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A Series: Looking into Avalanche and Nordiques Player Numbers: Number 12

The best? Really?
The best? Really?
Elsa, Getty Images

I'm not going to lie. This one isn't pretty and there's just no other way to say it. For whatever reason, #12 has been an absolute rogue's gallery for the Avalanche and Nordiques. There are a lot of names on here I have never heard of before today.

Bob Fitchner - and forward Bob Fitchner would be one of them. We had spent his career in the WHA, the last 4 seasons with the Nordiques. He made the jump to the NHL with them and played one season and a few games the following season before retiring. In the NHL, he played in 78 games with 12 goals, 25 assists and was a -25 with 59 penalty minutes. Modest numbers, but there might be a reason to give him your vote. Check out this photo. Fitchner is in the front row, 2nd from the right wearing #12 and the A. To his right is a goalie who looks like John Oates. That, my friends, is Jim Corsi. And that might be the high point of this article.

John Paddock - Paddock is one of a couple of future coaches who wore #12 with the franchise. He's a winger who was traded to the Nordiques for cash in the summer of 1980 and spent one season in Quebec playing in 32 games. Paddock has coached in both the AHL and NHL (Jets and Senators) and is currently the assistant GM of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jere Gillis - Jere Gillis was acquired in 1982 as part of the Robbie Ftorek deal and played all of 12 games for the Nordiques. He played for 6 different NHL teams, retiring in the early 90' become a Hollywood stunt man. I told you: rogue's gallery.

Louis Sleigher - Sleigher, a winger, played parts of 5 seasons in Quebec and wore three different numbers for the Nordiques. He wore #28 for 2 games in 1979-80, then #21 for 8 games in 81-82 and finally #12 for the remainder of his stay. He was traded to Boston in 1984 for Luc Dufor. In total, Sleigher played in 111 games for Quebec, scoring 30 goals, 32 assists +29 and 81 penalty minutes. He is perhaps most well-known for his role in the Good Friday Massacre against Montreal.

Wayne Groulx - Groulx played all of one game in the NHL, with Quebec in the 84-85 season. He was a skilled junior player, winning the Red Tilson trophy for most outstanding OHL player, but never made an impact as a pro in North America. He did have a solid career overseas, however/

Risto Siltanen - I remember Siltanen with the Oilers but didn't remember him playing with the Nordiques (Whalers also). The Finnish defenseman was acquired at the 1986 trade deadline and played the following season in Quebec before heading back overseas. He played 79 games in Quebec, 12 goals, 34 assists, -3, 38 pims.

Claude Julien - The defenseman spent about 11 years bouncing around the AHL, IHL, CHL and France. He also played 13 games in the NHL, all with Quebec. Like Paddock, he would go on to become a coach in the NHL, winning a Cup with the Bruins.

Ken Quinney - Nope, never heard of him. Quinney, a forward, played 59 games in parts of 3 seasons with Quebec (86-87, 87-88, 90-91), scoring 7 goals, 13 assists and 23 penalty minutes with a -3. Per hockey-reference he wore #44 and #36 and it seems like he also donned a #54 somewhere along the line. They say he wore #12 too, hence the inclusion here. Of course, that's the one number I couldn't find evidence of him wearing.

Ken McRae - In 1986, the Nordiques drafted a total of 14 players. 9 of them never saw the NHL and only two of them played in 100 NHL games. One was Ron Tugnutt, the other was McRae, taken 18th overall. That might explain why the Nordiques finished last in their division for the next 5 years after this dud of a draft. McRae's 126 games with Quebec was spread over 5 seasons. He amassed 13 goals, 20 assists and a hefty 326 penalty minutes with an impressive -59 +/-. For the Nordiques, he wore the illustrious #39 and #12

Chris Simon - The heavyweight joined the Nordiques in 1992 as part of the Lindros trade and was with the team when they moved to Colorado, so he bridges the gap between Nordiques' 12 and Avalanche 12. He also marks the point between "guys-I've-never-heard-of" and "guys-I've-heard-of", so kudos to him. He won a Cup with the Avs in 1996 and was traded the following offseason to Washington. Simon played in 146 games for the franchise with 24 goals, 32 assists +20 and 555 penalty minutes. He's 16th on the franchise list in that category, sandwiched between Peter Forsberg and Ian Laperriere.

Shean Donovan - In 1997, the Avalanche traded Mike Ricci and a 2nd round pick to San Jose for a 1st rounder and Shean Donovan. The Avs were trying to stockpile picks to get a chance to draft Vinny Lecavalier but ended up with Alex Tanguay (not a bad consolation prize). Donovan spent parts of 3 seasons with Colorado, 133 games in all, scoring 13 goals, 19 assists +3 and 93 penalty minutes. In 1999 he was traded to Atlanta for Rick Tabaracci (to expose in the 2000 expansion draft).

Radim Vrbata - Vrbata started out wearing #12 as a rookie in 2001, but when the Avalanche acquired Mike Keane near the deadline, he switched to number 17 for the veteran. Vrbata played less than two seasons in Denver, getting traded at the 2003 deadline for Bates Fucking Battaglia, a move that I still rank as one of my least favorite Avalanche trades of all time. Vrbata played in 118 games for the Avs, scoring 29 goals, 31 assists, +7 and 30 penalty minutes.

Mike Keane - Keane wore #25 in his first, Cup-winning stint with the Avalanche (perhaps because he was afraid to ask Chris Simon for #12). When he joined the team for his second stint in 2002, Radim Vrbata gave up #12 for Keane. In 4 seasons in Colorado, half wearing 25 and half wearing 12, Keane appeared in 223 games, notched 27 goals, 37 assists, +1 and 153 penalty minutes and won one of his 3 Stanley Cup rings.

Brad Richardson - Brad Richardson wore #12 in parts of 3 seasons with the Avalanche from 2005 to 2008 before getting traded to the Kings. In total, he played in 136 games, scored 19 goals, 21 assists +1 and 48 penalty minutes.

Darren Haydar - The longtime AHL veteran and former UNH Wildcat managed just one game in an Avalanche uniform in 2010.

Kevin Porter - In many ways, Porter embodies the typical #12 for the franchise. The vast majority of the #12s seem to be smaller guys, 6' 200, or smaller (Groulx, Haydar, Keane). Several of the guys - Groulx, Haydar, McRae - were highly touted in juniors or college but couldn't translate that to the NHL; Porter was a Hoby Baker winner in college but hasn't been a star at the next level. Lots of these guys, like Porter, were 4th liners or tweeners and most only spent a couple of seasons with the franchise. Porter is right on par, playing parts of 3 seasons in Colorado. He played in 125 games, 20 goals 15 assists -17 and 44 penalty minutes.

Well, good luck with the voting on this one. Offensively, the best numbers would appear to belong to Radim Vrbata and Louis Sleigher, but both played barely more than 100 games for the franchise. Mike Keane had two stints with the Avalanche, played in the most games (223) and won a Stanley Cup, but he wore #25 on the Cup team. Chris Simon also won a Cup (actually wearing #12) and had the 2nd most appearances...but can a guy who played just 146 games really be the choice? It's a tough call for sure.