In baseball, the number "42" is hallowed throughout the entire league. It does not hold quite the same breadth in the Arizona Coyotes annals, but there are some neat quirks as the number relates to Coyotes lore. Interestingly enough, they are all related to the goaltender position.
For starters, only two players in the Coyotes' 18-year history have donned the number 42 - both goaltenders.
First, there is Robert Esche, who played in 58 games spread across four seasons, never starting more than 25 per year in net. He was semi-effective when he was in, posting a 2.97 goals against with a .897 save percentage in his Coyotes career. His best years were away from the desert, though. He received a share of the William M. Jennings trophy in the 2002-03 season as a member of the Flyers, and posted even better numbers in the next season.
The other would be Josh Tordjman, who wore the number 42 in his two starts for the club in the 2008-09 season. He was forgettable in those two starts, posting a 4.07 goals against and a .871 save percentage. They were obviously both losses.
But the number 42 isn't just reserved for mediocre goaltenders: it is actually the standard of excellence that Coyote goalies strive for; 42 is the franchise win mark, set by Ilya Bryzgalov in the 2009-10 season.
It is hard to look past the shenanigans of the Russian goaltender to remember that, at one point, Bryzgalov was actually quite good between the pipes. In 257 games, Bryzgalov was 130-93-27, with a 2.54 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. But let's focus on Bryz's Coyote record-holding season in particular...
Bryz's 2009-2010 NHL season
|Record||42-20-6 (3rd in NHL)|
|GAA||2.29 (6th in NHL)|
|Save%||.920 (T-8th in NHL)|
|Shutouts||8 (2nd behind M.Broduer)|
The stats are quite eye-popping all around. Obviously the win total stands out, but also the number of shutouts.
But is this actually the best season a Coyotes goalie has ever had? Let us compare those stats to another incredible individual effort in net - Mike Smith's stellar 2011-12 campaign:
Smith's 2011-12 NHL season
|Record||38-18-10 (4th in NHL)|
|Goals Against||2.21 (7th in NHL)|
|Save%||.930 (T-3rd in NHL)|
|Shutouts||8 (T-3rd in NHL)|
So in everything but wins, Smith's season was actually quite comparable to Bryz's. In many respects, it was actually better. That is, until we factor in the postseason performance of those two:
|Bryz (09-10)||Postseason stats||Smith (11-12)|
With the postseason factored in, it becomes quite clear who had the better season. Add in the emotions of the trip to WCF and it is pretty easy to guess which one the fans remember more vividly.
Nevertheless, Bryzgalov is in the record book, at least for now. Maybe No. 41 has something to say about it in 2014-15.
One last tidbit of trivia: in 1972, the original incarnation of the Coyotes, the Winnipeg Jets, joined the World Hockey Association as a founding member--42 years ago.