Winnipeg Jets: 10 Best Players of All Time

Andrew EideCorrespondent IJune 1, 2011

Winnipeg Jets: 10 Best Players of All Time

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - 1988:  Dale Hawerchuk #10 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the Los Angeles Kings during their game at the Great Western Forum circa 1988 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    True North Sports and Entertainment made it official Tuesday afternoon when they announced that they had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and would be relocating the troubled franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    This announcement sparked wild celebration in Winnipeg and muted outrage amongst Atlanta's five hockey fans.

    For the folks in Winnipeg the move marks the return of the NHL for the first time since the 1996 season.  After that season the Jets moved to Phoenix to be reborn as the Coyotes.

    There is no official word yet as to whether the new Winnipeg team will reclaim the name Jets, although commissioner Gary Bettman indicated the name was free to use if wanted.

    With that in mind, what better time to look back at the Winnipeg Jets first go-around and rank the top ten players to play for them.

    This list will include guys who played for the Jets when they were in the rival WHA before being absorbed into the NHL.

    As always, any omissions or snubs can be pointed out in the comments section.

Honarable Mentions

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    In order to make the list of the best Winnipeg Jets a guy had to be a pretty good player.  He also has to have played meaningful seasons with Winnipeg.

    With that in mind, there are some good, and interesting guys who once played in Winnipeg.

    For instance, noted tough guy Tie Domi played three seasons for the Jets and set the franchise record for most penalty minutes in a season with 347.  Pretty cool, but not good enough to make the list.

    Also, long time Red Wings glue man Kris Draper got his start with the Jets but only appeared in 20 games at the start of his career.

    Shane Doan has been a solid pro with Phoenix but only played one season in Winnipeg before the team moved, so he is not on the list.

    Nikolai Khabibulin would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Bolts but The Bulin Wall got his start in Winnipeg playing his first two seasons with the Jets.

    While these guys were better later on they are not worthy of the Jets all time best players.

10. Dave Babych

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    Babych, an offensive-minded defenseman was selected with the second pick in the 1980 NHL Draft by the Jets. While not known for great defense in Winnipeg he showed that he could contribute to the offense.

    Babych started his NHL career with a stellar rookie season, totalling 44 points which led the Jets defenseman. Something Babych did his entire six-year career with Winnipeg.

    His best season was the 1982-83 season where he potted 13 goals and 61 assists from the Blue-Line. He helped lead Winnipeg into the playoffs only to get swept by the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers.

    Babych ended his time in Winnipeg with 73 goals 248 assists for 321 points in 390 games.  Pretty good numbers for a defenseman.

9. Phil Housley

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    Phil Housley was one of the better two-way defenseman of his time.  He began his career in Buffalo but was traded to Winnipeg in 1990.

    Despite being more known as a Sabre he was a big name player in Winnipeg and one of their best.

    While he only played three seasons for the Jets, they were arguably the best three of his career.  He made the NHL All-Star team all three seasons and was a runner-up in the Norris Trophy in 1992.

    Housley ended his three year run in Winnipeg in 1993 with 259 points in only 232 games. His best year in Winnipeg was his last where he scored 97 points which included an amazing 79 assists.

    Pretty impressive numbers for a blue-liner and worthy of making this list despite only three seasons in Manitoba.

8. Keith Tkachuk

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Tkachuk began his wrecking ball of a career in Winnipeg after being drafted in the first round by the Jets in 1990.

    After only two seasons he was named the Jets captain and potted a team best 41 goals.  He followed that up with a 50-goal 98-point season in 1995 which was the Jets last one in Winnipeg.

    Tkachuk was and is a physical player, who first was seen throwing his body around and scoring goals in Manitoba.  He later went on to be a star with Phoenix and St. Louis.

    Tkachuk ended his five-year Jets run with 144 goals and 289 points in 308 games.  He also amassed 792 penalty minutes in that time further proving he was a physical presence.

7. Paul MacLean

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    Paul MacLean joined the Jets in 1981 after a one game stint with the St. Louis Blues.

    MacLean had a knack for scoring and being on a line with Dale Howerchuk was beneficial to his career.  He had someone to get him the puck.

    When he got it he knew what to do with it.  While in Winnipeg MacLean had three 30 goal seasons as well as three 40 goal seasons.

    He ended his Jets career in 1988 when he was traded to Detroit (where is currently an assistant coach) with an impressive 248 goals. He is also Winnipeg's all time third-leading scorer.

6. Teemu Selanne

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    27 Jan 1995:  Rightwinger Teemu Selanne of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.  The Ducks won the game, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The explosive Teemu Selanne was drafted out of Finland in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.  He didn't make his way to Canada however until the 1992 season however.

    When he got there he showed the Jets fans that he was worth waiting for with an NHL record 76 goals his rookie season. He finished that season with an amazing 132 points.

    Despite being injury prone while in Winnipeg he was always a fan favorite.  He ended his Jets career with 147 goals and 306 points in only 231 games.

    After finishing this past season with the Ducks it seems that Selanne may retire.  But with the NHL being back in Winnipeg it would be sweet justice if he signed on for one more winter in Winnipeg and ended his career where it started.

5. Anders Hedberg

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    The Swedish born Hedberg joined the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets in 1974 and quickly became one of the first great European players in North American hockey.

    His rookie season in Winnipeg he scored 100 points, a total which would be his lowest while in Winnipeg. In 1976 and 1978 he was part of a Jets team that won the Avco Cup, the WHA equivalent to the Stanley Cup.

    Before defecting to the NHL's New York Rangers, Hedberg tallied 458 points in only 286 games for the Jets.  That impressive total comes out to 1.60 points per game. 

    At the time most North American hockey personnel were wary of European-born players, thinking they weren't tough enough to make it on the smaller rinks. 

    Hedberg, along with others, showed that they could play the North American style of hockey.

4. Ulf Nilsson

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    Like Hedberg, the Jets also mined the Swedish leagues to find Ulf Nilsson who became a WHA star for the Jets.

    Nilsson showed that he could handle North American hockey by exploding for 120 points his rookie season in 1974 and went on to score 114 points or higher in each of his four seasons in Winnipeg.

    Nilsson also showed he could be a clutch player when it counted.  He twice eclipsed 26 points in the playoffs.  In 1976 he scored 26 in only 13 games.  It doesn't get much better than that.

    He ended his Jets career as their fifth all-time leading scorer, averaged 1.60 points per game and scored 458 points.

    Like Hedberg he bolted for the bright lights of the New York Rangers in 1978 but never enjoyed the success he had in Winnipeg.

3. Bobby Hull

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    The Golden Jet is most known for his goal scoring exploits playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Hull was one of the NHL's brightest stars in the 1960's.

    Unhappy with his contract situation with Chicago he was lured away from the Blackhawks and the NHL by the WHA and the Winnipeg Jets.

    The Jets signing of Hull was a big step forward for the fledgling rival league.  They threw a million dollars at Hull and he repaid them with fantastic play.

    On the same line as Hedberg and Nilsson Hull scored 303 goals and 638 points for the Jets in his eight seasons in Winnipeg.

    In 1974 he potted a career high 77 goals while playing for the Jets. While he made the Hall of Fame mostly for his Blackhawks career he ended as Winnipeg's third all time leading scorer.

2. Thomas Steen

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - 1988:  Bernie Nicholls #9 of the Los Angeles Kings lines up for the face-off against Thomas Steen #25 of the Winnipeg Jets during their game at the Great Western Forum circa 1988 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Image
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Having had success with bringing Swedish players over the Winnipeg Jets went back to Europe in 1979 and drafted a young Thomas Steen.

    Steen played the next 14 years for the Jets and has had his number retired.  Even though he never played in Phoenix his number is still hanging from the rafters at Coyotes games.

    Steen teamed with Jets great Dale Hawerchuk and is the Jets second leading scorer of all time.

    Known mostly as a play maker, Steen ended up playing 950 games in Winnipeg with 817 points.

    Hopefully the new Winnipeg franchise will also honor the retirement of No. 25.

1. Dale Hawerchuk

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - 1988:  Dale Hawerchuk #10 of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during their game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Great Western Forum circa 1988 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Without a doubt the greatest Winnipeg Jets player of all time was Dale Hawerchuk.  No. 10 joined the Jets after being the first overall draft in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

    He was a tremendous skater and goal scorer and led the Jets with six seasons scoring over 100 points.  Hawerchuk was also the youngest player in NHL history to hit that 100 point mark.

    Hawerchuk is the Jets all time leading scorer with 929 points, 379 goals and an impressive 1.30 points per game.

    The Phoenix Coyotes retired Hawerchuk's number 10 jersey despite the fact he never played in the desert. 

    The first business of order for the new franchise should be to hang that jersey from the rafters in Winnipeg, no matter what name they end up going with.