, Florida). They still don't have that no-doubt game-changer, but they have drafted well recently and at last have a foundation. They'll have Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad up on that mountain in 10-12 years. I really like Ekblad. He is big and has really good instincts. And the Panthers need Barkov to get to as close to Anze Kopitar-ville as possible. So: Bure, Jokinen, Luongo, Mellanby.
2009 team/theory: Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor. Dionne played 921 games as a King and scored 550 goals. Gretzky isn't in the top 10 in games played in Los Angeles, but he is the most important King of all time. Robitaille scored more goals, 557, than any King. Taylor played the most games in L.A.
2015: When this original carving took place, the Kings were at the end of the worst stretch in franchise history, six straight seasons of missing the playoffs. Suddenly, they have won two of the past four Cups and everything has changed. Cups trump everything. Jonathan Quick is building a Hall of Fame résumé with his regular-season and postseason résumé. Anze Kopitar will be a 1,000-game/1,000-point guy like Taylor, but he has two Cups and will bump him. Drew Doughty is 25 and has already played 524 career games. He's had two monster playoffs and is pretty much a lock to join Kopitar and Quick. So: Dionne, Doughty, Kopitar, Quick.
2009 team/theory: Andrew Brunette, Brent Burns, Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston. Brunette scored the last goal given up by Patrick Roy. That remains the biggest goal in Wild history. Rolston had three gigantic seasons in Minnesota. Gaborik is one of the top talents in the NHL. I wish he had an insatiable appetite for hockey and scoring goals. I'm looking forward to hearing whom Wild fans would pick.
2015: Mikko Koivu has had a nice career in Minnesota and he is now on the mountain. Zach Parise has played only three seasons in Minnesota, but he is already the best player in Wild history and is locked up long-term. Ryan Suter is the best defenseman in Wild history and he will likely end up on the mountain as well. So: Gaborik, Koivu, Parise, Suter.
2009 team/theory: Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Plante and Maurice Richard. I think Beliveau, Richard and Lafleur are locks. The goalie was the tough call. Plante or Ken Dryden? Plante won six Cups in eight seasons. So did Dryden. Dryden's playoff record is 80-32, and he is a great writer, which goes a long way with me. But I went with Plante.
2015: This mountain is closed. Forever. So: Beliveau, Lafleur, Plante and Richard.
2015: Nashville has made the playoffs in eight of its 16 seasons, pretty good for a team that started from scratch. Shea Weber is now up on the mountain. Weber logs huge minutes and is productive at even strength and special teams. He is underrated among parochial, casual NHL fans. He's forging a Hall of Fame career. Pekka Rinne is also now on the Preds' Mount Rushmore. Rinne had another terrific last season, winning 41 times in 64 starts. Interestingly, Martin Erat could eventually be replaced by the man he was traded for, Filip Forsberg. With 26 goals at age 20 last season, Forsberg appears to be the real deal. Saucy mitts and a great skater. So: Erat, Legwand, Rinne, Weber.
New Jersey Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts
2009 team/theory: Martin Brodeur, John MacLean, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens. I asked a Devils fan here at ESPN for his Devils Mount Rushmore, and he didn't mention MacLean or Niedermayer. I'm stunned at the lack of respect for Niedermayer in Devil Nation. Am I missing something here? Help me. MacLean played 934 games in New Jersey and is the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer, by a lot. You could make a case for Patrik Elias, and if I'd used the projection model that I used in other cases here, I probably should have included him.
2015: Elias has now replaced MacLean on the mountain. With 1,000-plus games, 1,000-plus points and two Stanley Cups, he'll get his number retired. So: Brodeur, Elias, Niedermayer, Stevens.
2009 team/theory: Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier. Bossy, Potvin and Trottier are the locks. The fourth spot has other candidates. I couldn't choose between Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies. Plus, Billy Smith gave this team a mixed martial arts presence before mixed martial arts was mainstream.
2015: Smith provides an opening for current captain John Tavares, and I think Tavares will replace Smith when it is all said and done. He is a brilliant player who is serious and dedicated to his craft. So: Bossy, Potvin, Tavares, Trottier.
2009 team/theory: Ed Giacomin, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier and Mike Richter. This was another tough one. The Rangers don't have a long line of hockey legends to choose from. Messier and Leetch were the easy ones. Giacomin is a Hall of Famer with only 266 career wins. He was a beloved Ranger. Goaltenders had so much personality in Giacomin's era because of the smaller equipment, no masks, then the smaller masks, and because of the robotic goaltending many goalies employ today. Goalies were more artistic in Giacomin's era. Today, it is more of a science. That is why Tim Thomas is so popular in Boston. He plays like goalies of the past, more with his heart than his head.
The fourth Ranger was a tough call. I asked a big Rangers fan here at ESPN, and he said Rod Gilbert. I can respect that, but I think Richter also was artistic and so much fun to watch. The save on Pavel Bure's shot during the 1994 Stanley Cup finals was iconic. So was winning the Cup. I like Mike.
2015: Henrik Lundqvist is in and Giacomin is out. The King is one of the best competitors in the NHL. There is no one with more of an over-my-dead-body mentality. I mean, he just empties the tank and it could end up shortening his career down the road. I don't see him playing until he is 40 like other goalies. He will be exhausted. So: Leetch, Lundqvist, Messier, Richter.
2009 team/theory: Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden and Jason Spezza. Only the new Ottawa Senators apply here. Sorry, Cy Denneny. Alfredsson is Mr. Senator. Spezza has averaged better than a point per game in his career, and his numbers barely drop off in 40 playoff games. I haven't witnessed any of his off-ice habits or dedications to fitness, but I would take Spezza on my team any time. Picking the fourth Senator was difficult. Redden appears to be the most overpaid player in the NHL this season, but he had a terrific career in Ottawa.
2015: Heatley played only four seasons with the Sens, but he scored 180 goals. That's a short tenure, though, so we'll replace Heatley with the silky Erik Karlsson. Sometimes his defensive effort/execution is embarrassing, but he is so prolific offensively, scoring and moving the puck, that he cracks the mountain for now. His playoff goal scoring is weak, though: just four goals in 29 playoff games. So: Alfredsson, Karlsson, Redden, Spezza.
2009 team/theory: Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Rick Tocchet. Clarke, Barber and Parent are locks. The fourth one was difficult. I suppose lots of Flyers fans would choose Tocchet. In games played, he's not in the top 10. I thought about Ron Hextall because he was a huge personality and combined great playoff success (at least for one season) with complete insanity. Watching athletes who could snap at any moment is compelling. Tocchet was Philadelphia's version Cam Neely -- he combined goal scoring with a great ability to fight. I'm curious to see how Flyers fans will respond to this list.
2015: Claude Giroux has a great opportunity to join the mountain. Durable and productive. I love players who score more in the playoffs, when it's more difficult to score, than they do in the regular season. Giroux is one of those guys. He is a 20-goal scorer in the regular season but projects to a 30-goal scorer in the postseason. That's the kind of guy you want. So: Barber, Clarke, Giroux, Parent.
Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets
2009 team/theory: Shane Doan, Dale Hawerchuk, Teppo Numminen and Keith Tkachuk. Winnipeg/Phoenix is the Hartford/Carolina of the West in one way: small, passionate city loses team to warm-weather city. Doan is Mr. Desert Dog. Numminen has played the most games in franchise history. Hawerchuk and Tkachuk rank 1-2 in goals scored in franchise history.
2015: Nothing changes here, except that the team is now called the Arizona Coyotes. So: Doan, Hawerchuk, Numminen, Tkachuk.
2009 team/theory: Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Evgeni Malkin. Lemieux (690 goals) and Jagr (439 goals) are the two obvious selections here. Don't give me any anti-Jagr sentiment, Pittsburgh! In terms of conservative talent projections, and assuming they fulfill their long-term contracts, Crosby and Malkin should fulfill Rushmore status. I'm looking forward to hearing from Pens fans. Will they put Tom Barrasso on their Mount Rushmore? Ron Francis?
2015: The projections proved correct. The Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup the year of this blogumn and Crosby and Malkin are future Hockey Hall of Famers. So: Crosby, Jagr, Lemieux, Malkin.
2009 team/theory: Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov, Owen Nolan and Joe Thornton. Marleau is the Sharks' all-time leader in games, goals and assists. Nabokov will have 250 career wins by season's end. Many people don't realize that. Nolan's All-Star moment and 2000 Stanley Cup playoff goal in St. Louis were both beautiful moments. Thornton is far and away the most prolific offensive player in Sharks history.
2015: I have Joe Pavelski bumping Nolan off the mountain. Pavelski has been a durable and productive player. Thirty-seven goals last season, 41 before that and hasn't missed a game the past two seasons. He had 19 power-play goals last season. He's played 643 games in his NHL/Sharks career. So: Marleau, Nabokov, Pavelski, Thornton.
2009 team/theory: Bernie Federko, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis and Brian Sutter. Federko was not a compelling player, but he had excellent numbers, and those numbers didn't fall in the playoffs. Hull was the most compelling player in Blues history. MacInnis' lone Norris Trophy came in St. Louis. I thought about Chris Pronger, but I have a soft spot for those tough Norris Division players who also scored. Only Hull and Federko scored more goals as a Blue than Sutter.
2015: Since the Blues fired Joel Quenneville late in the 2003-04 season, they've won one playoff series. One. That's mediocrity. Vladimir Tarasenko might be able to change that and help bump Brian Sutter off the mountain by continuing to score around the 40-goal mark and helping the Blues advance in the postseason. So: Federko, Hull, MacInnis, Sutter.
2009 team/theory: Dave Andreychuk, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. If only Daren Puppa had more wins. I thought about Dan Boyle, and wouldn't hate that selection. He was a great player for Tampa, and his trade to San Jose is one of the worst in recent memory. I just thought Andreychuk was such an important player for that 2004 Cup team. He could be leaned on as a ballast of experience, reason and media duties.
2015: Steven Stamkos bumps Andreychuk off the mountain. Andreycuk did raise the Cup in Tampa, but he played just 278 games for the Lightning and when the Bolts won the Cup, he had one goal in 23 playoff games. Stamkos is the most talented player in Lightning history. Lecavalier, Richards, Stamkos, St. Louis.
2009 team/theory: Turk Broda, Dave Keon, Mats Sundin and Darryl Sittler. This was a difficult one. I feel good about Keon and Sittler. Broda won more than 300 games in net and five Stanley Cups for the Leafs. Tough to argue those apples. Sundin might be the point of contention for some. George Armstrong, Ted Kennedy, Borje Salming, Tim Horton and Charlie Conacher are all candidates. My first inclination was Kennedy.
My fellow anchor Scott Van Pelt has an intense and quite bizarre relationship with the 1983-84 Leafs. Apparently, Scott and his buddies adopted this team while they drank large amounts of Schlitz. Van Pelt's 1984 Toronto Maple Leafs Mount Rushmore: Miroslav Frycer, Borje Salming, Bob McGill and the incomparable Walt Poddubny.
2015: This one changes only if Stamkos ends up in a Leafs sweater. So: Broda, Keon, Sundin, Sittler.
2015: The season after I wrote this original blogumn, Henrik Sedin won the Hart Trophy as MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as the league leader in points. The season after, his twin brother, Daniel Sedin, won the Art Ross and was voted MVP by his fellow players, and the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Bruins on home ice in Game 7. The Sedins replace Naslund and Smyl. So: Bure, Linden, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin.
2009 team/theory: Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter, Olaf Kolzig and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin already is the biggest star in Caps history. Of course, he also is one of the most magnetic personalities and players in NHL history. Bondra scored 472 goals in 961 games as a Capital, most of them in the dead-puck era. Hunter was a natural leader. Kolzig won 301 games and brought the Caps to their only Cup finals appearance.
2015: I was tempted to replace Kolzig with Nicklas Backstrom, but Backstrom's low output in the playoffs (51 points in 71 playoff games) has me still giving Olaf the nod. So: Bondra, Hunter, Kolzig, Ovechkin.