Welcome back to the Greatest Coyote Sweater Number Countdown. After an eventful Labor Day weekend, things swing back into gear with a four number entry. So in descending order, here we go.
The number 8 has been worn with distinction on both the blue line and in the attacking end. Defensemen and forwards have had great success with the 8 on their back in both Winnipeg and the desert. Among them are Jimmy Mann, the first to wear 8 for the franchise, Teemu Selanne, who switched to his now iconic 8 after wearing the number 13 for his first 2 years, Scottie Upshall, a sparkplug goal scorer who provided one of the most memorable moments in recent Coyotes history,and Gilbert Brule, a 4th line grinder who gave the Coyotes much needed depth in the 2012 Conference Finals run. However, the race for the best number 8 goes down to two men, one a forward the other a defensman, one a Coyote and one a Jet, one an underdog who some thought couldn't play in the NHL due to his small stature and the other a fiery, mean tempered bulldog who was elite at his position for many years.
Danny Briere came to Phoenix as the 24th overall pick in the 1996 entry draft. He would play 5 games during the '97-'98 season while wearing the number 54, but would get regular playing time the following season. He played in 64 games in the '99 season, scoring 8 goals and 22 points helping the Coyotes finish 2nd in the Pacific and 4th in the Western Conference. The next two seasons would be difficult for Briere as he shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL. In the 2001-'02 season, that would stop as Briere established himself as a dangerous NHL offensive weapon scoring 32 goals with 28 assists for 60 points in 78 games, his best numbers as a Coyote. Briere continued his good play the next season scoring 17 goals and 46 points while playing in all of the Coyotes first 68 games. But then came the 2003 trade deadline and one of the worst trades the Coyotes have made, dealing Briere and their 2004 3rd pick (who would end up being Andrej Sekera who is a useful NHL d-man) for Chris Gratton and Buffalo's 2004 4th rounder. Gratton was a former #3 overall pick who had shown flashes of the talent that made him a top 3 pick, but never harnessed it consistently. He teased multiple teams over his career with those flashes, and the Coyotes were just the next in line. Gratton would play exactly 82 games with Phoenix, scoring 11 goals and 30 points before being shuffled off to Colorado at the next season's trade deadline. Briere, meanwhile, would spend the next 3 seasons in Buffalo, scoring 230 total points and helping Buffalo to the '06 and '07 Eastern Conference Finals. I'd say that's a trade we might want back. As a Coyote, Briere scored 69 goals and 76 assists for 145 total points in 253 games.
The defenseman going against Briere is Randy Carlyle. The Jets acquired Carlyle, the 1981 Norris trophy winner, from Pittsburgh on March 5, 1984 for the Jets 1985 1st round pick and future considerations. Carlyle would spend the rest of his career in Winnipeg. A high point producer for Pittsburgh, Carlyle became the rock for a Jet blueline that would have plenty of firepower over his time there with Dave Babych, Dave Ellett, Fredrik Olausson, Phil Housley and Teppo Numminen. His best season statistically as a Jet was the '87-'88 campaign when he scored 15 goals and 44 assists for 59 points in 78 games while paired with Dave Ellett for most of the year. Carlyle played a total of 564 games for the Jets, scoring 80 goals and 226 assists for 306 points. He was named to the '85 and 1993 All-Star Games. He currently sits in 20th place on the league's list for most goals against while on the ice. He is 7th on the Jets/Coyotes list for games played and 8th in penalty minutes. And as good as Daniel Briere became, it wasn't in a Coyote sweater so Randy Carlyle is the best number 8 in franchise history.
The number 6 is an interesting case. Only defenseman have worn it. Future NHL coaches would wear it like Barry Melrose (for 92 games in '80 and '81) and new Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins (for 6 games in '96 and '97 for both Winnipeg and the Coyotes). The best to wear it recently coached the US National Junior team to the 2013 gold medal in the World Juniors Championship.
Phil Housley would spend the first 8 years of his career playing for the Buffalo Sabres. That would end on June 16, 1990 at the NHL Entry draft when the Sabres dealt him along with 2 others to Winnipeg for Dale Hawerchuk. Housley would spend the next three seasons in Winnipeg and would rewrite part of the franchise recordbook in that time. In the first season, Housley would play in 78 games and score 23 goals and 53 assists for 76 points, not bad for a defenseman, but would actually be his lowest total in his Jet tenure. The following year, Housley would add 10 more assists to the tally for 86 points while actually playing in 4 fewer games. More importantly, the Jets would return to the playoffs but lose in 7 games to Vancouver with Housley adding a goal and 4 assists. For the '92-'93 season, Housley took off the kid gloves and went buck wild. He scored 18 goals and a franchise record 79 assists for 97 points in 80 games. Once again, the Jets made the playoffs to once again be eliminated in 6 games by Vancouver. Housley added 7 assists in those 6 games to lead the team in scoring. That would be Housley's last year in the north as he would be traded to St. Louis for Nelson Emerson and Stephane Quintal on September 24, 1993. Housley played in 232 games for the Jets, scoring 64 goals and 195 assists for 259 points. He is the all-time franchise leader for goals by a d-man in a single season with his two 23 goal seasons in '91 and '92, he holds the franchise record for assists in a single season with his 79 in '93 and is 10th in points in a single season with 97 in '93. He was named to the All-Star game in all three of his Winnipeg seasons and made the All-NHL 2nd team in '92. And he is the greatest number 6 in franchise history.
Finally, it's time for the number 5. Another number dominated by d-men, it's different from the number 6 because there isn't an obvious choice to be had. Unlike the other single digit numbers where at least one man clearly made an imprint for the franchise, number 5 has seen a lot of journeyman and unprovens. Only two players suited up in more than 100 games for the franchise in the number 5, Igor Ulanov and Deron Quint. Ulanov played in 176 games for the Coyotes from 1991 to 1995, scoring 6 goals and 43 assists for 49 goals. He also appeared in 11 playoff games for the Jets in the '92 and '93 series losses to Vancouver, adding 0 points. Quint would play in 220 games for the Jets/Coyotes over 5 seasons from 1995-2000. He scored 20 goals and 46 assists for 66 points in that time and also appeared in all 7 games the Coyotes played against Anaheim in the '97 Conference Quarter-finals adding 2 assists. However, he would not dress for any of the playoff games the Coyotes played over the next 2 seasons. Ulanov would go on to spend 10 more seasons in the NHL with 7 different franchises after being traded from Winnipeg on April 7, 1995, and Quint would spend 5 more seasons in the NHL, including a second stint with the Coyotes wearing the number 7. Neither resume is overwhelming, but Quint was the better player during his time with the franchise. So congratulations to you Deron Quint, you are the greatest number 5 in Coyote history.
That's 46 numbers down with only 4 more to go until the Coyotes kick off the preseason this coming sunday night. Thanks for reading and hope you have been enjoying it. Please add any discussion points you think are relevant in the comments.