Apologies in advance to anyone expecting to read about Gob Bluth or magic shows, but today is the final day before the Phoenix Coyotes play their preseason opener against the Los Angeles Kings. With that in mind, the countdown of the greatest numbers in Coyotes history reaches the number 1. In hockey, the number 1 has long been the domain of goaltenders, and the greatest number 1 in Coyote history has meant more to the position than anyone else to wear the sweater.
Sean Burke came to the desert via trade from the Florida Panthers on Nov. 18, 1999. He was a journeyman whom had bounced around the NHL, mostly as a backup. Upon joining the team, Burke split the goaltending duties with Bob Essensa for the remainder of the 1999-2000 season, before becoming the Coyotes' full-time starter.
The next two years would be Burke's finest in the league, including finishing 3rd place in both the Vezina and Hart Trophy nominations in 2002.
Burke was a two-time All-Star for Phoenix while compiling a record of 97-78-29. His .919 save percentage and 2.39 goals against average are second best in franchise history. His 15 shutouts are 3rd and the 97 wins ranks him 4th overall in franchise history. The only goalie with a better save percentage and goals against average than Burke is Mike Smith, and there is a very good reason for that.
After retiring, Burke would take a position within the Coyotes organization as the Director of Prospect Development. He is also currently the Coyotes goaltending coach, and as some people might call him, the goaltending guru or the goalie whisperer. Under his tutelage, both Ilya Bryzgalov and Smith have been hugely productive in net. In fact, Smith credits Burke's influence for the improvement in his game:
That opportunity to be able to work with Sean Burke obviously has been a huge part of that and having confidence in the system that I'm being taught by a goalie that's been through what I've been through in my career. Being taught by a guy who's been a Vezina Trophy nominee, an All-Star; it's easy to trust in the system.
When combined with the attention to detail that is required in Dave Tippett's system, the Coyotes have become one of the stingiest defensive teams in the NHL over the last four seasons, never ranking lower than 15th in goals against per game.
Sean Burke is the greatest number 1 in Coyotes franchise history. He earned it as a player, and only continues to add to that legacy as he helps the next wave of great Coyotes goalies succeed.