(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
By Jaime Eisner and Five For Howling
The curious case of the Phoenix Coyotes; a franchise marred in relocation rumors in two different cities.
Phoenix and Winnipeg can’t help but be connected. Winnipeg is the city that birthed the franchise now named after a wild canine.
But Winnipeg is also the city that was the most realistic threat to remove hockey from Arizona. The fan base has since turned their back on the old Jets days and has created a “modern era” of sorts, when talking about franchise history; an era that conveniently excludes Winnipeg.
For the purpose of this article, the entire history of the Franchise in the NHL will be in play.
Canada: Shane Doan
Roll your eyes, I know; it’s the most predictable answer. Shane Doan has been the team’s ambassador for years now. He talks to each and every fan that he runs into and treats them like an old friend. When the team loses, Doan is the first one to answer media questions. The love for Doan continued to grow after he re-signed with the team, for less money than was reportedly offered on the open market, despite ownership uncertainty.
His play on the ice isn’t half bad either. Doan is currently third on the list of the all-time franchise points list; only two points behind second place. He will enter the 2013-2014 season having scored 331 goals and 815 points, all for one franchise. The combination of grit, talent and leadership has led Doan to a successful career in the NHL and internationally.
Internationally, Doan was both a captain and alternate captain for Team Canada. He captained the 2007 Gold medal winning Canadian team in the World Championships. In total, Doan boasts three silver medals and two gold medals in International play.
Plus, he beat Mantracker!
The Alberta native has captained the Coyotes since the 03-04 season, and has since become the face of the franchise after overcoming the PR nightmare of checking innocent fans from behind at the ATM.
A quick shout out to Dale Hawerchuk who received serious consideration for this spot. The Ontario native is the Franchise’s all-time scoring leader with 929 points.
Finland: Teppo Numminen
The best defenseman in Jets/Coyotes history is also the best Finn in team history. Before the captaincy was bestowed on Doan, it was property of Numminen who became only the second player of Finnish descent to captain an NHL team in 2001. He was also the second captain of the “Phoenix” portion of franchise history.
The Tampere native is ranked first in franchise history in games played, goals and points among defensemen. Numminen finished his time with the franchise with 108 goals and 532 points, good for fifth best in team history.
He also played over 1,000 games with the franchise. The only player who has donned a Jets/Coyotes sweater more times is Doan.
When he is not playing hockey, he spends his time singing for U2.
USA: Keith Tkachuk
“Walt” Tkachuk knew had to make an impact. The pride of Massachusetts walked into a new, unfamiliar market and immediately won the crowds over. Tkachuk scored 52 goals for the newly relocated, newly named Coyotes. He would go on to score a total of 323 goals and 623 points, good for fourth best in franchise history.
His name sits upon the Coyotes Ring of Honor among names like Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen and Bobby Hull.
While his time in Phoenix was brief, the 19th overall pick in the 1990 NHL Draft played parts of 10 very successful seasons with the franchise.
Tkachuk is a staple of the initial Coyotes team that invaded Phoenix, Arizona in the mid-1990s. A team that used to drive their cars, in full gear, to their practice facility several miles away; sticks in the back seat, helmets on heads, driving down the I-10.
Arizona hockey fans have only known three Coyotes captains. Tkachuk was the first.
Sweden: Thomas Steen
Steen spent all 14 years of his NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets. He was selected 103rd overall in 1979, the year the Jets joined the NHL.
A product of Stockholm, Steen is ranked second of the Jets/Coyotes all-time scorers list. He finished his NHL career with 264 goals and 817 points. His career ended a year before the franchise was relocated to Arizona.
Steen also dabbled in politics, as he was a candidate in the 2008 Canadian Federal Election in the Elmwood—Transcona region. He came in second in the race, prompting this quote from a journalist of the Winnipeg Free Press: “He is by all accounts and appearances a lovely and honourable gentleman…but he is radically out of his depth, muzzled by his party and unfamiliar with the issues.” Which, considering today’s political climate, is the most Canadian way to tell somebody off. It’s almost as Canadian as maple syrup and free healthcare.
Russia: Ilya Bryzgalov
When Mr. Universe was focused on stopping pucks and not comparing his Husky to a “hot girl”, he led the Coyotes to the greatest regular season in team history. Bryzgalov back-stopped the Coyotes to a franchise-best 50-25-7 (107 points) record.
Bryzgalov is the current franchise leader in wins with 130. He ended his Coyotes career with a record of 130-93-27 with 21 shutouts, a 2.54 GAA and a save percentage of .917. He is third in total minutes played by a goalie in franchise history with 15,071 TOI and tied for most shutouts with Nikolai Khabibulin.
After missing the playoffs for seven years (six seasons), the Russian led the team to back-to-back playoff appearances; albeit first round defeats.
Bryz may also qualify as the franchise’s best waiver claim of all time as the Coyotes snatched him up from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Don’t like this pick? Why you heff to be mad?
Slovakia: Ladislav Nagy
The multi-time 20-goal scorer ended his six-year Coyotes career with 92 goals and 249 points; good for 19th in franchise history.
Nagy’s NHL career was not long, but it was productive. In his 321 games with the team, he recorded 249 points, good for 0.78 points-per-game (equivalent to 63 points over an 82-game season).
Czech Republic: Radim Vrbata
Vrbata is good, very good. He is even better than you think.
Over the last two seasons, he is the ninth best player in the NHL in goals-per-game. Ninth!
It's not surprising that a relatively quiet European player that plays his home games in Glendale, Arizona flies under the radar nationally.
While the Mlada Boleslav native has played for five NHL teams, his best years were in Arizona.
He currently ranks 21st on the Coyotes all time scoring list with 117 goals and 237 points. His career has flourished with the Coyotes as he has become the team’s only true goal-scorer. His best season was in 2011-2012 when he led the team with 35 goals and led the League (along with Steven Stamkos) in game-winning goals, with 12.
Vrbata is the proud owner of the most successful shootout move in Coyotes history, the “Vrby move.” Fake to the fore-hand, deke to the back-hand and roof the puck top shelf. Opponents know it’s coming and it still goes in.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Mikkel Boedker (Denmark)
A surprisingly few amount of Danes have played in the NHL. Only seven have ever played an NHL game.
Boedker is one of the seven, and the only Coyote, and ranks third on the all-time Danish scoring list with 34 goals and 95 points.
The former first round draft pick is still only 23 and his game continues to grow. His two best seasons were his rookie year, and the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. Boedker has not missed a game since becoming a full-time player before the 2011-2012 season.
The Brondby native is coming off the best season of his career, where he scored 26 points in 48 games.
His career should continue to grow and flourish as he enters his mid-20s. His weather career, just getting started.
“Monday great weather, Tuesday we are here for a little bit so 87 (degrees) is perfect. Rest of the week, don’t really care, we’re not here, we go on the road.”