There’s a term that gets thrown around in sports these days that has lost a bit of its meaning: franchise player. It’s overused and handed out more than it should be.
Just what is a franchise player and who are the proud few in the NHL? What Defines A Franchise Player?
Before we can figure out who the NHL’s franchise players are, we need to come to an understanding on just what a “Franchise” player is. To me, a franchise player encompasses the following:
• A player a team can build around for at least five years.
• One of the three best players at his position.
• Perennial All-Star
• Face of the franchise – the guy a team builds their marketing around.
• Has to be considered a franchise player by just about every other team.
That narrows the field pretty considerably before we even start. Before we get to the list, let’s take a look at those who were under consideration for “franchise” status before ultimately getting bumped down to the next tier:
It was particularly tough leaving off Chara (dominating defensively, though on the back end of his career), Tavares (might be the fifth or sixth best center in the league) and Giroux (one of the best scorers in the game). The others really depend on who you ask and just how much they value that particular position.
Taking all those names out, we are left with 9 names. Without further ado, your 9 franchise players:
You can’t judge a player solely on stats and Toews is proof of that. Which is not to say that he’s bad offensive; quite the opposite. He’s a near point-per-game player and a consistent 25-plus goal scorer. Talented offensively as he may be, though he’s never likely to win a scoring title, he’s a threat to win the Selke Trophy for his defensive work every year.
Toews’ most valuable trait is the fact that he plays some of the best defensive hockey among forwards in the game. His tireless effort in his own end and reliability in the faceoff circle are things you just won’t see on the score sheet, but are without a doubt huge factors in the success of the Blackhawks. His Selke and Conn Smythe trophies would certainly seem to point that out.
Oh, he’s also considered the best captain in the league right now, a role he’s held since he was a 20-year-old during the 2008/09 season.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Doughty has been such a success. After all, he was the second overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft behind another player on our list. Since joining the Kings, Doughty has displayed an impressive offensive game – not counting the shortened 2012/13 season, he’s hit double-digits in goals every year but his rookie year – but has really become a defensive force in the last few seasons.
He’s a smooth skater and an even better passer, but he’s shown a real penchant for making plays after bouncing off of checks. At 6’1”, 213 he isn’t the biggest guy in the world but he’s thick and sturdy; perfect for being the anchor of the defense.
Though he’s yet to be recognized for his individual excellence (he wasn’t nominated for the Norris Trophy as top defenseman this year), he likely doesn’t care because all he does is win. He’s got a Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals and a World Junior Championship gold to show for his efforts. Not a bad consolation prize, right?
Of all the names on the list, this was the one that generated the most talk. Simply put, Price is one of the most talented goaltenders in the game and has consistently been a primary reason for any success enjoyed by the Canadiens.
He’s caught a little bit of flack for his struggles in the playoffs – last year was particularly ugly; he left with an injury and was already posting a sub-.900 save percentage en route to a first round upset at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. But the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to find an elite goaltender and at 26-years-old, he’s still getting better.
Price isn’t the best goalie in the game right now, but he’s put his name near the top of the list and the Canadiens would be in a vastly different place if he were stopping pucks elsewhere.
He’s the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL for a reason, right? Without a doubt the face of the franchise in Nashville, Weber has made a case for being the game’s best defensemen over the last few years. Case in point? This year marks the third time he’s been nominated for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, finishing as the runner-up in both 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Weber has every requisite skill you could ask for: booming shot? Check. Precision passing? Check. A physical, mean streak? In spades. Throw in the fact that he’s the captain of the Preds and a consistent shoe-in for Team Canada in international competition and you have the complete package.
He gets a little bit of grief for not elevating his team when the Preds were better, but he’s a minutes monster who plays in all situations and consistently challenges for the team scoring lead while playing the team’s best defense. Hard to ask more of a guy.
Ah, the King of New York and the best goaltender on the planet today. Lunqvist once again finished in the top 10 of every relevant goaltending category, leading the Rangers back to the postseason. At 32-years-old, he’s the highest paid goaltender in the league but having a Vezina Trophy and four other nominations to his credit makes it awfully hard to question his paycheck.
It also doesn’t hurt the Rangers promotional efforts to have Lundqvist in their corner. He’s not only the best in the world at his job, but he looks like he should be in GQ instead of being blasted by vulcanized rubber routinely.
Oh, did I mention that this is all coming from the 205th overall pick in his draft year? Long live the King.
The undisputed best player in the world, whether you like him or not (and many don’t). His offensive abilities are unmatched and he would likely have more than one scoring title and MVP trophy right now if it weren’t for injury issues the last few years. He seems to be over them, dominating the league to the tune of a league-leading 68 assists and 104 points to win the Art Ross Trophy (he’s also nominated for the Hart Trophy as MVP).
He’s got his share of detractors and can sometimes play a bit of a murky game, but he’s the best player on the Penguins and the face of the entire NHL. His name is synonymous with the game and he backs it up seemingly every night.
Recent playoff struggles aside, he’s well over a point per game for his career and has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume. No one in the game is as accomplished or as decorated as “The Kid” and at 26-years-old, he’s still got a long way to go.
It must be nice to be a Penguins fan these days. They get to watch two of the five best players in the world do their thing on a nightly basis. Malkin is an offensive dynamo, battling Crosby when he’s at his best, and has both an Art Ross and a Hart Trophy to show for his efforts so far.
Despite all of his talents, he can be a frustration. Some feel like he isn’t giving maximum effort each night. It’s also possible to get under his skin and throw him off his game, but is there a player in the league that can say that isn’t true about them?
When push comes to shove, like when Crosby was dealing with post-concussion issues, Malkin proves he’s among the best more often than not. He won his scoring title and MVP without Crosby, so it’s clear he can do what he wants when he wants regardless of who is in the lineup.
The first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Stamkos has been pegged for great things since the day he entered the league and he has not disappointed. He’s just 24-years-old, but he may already be the most prolific goal-scorer going right now.
He’s already had seasons of 51 and 60 goals, with another 45 goal effort thrown in the middle and potted 25 in just 37 games this season (he dealt with a leg injury that kept him out of the Olympics). He’s lightning quick (pun intended) with arguably the best release since Joe Sakic (and our final franchise player below).
With Martin St. Louis gone, he’s now the undisputed face of the franchise in Tampa Bay as well as their captain. If anyone is going to challenge Crosby for scoring titles and title of “undisputed face of the league”, it’ll be Stamkos.
On the surface, this seems like a slam dunk. Once considered the 1B to Crosby’s 1A, he is still one of the more marketable figures in the game. He stars in national commercials pimping the NHL and still electrifies crowds with his bursts up the ice and highlight-reel goals.
But once you get past the flashy numbers – and his goal-scoring totals are still quite flashy as he hit the 50-goal mark for the sixth time in his career – it gets a little concerning. His defense has never really been a strong point and as captain, he’s failed to lead the Capitals to any real success.
He’s got all the individual accolades and hardware (three-time MVP) as well as the high profile, which is more than enough to keep him in the penthouse. If he could finally get over the hump and capture a championship, there would be nothing more to say.
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