Ah, hockey in the summer, where things come to a grinding halt for about two months in between one long season and another. To fill the void we at Eye on Hockey thought it would be fun to make an all-time team for each of the 30 organizations in the NHL today.
The ground rules: The teams will consist of a center, two wings (regardless of which side), two defensemen and a goaltender. A player must have spent at least 200 games with a franchise to be considered. So Bobby Orr won't be on the Blackhawks' roster or Wayne Gretzky for St. Louis.
The Carolina Hurricanes' history also belongs to the Hartford Whalers, which is why I was so glad to draw this group. The Green and Blue of the mighty Whale is sorely missed in the NHL, as it is one of many fans' most beloved dead teams.
Though the best days of the franchise have come in Raleigh, NC, many of this club's all-time greats come from the Hartford era. There are several players in Carolina now that may one day unseat their emerald-clad predecessors, but that day is not today.
Though the franchise's roots are in the World Hockey Association, only a player's NHL numbers were taken into consideration for this series. So that leaves out Gordie Howe, who retired a Whaler after two WHA years and one in the NHL.
Three of the players on this list actually have history with both Hartford and Carolina, while two were solely Whalers and just one has only played for the Hurricanes. Before we get started, however ...
Ron Francis: When researching this, I realized just how many really good centers this franchise has had. Among them, current captain Eric Staal, who would've been the runner-up in this spot, and Stanley Cup captain Rod Brind'Amour. Though both made big contributions to the franchise, Ron Francis is a Whalers/Hurricanes icon.
Francis, second in NHL history with 1,249 career assists, owns the most career goals, assists and points with Carolina/Hartford. Francis' 1,175 points with the franchise dwarf the second-ranked Staal by 548.
Francis was the fourth overall selection in the 1981 NHL Draft by the Whalers. He spent nine-plus seasons in Hartford before being traded away to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he was part of two Stanley Cup teams.
He returned to the franchise in 1998 and spent six seasons in Carolina. He helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2002.
His No. 10 hangs in the rafters in Raleigh and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Kevin Dineen: As far as Hartford is concerned at least, after Francis, it's Kevin Dineen as one of the most memorable and beloved players. Dineen, the last captain of the Whalers, ranks third in franchise history with 250 goals and 544 points. Additionally, Dineen is the club's all-time leader in penalty minutes with 1,439.
Dineen spent the first seven-plus years of his NHL career in Hartford before being traded to Philadelphia. After four-plus seasons with the Flyers, Dineen was dealt back to Hartford for the final two seasons in Connecticut. He moved with the team to Carolina and spent two years there as well.
Now the head coach of the Florida Panthers, Dineen rather poetically scored the last goal in Hartford Whalers history.
Pat Verbeek: This spot was a tough one to pick, but Verbeek's run of five-plus seasons in Hartford was enough to get him on the list. The man known as the "Little Ball of Hate" (sit down, Brad Marchand) had his best NHL season in Hartford in 1992-93 when he registered 44 goals and 89 points. Over his 433 games with the club, Verbeek averaged nearly a point per game.
Despite his relatively short time with the franchise, Verbeek ranks sixth on Hartford/Carolina's all-time scoring list with 403 points, including 192 goals. Verbeek also ranks third all-time on the team's penalty minutes chart with 1,144.
It was tough to decide between Verbeek's productivity in a short window and Jeff O'Neill's longevity with the club, but what Verbeek accomplished in Hartford was pretty remarkable.
Glen Wesley: After spending his first seven seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, Wesley played the rest of his NHL days between Hartford and Carolina over 13 years, save for a brief seven-game stint with Toronto in the middle.
Wesley ranks behind only Francis in career games played with the organization with 913. He was part of both of Carolina's runs to the Stanley Cup Final, helping the team win hockey's ultimate prize in 2006. It was Wesley's first and only Cup title in his NHL career.
He is the only defenseman to have his number retired by the organization and remains heavily involved with the team as director of defenseman development.
Like Dineen, Wesley scored in the last Whalers game ever, only adding to his Hartford/Carolina legacy.
Mark Howe: This was a really, really tough one to decide on. Aside from Wesley there weren't a ton of standouts that remained with the club long enough to make such an indelible impact. Dave Babych was really close to making the cut, but Howe harkens back to the franchise's beginnings in the WHA as the New England Whalers before moving to the NHL, and he was sensational in Hartford.
Howe played for the club in the final two seasons of the WHA and first three NHL campaigns for the club. Playing alongside father Gordie, whose number is retired by the club, and brother Marty, Mark Howe was actually the best of the three while in Hartford, and that's not even counting his 102-point season in the last year of the WHA.
His productive ways continued in the first year of the Whalers' foray into the NHL with 24 goals and 80 points, the second-best mark in the NHL portion of his career. Though Howe will probably be best remembered for his years with the Flyers, his contributions in the infancy of the Whalers really swayed my vote. Howe was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
In one of the coolest moments in NHL history, Howe was on the ice with his father and brother as the Whalers took on Gordie's old Detroit Red Wings.
Cam Ward: No goalie has made more appearances for Hartford/Carolina than Ward, who just completed his eighth season with the Hurricanes. Though just 29, Ward has become the clear choice as the franchise's all-time best goalie.
He has only been to the Stanley Cup playoffs twice, but in his first go-round as a 21-year-old rookie, he backstopped Carolina to its only title. Ward posted a .920 save percentage, 2.14 goals-against average and two shutouts in 23 appearances in the 2006 postseason.
With a contract running until 2016, Ward has a chance to continue his crowding of the franchise's history books. Already, Ward owns the record for career shutouts (21), has the second-best save percentage in team history (.910) and ranks third in goals-against average (2.74). When his career is over, it wouldn't be a shock to see Ward's number hanging from the rafters in Raleigh, especially if he keeps making saves like this one from 2011 ...
Rod Brind'Amour, Eric Staal, Jeff O'Neill, Arturs Irbe, Sean Burke, Dave Babych