When you look at Mount Rushmore, the four American presidents staring back were selected by sculptor Gutzon Borglum in order 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 Metropolitan Division offered up some interesting challenges, but here are our picks:
Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers
Puckmore coach: Peter Laviolette (2003-09)
Puckmore GM: Jim Rutherford (1994-2014)
While our first inclination was to spell out "BRASS BONANZA" across this Mount Puckmore like the Hollywood sign, there are four very worthy representatives for the Hurricanes franchise, two of whom track back to the Hartford Whalers days in Francis and Wesley. Staal and Brind'Amour were both members of the Canes' Stanley Cup winner and are obvious choices from the Raleigh years.
The only argument you could make here would be for Ward, but it's not a strong enough one to put him above anyone in this quartet.
Puckmore coach: Ken Hitchcock (2007-10)
Puckmore GM: Jarmo Kekalainen (2013-present)
Contentious split aside, Nash remains the franchise leader in every offensive category and was the Jackets' first star player. Bobrovsky, obviously, is the face of the team post-Nash and a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.
The other two spots are a little less solidified. Vyborny is third in games played for the Jackets while Shelley is by far one of the most popular players in franchise history. We suggested some alternatives, but the Jackets fans we spoke to liked Shelley here. Hit us back in a few years when Seth Jones or Zach Werenski (or both) are added to the precipice.
New Jersey Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts
Puckmore coach: Jacques Lemaire (1994-98, 2009-11)
Puckmore GM: Lou Lamoriello (1987-2015)
In lieu of either a giant trap or the image of a fan yawning, the Devils' Mount Puckmore features the holy defensive trinity of the team's three Stanley Cup championships: the Scotts and Marty.
The only point of contention? Leaving all-time points leader Elias off the mountain. But when you have a guy literally nicknamed "Mr. Devil," as Daneyko is, how does one leave him off? Especially when he's the through line from the "Mickey Mouse" days in those Christmas tree jerseys to the Devils' Stanley Cup runs?
Mike Bossy, RW (1977-87)
Denis Potvin, D (1973-88)
Billy Smith, G (1972-89)
Bryan Trottier, C (1975-90)
Puckmore coach: Al Arbour (1973-94)
Puckmore GM: Bill Torrey (1972-92)
We could have added Tavares to this Mount Puckmore, but we'd hate to see bitter legions of jackhammer-wielding Islanders fans forcefully remove it. So instead, we'll go with the builders of the early 1980s dynasty in Bossy (573 goals), Trottier (500 goals), Potvin (1,060 games) and Smith (304 wins).
Frankly, we're surprised such a structure doesn't already exist somewhere in Nassau County.
Potential replacements: Andy Bathgate, RW (1952-64); Frank Boucher, C (1926-38; 1943-44); Bill Cook, RW (1926-37); Ed Giacomin, G (1965-76); Ron Greschner, D (1974-90); Harry Howell, D (1952-69); Jean Ratelle, C (1960-76); Mike Richter, G (1989-03)
Puckmore coach: Emile Francis (1966-75)
Puckmore GM: Lester Patrick (1926-46)
There are a slew of Rangers worthy of immortality from the first 20 years of the franchise's existence, but we're going with straight star magnitude here: Gilbert, still the franchise leader in goals (406); Leetch, their Hall of Fame defenseman; Lundqvist, the best goalie in franchise history; and of course Messier, whose "guarantee" delivered the Rangers' first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
Many worthy candidates, but these four effectively tell the Rangers' story. Although we're counting down the seconds until Stan Fischler sends an angry email extolling the virtues of Bun Cook.
Puckmore coach: Fred Shero (1972-78)
Puckmore GM: Bobby Clarke (1984-90, 1994-2006)
Clarke and Parent were the driving forces behind the Flyers' only two Stanley Cup championships. Hextall is the franchise leader with 240 wins, won the Conn Smythe in a losing effort and (like Clarke) personified the "Broad Street Bullies" aesthetic.
The final spot came down to a question of era: Lindros, a once-in-a-lifetime Hall of Fame talent whose time in Philly was as infamous as it was famous; and Giroux, who is second overall in points, adjusted for era. In the end, Lindros' star power and legacy earned the spot -- if only because great expectations that are summarily dashed have defined the team since 1976.
Puckmore coach: Bob Johnson (1990-91)
Puckmore GM: Craig Patrick (1989-2006).
Outside of plus/minus and game-winning goals, Mario basically leads every offensive category in Penguins history, to go along with, you know, literally saving the franchise from relocation as an owner. The leader in those other two categories? Jagr, who makes the cut if only to see how his resplendent mullet is carved into the mountainside.
Crosby and Malkin have won three Cups together so far, and one of them even made the list of the NHL's top 100 players of all time! (The other one is Russian.)
Puckmore coach: Barry Trotz (2015-18)
Puckmore GM: George McPhee (1997-2014)
It used to be that the Capitals' eras could be separated into three time periods: the red, white and blue 1970s through early 1990s; the blue eagle late 1990s, when they made the Cup Final for the first time (and then made the Jaromir Jagr trade); and the Ovechkin Years. After June 2018, the Ovechkin Years carry significantly more weight for the franchise.
We still think this Mount Puckmore is the best monument to the history of the Capitals, and representing those eras (with Olie The Goalie spanning them). But Backstrom or Holtby could make the mountain by the end of their careers, perhaps in lieu of Hunter. (Oh, and Trotz does get the Cup bump over Bryan Murray as coach. Give him credit, don't give him credit ... there's no denying he did what no one else in franchise history was able to do.)