Today, we turn the page on the forties and enter into the thirties. With only 39 days until preseason puck drop, it's time to find the best player to suit up in number 39 in Coyote franchise history.
The debate comes down to 3 players: Doug Evans (1990-92), Travis Green (1999-2001) and Niko Kapanen (2008 season). The case for Doug Evans begins with being a key mid-season pickup for Winnipeg in January 1990. He played 27 games for the Jets after the trade, scoring 10 goals and 18 points while being a plus 7 and having an unreal 27.8 shooting percentage. He helped the Jets finish 3rd in the Smythe division and put up 2 goals and 4 points in helping the Jets push eventual Cup champion Edmonton to the brink in the first round (Edmonton would only lose 3 more games in the remaining 3 rounds after losing 3 to Winnipeg). Evans would play 100 more games for the Jets in the next 2 seasons, potting 14 goals and 48 points in that time. The Jets would trade him to Boston in June of 1992 and Evans would play one more season in the NHL.
Travis Green was a point producing center for the Islanders and Mighty Ducks for 7 seasons before the Coyotes acquired him at the 1999 entry draft in a deal involving Oleg Tverdovsky going to Anaheim. In two seasons in the desert, Green put up pretty good numbers: 38 goals, 36 assists for 74 points in 147 games. He was a boost to the Coyotes special teams as 21.6% of Green's points as a Coyote came on the powerplay. Green suffered from concussion issues, so there was always questions as to whether he was 100% during his time in Phoenix. He would be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a package for defenseman Danny Markov in June 2001.
Niko Kapanen was a waiver claim made on February 27, 2007 and played 19 games for the Coyotes that year wearing number 8. The next season, Kapanen would don the number 39 and have a productive season for a mediocre Coyote team. He scored 10 goals and 18 assists, finishing 7th on the team in scoring while playing 79 games. Kapanen would then sign a contract with Ak Bars Kazan and join the KHL in June of 2008.
In choosing the best player to wear the number 39 for the franchise, it 's hard to pick between individual performance and team effect. Green was the best individual 39 but Evans was key pickup for a Jets team that nearly toppled the juggernaut Oilers. You can't go wrong picking either player, but I am going to call Travis Green the greatest 39 in Coyote franchise history.
A quick side note, today's number will actually be a co-holding situation. Special recognition also must go out to another 39, whose career was cut tragically short. Brett Maclean was a second round pick, number 32 overall, in the 2007 NHL entry draft by the Coyotes. He spent 2 and a half seasons with then Coyote AHL affiliate San Antonio before making his NHL debut on December 29, 2010 against the Los Angeles Kings. This would prove to be a memorable night as Maclean would score his first career goal that night, getting a powerplay tally in 6-3 Coyote victory. Maclean would finish that season playing 13 games for the Yotes, totaling 2 goals and 3 points. Maclean would see a rollercoaster the next season, being claimed on waivers by, wait for it, the Winnipeg Jets on October 6, 2011. He would play 5 games for the Jets before being placed on waivers again and claimed by the Coyotes on October 27. He would finish the season in Portland with hopes of being a fulltime NHL player the next season. Unfortunately, that dream would come to naught as Maclean suffered a cardiac event while playing pickup hockey with friends in Owen Sound Ontario that summer. He was saved thanks to quick first aid measures at the rink, including a portable defibrillator. Maclean retired from hockey shortly after.
Congratulations go out to Travis Green and Brett Maclean, the co-greatest 39's in the history of the Coyote franchise.