Friday, April 10, 2020

The worst players to wear every jersey number in NHL history

With no games to cover, we’ve spent a big chunk of the last few weeks debating the best players to wear every number. A group of us put together a list that covered the entire NHL, and various team sites have done lists for individual franchises. As a confessed history nerd, it’s all been a fun trip down memory lane. It’s always nice to remember the greatest to ever lace up the skates.

But really, why should the best of the best get all the attention? We all know about the legends who wore numbers like 99, or 4, or 66 or 77. But what about the other 99.9 percent of NHL players who never came close to making their numbers iconic? They deserve some attention too.

Today, they’re going to get it, as I work through the very worst players to wear every number in NHL history.

Of course, “worst” is subjective, especially when you’re talking about guys who managed to crack the highest level of pro hockey in the world. In some cases, they might actually be the worst, based on their career output. In others, they’ll be players who had an especially bad game or stretch or season while wearing a certain number. A lot of these are just names I remember and want to tell you a story about. Honestly, this whole thing is pretty much just an excuse to Remember Some Guys. Please don’t be mad at me if somebody you know is on the list.

With all that said, let’s settle in for some NHL History 101. Literally … that’s how many numbers we’ve got to go through. Let’s see how many I can get you to agree with.

(Unless otherwise specified, all jersey number data is via hockey-reference.com.)

0: Neil Sheehy

The only No. 0 in modern NHL history was a decent player and went on to become a better agent. He was also way too into getting his teammates to do weird lip-synch videos, both in Calgary and later in Washington. He even got a producer credit. I’ll leave it to the reader as the whether that’s a good thing.

00: Martin Biron

This is such a good number for a goaltender, but only Biron and John Davidson ever wore it. Biron lasted just three games and posted a 5.05 GAA, so maybe switching wasn’t the worst idea.

1: Rick DiPietro

Here’s the thing about DiPietro’s career: It was better than you remember it. He obviously never lived up to the crazy contract, but he played for over a decade and had some good years, including one where he finished in the top ten in Vezina voting. He did all that wearing No. 39, though; it was only his rookie season where the Islanders had him wear No. 1, apparently to remind everyone that they’d just used the first overall pick on him. No pressure, kid. He went 3-15-1, which seems like a bad sign, before switching numbers early in his second season.

2: Gilles Marotte

Marotte was a solid defenceman who bounced around the NHL for 12 seasons (and one monster trade), playing for five teams and wearing five different numbers in the process. But it was while he was wearing No. 2 in Chicago in 1967-68 that he set a dubious single-season record that still stands by taking 154 shots on goal without scoring once.

3. Bennett Wolf

Wolf played two partial seasons with the Penguins in the early 80s while wearing No. 6, and that was apparently enough to earn him a promotion to the more traditional defenceman’s No. 3. He lasted five games, had zero points, got in a crazy fight with John Wensink in which he both pulled his hair and punched him in the package, and was never seen in the NHL again.

4. Bill Mikkelson

Some records will never be broken. Gretzky’s 92 goals. Brodeur’s 691 wins. Mikkelson’s -82 in just 59 games for the 1974-75 Caps. Good news: He switched numbers and wore No. 3 for the rest of his NHL career. Bad news: That lasted one game.

5. Yan Golubovsky

You may remember Yan from our “worst players ever traded straight-up for a Hall-of-Famer” post. In his case, that was Igor Larionov, who went from Florida to Detroit for Golubovsky in 2000. The Wings got three seasons of Larionov, including a triple-overtime winner in the Stanley Cup final. The Panthers got six games of Golubovsky before he headed back to Russia. Slight edge Detroit.

6. Martin Strbak

He lasted one NHL season and the most memorable thing about him is that his name looks like what would happen if your hand slipped while trying to type “Martin Straka.” Here’s the thing: He was once actually traded for Martin Straka. This bothers me more than it should.

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