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A Two Jet Race: The Quest for the Best Sweater 16

The countdown of the greatest player to wear a sweater number in Coyote franchise history reaches the number 16 today. Fifteen different men have worn 16 at one point or another in the history of the franchise, including Brad Isbister (the first to wear it as a Coyote), Michal Handzus (he who just won a Cup with Chicago), Brett Hull (if I have to tell you who Brett Hull is, maybe you're reading the wrong sports blog) and the current wearer Rusty Klesla. But none of these men are the greatest to wear the number as a member of this franchise. The choice for that honor goes to two men who wore it back to back from 1983 through the early nineties.

To start with, let's look at the second man to wear it in that period, Ed Olczyk. Olczyk was the number 3 overall pick in the 1984 entry draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He spent 3 full seasons in the Windy City before being traded to Toronto in September of 1987. Toronto would employ him for three highly productive seasons before Olczyk got of to a slow start in the fourth. Rather than wait and see if he would snap out of it, the Leafs struck a deal with the Winnipeg Jets on November 10, 1990 acquiring defenseman Dave Ellett and winger Paul Fenton for Olczyk and Mark Osbourne. With Winnipeg as his new home, Eddie O went straight to work putting up 26 goals and 57 points over 61 games the rest of the season. The following year, Olczyk would impress again with 32 goals, including 7 game winners which was 8th best in the league, and 65 points in 64 games. More importantly, he helped lead the Jets back into the playoffs after missing the previous season. Unfortunately, the Jets would lose in 7 games in the first round to Vancouver. The tough luck would continue on early into the next season as the Jets opened the season 13-19-3 before trading Olczyk to the Rangers in the deal that returned Kris King and Tie Domi on December 28, 1992. Ed would win a Stanley Cup with the Rangers during the '93-94 season despite suffering a horrible thumb injury that limited him to one playoff game appearance. The Rangers would return Olczyk to the Jets late in the following season and Ed would spend one more whole year as a Jet before leaving in free agency on July 8, 1996. All told, Olczyk would play in 214 games as a Jet compiling 95 goals, 106 assists and 201 points with 83 of them coming on the powerplay.

Olczyk's numbers as a Jet were pretty good, but are paled in comparison to the man who wore the number 16 before him. Laurie Boschman, a former 9th overall pick in the 1979 entry draft, was acquired by the Jets from the Edmonton Oilers on March 7th, 1983 for Willy Lindstrom. In the 4 years before the trade, Boschman had struggled to find consistency in 325 games for the Maple Leafs and Oilers but upon arriving in Winnipeg, that would change. He only got to play in 12 games the rest of the '83 season, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists in that time. Given a whole year with the Jets the next season, Boschman blew up scoring 28 goals and 46 assists for 74 points in only 61 games. The following season would be Boschman's career year as he scored 32 goals and 76 points in 80 games, all career highs. In his time with the Jets, Boschman would play in 526 games over 8 seasons while adding 152 goals, 227 assists, and 379 points. He was also a rough and tumble type of player adding 1338 PIMs to his resume. Unfortunately for the Jets, as good as Boschman could be during the regular season, he never could translate it to playoff success. In 34 playoff games, he only could find the net 5 times and add a total of 15 points. His best success was in the Jets' only extended playoff run during the 86-87 playoffs where he scored 2 goals and added 3 assists in there 4-2 series win over the Calgary Flames before being swept out by the Edmonton Oilers.

Ed Olczyk may be a USA Hockey Hall of Famer, but his time as number 16 for the Jets just doesn't surpass Laurie Boschman's. Boschman is one of only 14 players in NHL history with at least 1000 games played, 500 points scored and 2000 penalty minutes. He still ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in games played (10th although he could be passed this season by Derek Morris), goals (tied for 8th with Jeremy Roenick), assists (tied for 9th with Jeremy Roenick), points (tied for eight with, of course, Jeremy Roenick), penalty minutes (2nd behind only Keith Tkachuk) and short-handed goals (tied for 7th with who else, Jeremy Roenick). Olczyk was good, but there is no question that Laurie Boschman is the greatest number 16 in Jets/Coyotes franchise history.

Five for Howling is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Phoenix Coyotes and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor(s) of Five for Howling

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