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Arizona Coyotes Preseason Countdown: 46 Days

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The subject of today's countdown post may have had one of the least celebrated Hall of Fame careers in NHL history.

Bruce Bennett

Admittedly, it is hard for an inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame to fly under the radar. Sometimes circumstances conspire to overshadow an individual player's greatest efforts. Sometimes the inability to win the big one turns a player who would be celebrated league wide to instead be the answer to a hockey trivia question. But without a doubt, the subject of today's countdown post was one of the best players to ever lace up his skates for an NHL team. With 46 assists in his tenure as a Coyote, that player is Mike Gartner.

Gartner was drafted by the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association in 1979. While he would play with future Hall of Famer Mark Messier, his tremendous rookie season (27 goals and 52 points in 72 games) would be overshadowed by the stellar play of another rookie: Edmonton Oilers draftee Wayne Gretzky.

After the WHA folded, Gartner found a home with the Washington Capitals, where he would spend ten seasons. He was a prolific goal scorer; he would light the lamp at least 30 times every season for all but two seasons of his 19 season NHL career (and one of the seasons in which he didn't score 30, the 1994-95 season, was only a 38 game season due to a lockout). He would end his career with 708 goals, currently 6th all-time (though Jaromir Jagr only needs four goals to pass him), and 1335 points.

Gartner's importance to the Coyotes in his two seasons in the desert is significant. He scored the team's first goal and the first hat trick in the same game, the second game in franchise history. He would also produce four points in 12 playoff appearances with the Desert Dogs before finally retiring in August 1998.

Even though his point totals are impressive, Gartner's career was overshadowed by a lack of postseason success; he never played in the Stanley Cup Final (the only NHLer in the Hockey Hall of Fame to never even play in a championship series), and never made a postseason All-Star team. Yet Gartner was one of the most consistent goal scorers in league history and played an important role in the Coyotes first two seasons in Arizona.