Twenty-seven days until the preseason and the beginning of what could be another record setting year for the Phoenix Coyotes. Teppo Numminen wore the number 27 for 15 seasons, in both Winnipeg and Phoenix. During that period, the three-time All-Star defenseman set team and NHL records, some of which still stand today. As a strong blue-liner, Numminen reflects the past and potential future of the Yotes; a heavily defensive team that finds the will to win.
Born and raised in Finland, it was his performance with Tappara in the SM-liiga that got the attention of the Winnipeg Jets. As the 29th overall pick in the 1986-1987 draft, Numminen was set up for an NHL career, but continued to play in Finland until his NHL debut in the 1988-89 season. During his time with the Jets/Coyotes, the D-man racked up 108 goals, 436 assists and a grand total of 534 points. He also led the team in games played until Shane Doan overtook him on Feb. 23, 2011. Numminen was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2003, and in 2009 he ended his NHL playing career with the Buffalo Sabres where he is currently an assistant coach.
The Finn was the team captain the last two seasons in Phoenix, a position, which upon the start of the 2004 season, was given to Shane Doan. Captain Coyote has since surpassed The Repo Man in games played for the Desert Dogs, but will he surpass him in another indicator as well? At the time of his retirement, Numminen lead the league in most games played without winning a Stanley Cup at 1372, Doan's current count is at 1246.
The clock is ticking and this season may be the 36-year-old's best opportunity. With Radim Vrbata, Derek Morris among others, going into unrestricted free agency at the end of this season, what the future holds for the Coyotes is a mystery. But with Doaner's leadership, Dave Tippett's coaching and Numminen's spiritual descendants on the blue line, this season could turn out to be the one when Lord Stanley finally comes to the Valley of the Sun.