Happy 55th birthday to the greatest scoring defenseman in National Hockey League playoff history.
Paul Douglas Coffey was born in Weston, Ontario, on this date in 1961. He grew up in Malton—about 40 minutes northwest of Toronto—where he discovered hockey and became a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. At 16, Coffey joined the North York Rangers of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League [OPJHL], where he played 50 games before becoming a late-season addition to the Kingston Canadiens. He played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1978-79, a squad future teammate Wayne Gretzky had skated for the prior season. That year, Coffey collected 72 assists in 68 games as a defenseman. After beginning the following season in Sault Ste. Marie, Coffey was moved to the Kitchener Rangers of the OPJHL, gathering 71 points in just 52 games. In three years of junior hockey, Coffey averaged better than one point per game. In 1980, the Edmonton Oilers selected the left-handed shooting 19 year old with the sixth overall selection of the NHL Entry Draft, three spots behind future Hall of Famer Denis Savard, who the Chicago Blackhawks picked in the third spot.
Paul Coffey joined a young nucleus of talent in Edmonton, including future Hall of Famers Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and Mark Messier [Daily Dose, July 3]. In his second season, Coffey led all NHL defenseman with 89 points. The following year, he collected 96, and in 1983-84 was second in the league [behind Gretzky] with 126 points. Coffey became only the second defenseman [behind Bobby Orr] in NHL history to score 40 goals in a season and helped the Oilers end the New York Islanders’ reign as Stanley Cup champions, winning the first title in franchise history. In December 1984, Coffey scored four goals in one game, the last defenseman of the 20th century to achieve that feat. In the 1985 playoffs, Coffey set records for most goals , assists  and points  in a single postseason for a defenseman. He won the Norris Trophy as best defenseman in the NHL and the Oilers repeated as Stanley Cup champions. In 1985-86, Mr. Coffey scored 48 goals to break Bobby Orr’s [Daily Dose, August 26] record for goals by a defenseman in a season. Although Edmonton failed to defend their Stanley Cup title, Coffey won his second Norris Trophy after collecting 138 points on the year. After helping Edmonton to a third Stanley Cup title in 1987, Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh. In December 1990, he became the second defenseman ever to record 1,000 points, doing so in a record-breaking 770 games. Coffey guided the Penguins to the 1992 Stanley Cup championship before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings. There, he passed Denis Potvin [Daily Dose, October 29] to become the career leader in goals, assists and points by a defenseman. He was then dealt to Detroit. Mr. Coffey won his third Norris Trophy with the Red Wings in 1995 before making stops in Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Carolina and Boston in the final years of his career. He retired following the 2000-01 season.
Paul Coffey was an offensive defenseman—a lightning fast skater, skilled playmaker, and a savvy player with a booming shot. “The biggest thing about Paul Coffey was his speed,” said former coach Scotty Bowman [Daily Dose, February 2]. “If he didn’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.” Coffey played for nine teams in 21 NHL seasons, retiring as the highest scoring defenseman in playoff history and second only to Raymond Bourque [Daily Dose, December 28] in regular season points. In 1,409 games played, Coffey scored 396 goals, handed out 1,135 assists and collected 1,531 points. He won four Stanley Cup titles, earned three Norris Trophies and represented Canada in four Canada/World Cup competitions. Mr. Coffey scored 100 points or more five times and was part of first-ever Stanley Cup championships with two franchises—Edmonton and Pittsburgh. Coffey still holds eleven NHL records and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. Paul Coffey wore Number Seven while in Edmonton, then wore 77 everywhere else he played. He joins Phil Esposito and Ray Bourque as one of three members of the Hockey Hall of Fame to switch from Seven to 77.