The countdown of the best to wear a number in Coyote franchise history finds its way to the number 14 in this entry. Eighteen men have worn 14 as member of the Jets/Coyotes, including Stu Barnes, the only Jet who had any chance of being included in this conversation, and Kevyn Adams, who's only real contribution to the Coyotes was as the pice we gave to Chicago to get Radim Vrbata the first time. The decision for who deserves the honor comes down to two men, one a member of the original Coyotes and the other a member of the division champion and conference finalist 2012 squad.
Mike Stapleton was a defensive minded center who had been a journeyman player for three teams before the Jets signed him as a free agent in the summer of 1995. His first season with the franchise was his best, playing in 58 games and scoring 10 goals and 24 points. When the team moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in the summer of 1996, they would add multiple forwards that would change Stapleton's role like Mike Gartner, Cliff Ronning, and Jeremy Roenick. With the influx of top 6 talent, Stapleton became a 4th line guy and a dedicated penalty killer who still found a way to get some powerplay time. In four seasons with the franchise, Stapleton played in 253 games and scored 28 goals, 6 on the powerplay and 4 short-handed, added 39 assists with 7 coming with the man advantage for a total of 67 points. He also played in all 20 playoff games the team played in during those 4 seasons adding 1 goal in the final series against St. Louis in a game 6 loss. He would be selected by Atlanta in the expansion draft on June 25, 1999.
Taylor Pyatt signed as a free agent from Vancouver on September 2, 2009. He had spent time as the third man on a line with the Sedin Twins as a Canuck and the hope was he could bring some of that offensive game with him to the desert. Pyatt played in 74 games in the 2009-'10 season and provided some spark on the third line providing 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points while playing plus hockey at plus 13, a career high. The following year, he improved upon his offensive numbers scoring 18 goals and adding 13 assists for 31 points, his high as a Coyote. In 2011-12, he struggled to find consistency only adding 9 goals and 19 points in 73 games, but he did score 2 goals in the season finale against Minnesota including what ended up being the division clinching tally. He also had a terrific postseason, adding 4 goals and 2 assists in the Coyotes trek to the conference finals. He signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers that summer. In total, Pyatt played 223 games as a Yote, scoring 39 goals with 34 assists for 73 points but he couldn't find a way to make an impact on the special teams with only 3 powerplay goals in those 3 seasons.
Stapleton and Pyatt share two very similar resumes. Pyatt has more goals and points, but Stapleton played one more season with the franchise and was more impactful in the special teams portion of the game. It's a coin flip in all truth. Taylor Pyatt gets the slight edge, mainly because anyone who can deliver this hit to Nicklas Lidstrom gets the nod.
Last week, the countdown was unavailiable for the numbers 22-19, so here comes a lightning round of additional "Best Sweater Numbers in Coyote Franchise History" starting with the number 22.
For the number 22, the argument comes down to four players: Bengt Lundholm who wore it for the Jets from 1981-1985 before switching to number 4 in his final season, Mario Marois who wore it in Winnipeg from 1985 through 1988, Mike Gartner who wore it for his final 2 NHL seasons spent in the desert from 1996-'98, and finally Rick Tocchet who originally wore 92 his first season as a Yote because Gartner was wearing 22 before switching for the '99 and 2000 seasons. Let's look at the numbers each man put up while wearing 22:
- Lundholm - LW, 259 GP, 45 G, 90 A, 135 P
- Marois - D, 221 GP, 16 G, 113 A, 129 P
- Gartner - RW, 142 GP, 44 G, 46 A, 90 P
- Tocchet - RW, 145 GP, 38 G, 47 A, 85 P
How to make the decision from here? It's simple, one of these four players is a hockey Hall of Famer. One of these skaters scored the first goal for the Coyotes and added the first hat trick for the Coyotes, in the same game no less. Only one of these men scored 700 career goals, and got goal number 700 while wearing a Coyote sweater. The greatest number 22 in Coyote history is Mike Gartner.
Now the case for the greatest number 21. He wore it for more games than anyone else in franchise history. He has also scored more goals while wearing the 21 than anyone else to don a Jet or Coyote sweater although Jyrki Lumme would have more points because Lumme was pretty good too. Bob Corkum was claimed off waivers from Philly on September 30th, 1996 and would spend three seasons with the Coyotes. He played 233 games, scoring 30 goals and 60 points and had his second best season in the NHL during the '97-'98 campaign when he went for 12 goals and 21 points trailing only his career year for the expansion Mighty Ducks when he had 23 goals and 51 points as their number 1 center. He wasn't asked to be a offensive force in the desert though, as his penalty killing acumen and physical, hard hitting style were his calling card as a Yote. Most recently, Corkum led the U.S. to the silver medal in the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament as head coach.
All right, let's get number 20 down and in the books. There have been a number of players to make an impact for the franchise in the number 20 sweater, including Andrew McBain, Dave McLlwain, Tie Domi, Oleg Tverdovsky and Fredrik Sjostrom. The honor for the best to wear 20 comes down to the first man to wear it.
Willy Lindstrom signed with the WHA's Winnipeg Jets in 1975 and would spend the next 7 seasons wearing the Jet in both the WHA and the NHL when the Jets joined for the '79-'80 season. He was the MVP of the WHA All-Star game in 1977 and won 3 WHA championships, including the final two. He played 604 career games as a Jet with 288 of them in the NHL scoring 220 (97) goals, 229 (91) assists and 449 (188) points. He would rank 7th on the franchise's games played, goals scored and points list and would be 9th in assists if the WHA totals counted. He would be traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a young scorer who struggled in Edmonton named Laurie Boschman on March 7, 1983. The Oilers would win the Stanley Cup the following two seasons with Lindstrom providing veteran leadership while Boschman would become a decent player in his own right.
Finally, we catch the countdown up by finding out who the greatest number 19 in franchise history is. Hold on, this could take awhile. In the meantime, here's a collection of random highlights of some guy in a Coyote sweater.
Oh yeah, Shane Doan. He's good. In fact, anybody who can put a hurting on Dustin Brown and Mike Richards in the same shift is number one in my book.
So there you have it, a huge chunk of the countdown out of the way. Congratulations to Mike Gartner, Bob Corkum, Willy Lindstrom, Shane Doan and Taylor Pyatt for making the list for their respective numbers. Now the countdown is all caught up to the number 13, and that is going to be a doozy. Thanks for reading.