When looking back at hockey connections to the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise throughout the NHL none prove as strong as the 1988 Hartford Whalers. The Whalers who finished with 79 points that season were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. But a quick post-season exit isn't what we're looking at, its the people who donned the green, blue, and white.
The 1988 Hartford Whalers featured ten players who would call either Winnipeg or Phoenix home for a short while. Tom Martin, Paul MacDermid and Dave Babych would fall under such category. Martin would flip flop between the Jets and the Sherbooke Canadiens from '83 to '87 before washing up ashore in Connecticut and playing for the Whalers. MacDermid would see the same pattern only with Hartford between '81 until '85 when he would appear in 74 games with the New England team. The closing of the 1990 season would be his last in Hartford before ending up across the border in Winnipeg. Babych would have a stronger career than both Paul and Tom with the Jets. Babych would appear in 390 games (191*), notch 73 goals (33*) and 210 assists (42*)
*MacDermid and Martin numbers combined.
Wingers Jim Thomson and Ed Kastelic would eventually find themselves in the desert, playing for the IHL's Phoenix RoadRunners. The RoadRunners would prove to be the last team Jim Thomson would play for an extended time. Seeing ice time with the Phoenix minor league team 14 times during the '92-'93 season, Jim would split his remaining career with the Los Angeles Kings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, only playing 15 games between the two California-based teams.
The biggest Coyotes connection to the Whalers would be their future coaching staff. 1988 would be the only year that featured head coach Dave Tippett, assistant coach John Anderson, General Manager Don Maloney, and former associate coach Ulf Samuelsson. Sharing time on and off the ice together might explain why the group naturally flowed together once behind the bench. With help from Maloney and Samuelsson, Tippett would push the Coyotes to their highest point marker in franchise history in his first year with the club. After stepping down from his coaching duties, Samuelsson's position was soon filled by former Thrashers' assistant coach John Anderson, who along with Jim Playfair would oversee the Coyotes division clinching year in 2012.
Other notable names of the 1988 Hartford Whalers:
Joel Quenneville: Holding down the blueline for seven seasons in Connecticut, the 2000 Jack Adams Award winner would score 25 goals and 95 points in Hartford before finishing his career in 1992 after splitting it as both player and assistant coach, making way for his place behind the bench. Originally interviewed for the coaching position when the Coyotes first arrived in Phoenix, the future Blackhawks coach would be passed up in favor of Don Hay.
Norm Maciver: Donning the tough task of selling hockey in the desert, Maciver made the trek from Winnipeg to Phoenix. Norm only saw Winnipeg once as a Jet before the move in 1996. Staying with the club for two more seasons, Maciver appeared in 122 games with 51 points with the Jets/Coyotes franchise before wrapping up his career under former teammate turned head coach Dave Tippet with the Houston Aeros.
Kevin Dineen: Like many other Whalers, Dineen made the jump from player to coach, landing his first coaching gig in 2005 with future Coyotes AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. Through six season as head coach, Dineen would take the Pirates to the post-season five times before accepting a job with the Florida Panthers. The Panthers would return to the playoffs after a decade long absence, also winning their first division title under Kevin Dineen.