Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Jerome Iginla, and Mats Sundin just to name a few. What do these players all have in common? They are and have been the face of their franchise for years. Are they a dying breed?
With Yzerman retired, do the Wings have a player who represents them as well? Well maybe Lidstrom, and you can name a few others with Datsyuk or Zetterburg, but it’s not quite the same without Yzerman.
When Sakic retires, which isn't too far in the future, who can take his place? Although Iginla is still young in comparison, is there anyone on the Flames who represents the team was well as he? The closest player would be Phaneuf, and this is a rare case.
Mats Sundin is nearing the end of his successful hockey career, and he has been the face of the leafs franchise for many years now. What happens when he retires? Looking at the line up now, you will be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement. Who are the possible candidates? Tucker? Kaberle? McCabe? What about a youngster like Wellwood or Steen?
With the new CBA I believe the age of the franchise player is dead. With so much money being thrown around to UFA's, and players reaching the UFA status earlier in their career, there will be fewer and fewer players every year who will stay with one team for a large portion of their career. Every team will have a few players who stay around for a while, who are good leaders, but very few teams will have that one player whom you build your team around.
Of course there are always exceptions. Pittsburgh is a team who had a prominent franchise player in Mario, and now Mario has passed the reigns onto Sidney Crosby who has been locked up long term. It will be interesting to see how Washington handles Ovechkin's future as well. But apart from these two future (and present) superstars, not every draft will produce players like this.
Is the age of the Franchise Player over? Or is it just in a transition phase between the superstars of the past, and the superstars of the future?