His skating was a marvel, his ability to jump into the offense legendary, and his accomplishments rewrote the record book. Still, Paul Coffey was never able to shake the initial criticisms in regard to the quality of his defensive play. In the end, Paul Coffey was a magnificent and flawed player rolled into one–and a wonder to observe.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
OMJHL All-Star Second Team: 1979-80 (Kitchener)
OMJHL All-Star Third Team: 1978-79 (Sault Ste. Marie)
Miscellaneous: Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as
No. 20 prospect for the 1980 NHL draft. Sault Ste. Marie’s first pick in 1978 OMJHL midget draft. Played left wing for parts of his junior career.
The Edmonton Oilers had high hopes for Paul Coffey–they took him 6th overall, that was a "reach" selection based on the Hockey News pre-draft issue–and he showed flashes of brilliance from the start. Early in his Oiler career, during the 80-81 pre-season, Coffey showed just how much God-given talent he had and what he could do in a hockey game. Coffey drove deep into the opposition end on a rush, and then fell behind the other team’s net, losing possession. The other club quickly gobbled up the puck and went on the offensive. The Oilers other defender (Jim Crosson) saw the play develop at the opponent’s blueline, turned and went hell bent for leather toward his end to cover off the fast break. He took three strides toward his own end, turned to face the oncoming rush–and looked over to find Coffey at his side.
He really was that fast, and it always aided his play at both ends of the rink.
Paul Coffey spent several years learning to "pick his spots" offensively and in this interview with Dave Hodge explains the process:
- Hockey Hall of Fame 2004
- Norris Trophy: 1985, 1986, 1995
- 1st All-Star: 1985, 1986, 1989, 1995
- Stanley Cups: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1991
- Most goals in a season by a defenseman: 48, 1985-86
- Most consecutive games by a defenseman with at least one point (28 for Edmonton from Nov. 17, 1985, to Jan. 25, 1986)
- Most points in one game by a defenseman (8 for Edmonton vs. Detroit on March 14, 1986, shares record)
Edmonton traded Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp to Pittsburgh in exchange for Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph on November 24, 1987.
Through twenty-one NHL seasons, Paul Coffey was named to either the First or Second All-Star Team eight times, and as the Norris Trophy winner on three occasions. He also appeared in fourteen NHL All-Star Games and represented Canada at four Canada/World Cup tournaments. Paul retired as the highest scoring defenseman in NHL playoff history and the second most proficient defenseman in NHL regular season history, sitting behind Raymond Bourque in career goals, assists, and points. In 2004, the spectacularly gifted Paul Coffey was selected to be an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. "I had a chance to see Grant get elected to the Hall last year (2003) and it’s a tremendous honour to join all of my Oilers teammates," said Coffey after being notified of his election to the Hall. "When we beat the Islanders to win our first Stanley Cup and later watched the stars from that team get into the Hall, it’s amazing to receive the telephone call that Grant, Wayne, Jari and Slats got."
Scotty Bowman, writing in The Hockey News in November 2004, stated, "Coffey was one of the most unique defensemen to ever play in the league. He was often referred to as a ‘rover.’ The biggest thing about Coffey was his tremendous speed. If he couldn’t skate like he did, he would not have been able to move up and play like he did. He was like a fourth forward on most attacks."
Number 7: The shy, young Coffey. The rookie. Coffey was Edmonton’s first round pick in the spring and they expect wonders from him. So far, however, he seems bottled up, as tense on the ice as he is reticent off it. He first came to Edmonton over the summer, along with his agent Gus Badali, whom he shares with Gretzky. In the limousine that picked them up at the airport and drove them downtown, he said not a word, staring at the Edmonton skyline as if it were Babylon. At training camp he looked unsure of himself, although he is such a fluid skater that he is obviously capable at any moment of living up to his promise. He is 19, but seems much younger than Gretzky. A handsome young man with deep brown eyes, he still keeps much to himself. Badali says he could be the next Bobby Orr, but, of course, all agents say that of their defensive stock.