Today, we stand less than a month away from the first Coyote preseason game of the 2013 season. It feels like only yesterday we were celebrating the drafting of Max Domi, the free agent signing of Mike Ribeiro and the actual conclusion of the off-the-ice shenanigans (ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh). It's a fun time to be a Coyote fan. With that in mind, the countdown of the best to wear a sweater number in Coyote history continues today with the unveiling of the best number 29. The second most worn number in franchise history, twenty-four different players have worn the number to varying degrees of success.
Could it be Branko Radivojevic? He had a strong rookie campaign (as will be covered in the best Coyote rookie season tournament) and was having a good follow-up season before being traded to Philly in one of the worst trades in Coyotes history. He was pretty good, but not the best.
How about Louie Debrusk? He spent 3 seasons playing in Phoenix (spending most of that time a healthy scratch, on the bench or in the penalty box). After retiring in 2003, he would rejoin the Coyotes franchise in 2005 as the new radio color commentator. He would stay until 2008 where he would take a position with Rogers in Canada to be the color man for Oilers TV. He is also famous for being part of the package Edmonton received for sending Mark Messier to the New York Rangers. Louie was part of the Coyote culture for quite a while, but he's not the best 29 either.
Maybe it's the young man currently wearing 29 for the Yotes, Michael Stone. A defensemen who is just getting going in his hockey career, Stone recently signed a brand new three year contract to remain part of the Coyotes future. One thing working against Stone is the fact that he may not be in 29 for long, as he wore 26 when he came up during the 2012 campaign. With Steve Sullivan no longer a Coyote, Stone may take that number back. However, even he stays with 29, at this point he's not the best. That honor belongs to a different man.
Craig Janney was a talented, playmaking center who doubled as an assist machine over 12 seasons in the NHL. He arrived in Winnipeg on March 18, 1996 in a trade deadline deal with the San Jose Sharks. He had put up strong numbers with the Sharks that year, with 13 goals and 62 points and that trend continued upon arriving in the frozen north adding 7 goals and 20 points in 13 games helping the Jets push for a playoff birth in their final season in Winnipeg. He would follow that up with two more strong seasons in Phoenix as part of the original Coyotes. In the inaugural season, Janney had 15 goals and 53 points in 77 regular season games, but could only chip in 3 assists in the Coyotes 7 game heartbreaking loss to Anaheim in the opening round of the 97 playoffs. The following season, Janney put up similar numbers, 10 goals and an identical 53 points in 68 games, before he was traded to Tampa Bay for Louie Debrusk (you can't make this stuff up). All told, as a Coyote, Janney played in 158 games scoring 32 goals and 126 points. Even though he only played in 760 career NHL games due to various injuries, Janney currently ranks 89th on the NHL's carer assist list and is also 16th in assists per game at .74 and 61st in points per game at .99. While he doesn't live in the Valley, Janney does make appearances at Coyote alumni charity events from time to time.
Observant Coyote fans may feel the need to point out that Janney wore the number 15 during his days as a Phoenix Coyote, and this is true, but he came to Winnipeg wearing number 29, and he is not going to earn the honor of the greatest to wear the number 15 (spoiler alert). Therefore, using creative license, he's the greatest to wear the number 29 in franchise history. He's earned that much.