ALL-TIME ROSTER: COLORADO AVALANCHE / QUEBEC NORDIQUES

Ray Bourque Cup

Ray Bourque finally lifts the Stanley Cup, 2001

The next instalment of this series is the Colorado Avalanche.  Whilst being one of the “forgotten franchises” in the 1980s whilst in Quebec, the team started to gather some incredible young players which would allow them to eventually become one of the most dominant teams of the 1990s, particularly after the team moved to Colorado in 1996.  This team has witnessed some of the greatest players ever to lace up a pair of skates, so enjoy…

Thanks to the Legends of Hockey website and Wikipedia for providing some of the information used, as well as NHL.com for the statistics provided.

FORWARD LINES

1ST LINE:

Joe Sakic

Joe Sakic

MICHEL GOULET—-JOE SAKIC—-REAL CLOUTIER

  • GOULET: 813 Games, 456 G – 489 A – 945 P 
  • After playing his first pro season in 1978/9 – the last year of existence of the WHA – for the Birmingham Bulls of said league, left winger Michel Goulet was picked up by the Quebec Nordiques in the NHL Entry Draft that year.  Little did they know they’d just picked up one of the most prolific snipers the NHL would see during the 1980s, in an era that was chock full of goal scorers.  Along with the team’s star trio of Stastny brothers, Goulet was the star attraction.  He didn’t start out as a a superstar, but rather made a steady progression from 22 goals in his rookie year, to 32 goals, to 42 goals, and then to 57 goals – starting a run of four straight 50+ goal seasons.  He was eventually traded in 1990 to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he would spend four more seasons before having to retire due to post-concussion symptoms following an accident on the ice.
  • As a Nordique, Goulet had two 20+ goal seasons, one 30+ goal season, three 40+ goal seasons, and four 50+ goal seasons.  He also had four 100+ point seasons and two 90+ point seasons.  In the playoffs, he managed 33 goals and 64 points in 66 games.  He was named to the 1st All-Star Team three times and to the 2nd All-Star Team twice.  He never won a Stanley Cup, but was named to the Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • SAKIC: 1378 Games, 625 G – 1016 A – 1641 P
  • “Burnaby Joe” was one of the most prolific scorers the game has ever seen, an achievement made all the more remarkable considering a significant chunk of his career was played during the mid-to-late 1990s – the so-called “Dead Puck” era where scoring was considerably lower than previous decades due in part to teams paying more attention to defence.  The main weapon in his arsenal was a lethal wrist shot, but he was an adept playmaker too; he is also regarded as one of the great leaders of the game, having played for the same franchise for 20 years and being captain of the team for 16 of those.
  • He was drafted 15th Overall in 1987 by Quebec, but requested that he stay in juniors for another year to better prepare himself for the NHL.  He made his debut at the start of the 1988/89 season, and put up an impressive 62 points in 70 games.  His sophomore campaign was even better, as he exploded for 102 points, and marking the start of Sakic as a truely elite player in the league.  The Nordiques were a terrible team during Sakic’s early years, but he had a lot of individual success, and Quebec were starting to bring in some talented young players.  Towards the end of the Nordique’s existence, the fruits of several years hard graft began to show as the team had some success in reaching the playoffs.  The team moved to Colorado in time for the 1995/96 season, and the franchise won its first Stanley Cup that same season, largely on the back of an MVP performance by Sakic.  This marked a new era of the Avalanche being a dominant NHL team, winning division and league titles, going deep into the playoffs, all the while with Sakic leading the way both on and off the ice.  Perhaps his best personal season in terms of accomplishments also coincided with Colorado’s second Stanley Cup – although that’s likely no coincidence.
  • Sakic’s personal success continued even as the team’s fortunes began to fade in the second half of the 2000s, with him reaching several career milestones.  Following an injury-plagued 2008/09 season, Sakic decided to retire, bringing to an end the career of one of the most highly respected and most talented players the NHL had ever seen.
  • Sakic’s achievements as a member of the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise are as follows:
    -one 12 point season (in 15 games in 2008/09), one 40 point season (in 44 games in 2007/08), one 58 point season (in 58 games in 2002/03), two 62 point seasons (the first in 72 games in 1988/89, the second in only 47 games in 1994/95), one 63 point season (in 64 games in 1997/98), one 74 point season (in just 65 games in 1996/97), a 79 point season (in 82 games in 2001/02), three 80+ point seasons, three 90+ point seasons, three 100+ point seasons, one 118 point season and a career high 120 points in 1995/96;
    -eight 20+ goal seasons, four 30+ goal seasons, three 40+ goal seasons, and two 50+ goal seasons;
    -84 goals and 188 points in just 172 NHL playoff games, including a standout 18 goal, 34 point performance in just 22 games in 1996;
    -voted in to 13 All-Star Games and played in 12 of them (he missed the 1997 one due to injury).  Was named MVP of the 2004 All-Star Game, scoring a hat-trick.  He is the all-time All-Star Game leader in assists with 16, and is 3rd all-time in All-Star Game scoring with 22 points – behind only Gretzky and Lemieux;
    -he reached 1000 career points in 1999, and later became only the 11th player in NHL history to reach 1500 points in 2006, and he reached 1000 career assists in 2008, also the 11th to achieve that milestone;
    -when he scored 100 points in 2006/07, he became the 2nd oldest player in NHL history to do so, at 37 years old, behind only Gordie Howe;
    -along with Bobby Clarke, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, Sakic is one of only 4 players to win the Hart Trophy and captain his team to the Stanley Cup in the same year;
    -is a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club, having won Olympic Gold (2002, when he was also MVP), World Championship Gold (1994), and the Stanley Cup (1996 and 2001).  He also was a member of the World Junior Gold-medal winning Canadian team in 1988, and the Canadian Gold-medal team at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey;
    -holds the Avalanche franchise records for all-time goals, assists and points, games played;
    -holds the NHL record for most playoff overtime goals with 8;
    -won two Stanley Cups (1996 and 2001);
    -shared the Plus/Minus Award with Patrick Elias in 2001;
    -won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP in 1996;
    -won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2001;
    -won the Lady Byng Trophy for Gentlemanly Play in 2001;
    -won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the League’s Best Player as chosen by NHL players in 2001;
    -was named to the 1st All-Star Team three times;
    -won the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2007 for his extensive charity work;
    -is 9th on the all-time points list (overtaken by Jaromir Jagr in 2012), and 15th on the all-time goals list;
    -had his number 19 retired by the Avalanche;
    -was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, his first year of eligibility.
  • CLOUTIER: 236 Games, 122 G – 162 A – 284 P
  • Real Cloutier spent 4 NHL seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, but it’s well worth noting that he actually spent 9 seasons in their uniform – the first 5 of which were when they were a WHA team.  His most prolific years were during that time, when he had one 20+ goal season, one 50+ goal season, two 60+ goal seasons and one 70+ goal season – stunning totals no matter the league.  And make no mistake, the WHA was a great league.  He was still a brilliant scorer by the time the Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979, and had seasons of 15 goals (in 34 games), 28 goals, 37 goals and 42 goals.
  • Cloutier’s achievements as a Nordique include:
    -three times named to the WHA 2nd All-Star Team;
    -once named to the WHA 1st All-Star Team;
    -played in one NHL All-Star Game;
    -3rd all-time in WHA goals scored;
    -2nd player ever to score a hat-trick in his NHL debut
  • He was traded to Buffalo in 1983, and had one pretty good season there (60 points) but reportedly clashed with legendary coach Scotty Bowman and was demoted to the minors the following season.  He retired in 1985 at the young age of 28.

2ND LINE:

The Stastny Brothers

ANTON STASTNY—-PETER STASTNY—-MARIAN STASTNY

  • A. STASTNY: 650 Games, 252 G – 384 A – 636 P
  • The first of the legendary Stastny brothers, Anton is particularly notable as the first ever player born and trained in Slovakia to be drafted by an NHL team – 198th overall by Philadelphia in 1978.  He was then redrafted a year later by Quebec 83rd Overall, and soon became one of their marquee players, joining the team in 1980.
  • Anton’s achievements as a Nordique are as follows:
    -four seasons with 20+ goals and four seasons with 30+ goals;
    -two 60+ point seasons, three 70+ point seasons, two 80+ point seasons, and a career high 92 points in 1982/83.
  • P. STASTNY: 737 Games, 380 G – 668 A – 1048 P

  • Becoming known as “Peter the Great”, Peter Stastny was without a doubt the greatest of the three Stastny brothers.  Defecting from then-communist country Czechoslovakia in 1980 with his brother Anton, they were the first major European stars to do so.  He quickly became the core player of the Nordiques, putting up phenomenal scoring seasons over 10 years with the team.  He was massively popular with the fans, helped by his decision to learn French as well as English, vital for popularity in Francophone Quebec.
  • Peter’s achievements as a Nordique are as follows:
    -two 20+ goal seasons, three 30+ goal seasons, and five 40+ goal seasons;
    -one 62 point season (in 62 games in 1989/90), one 77 point season (in 64 games in 1986/87), two 100+ point seasons, two 110+ point seasons, two 120+ point seasons, and an incredible career high 139 points in 1981/82;
    -in 64 playoff games, he scored 24 goals and 81 points;
    -won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1981;
    -played in 6 NHL All-Star Games;
    -was the 1st player in NHL history to reach 100 points in their rookie year (NB: Gretzky was not considered a rookie in his first year due to having played in the WHA);
    -one of only 4 players to record 1000 NHL points in the 1980s;
    -one of only 7 players in NHL history to record at least 6 consecutive 100+ point seasons;
    -shares the NHL record with Joe Juneau for assists by a rookie with 70;
    -holds the NHL record for points in 1 game by a rookie with 8 – which is also the NHL record for points by a player in one road game;
    -holds the NHL record for points in 2 consecutive games with 14;
    -became only the 2nd European born player to reach 1000 career NHL points – after Stan Mikita – but was the first actually raised and trained in Europe to accomplish the feat;
    -4th fastest player to reach 200 career NHL points, in just 131 games;
    -tied for 2nd fastest player (with Mario Lemieux) to reach 300 career NHL points, in just 186 games;
    -3rd fastest player to reach 400 career NHL points, in just 247 games;
    -3rd fastest player to reach 500 career NHL points, in just 322 games;
    -3rd fastest player to reach 600 career NHL points, in just 394 games;
    -3rd fastest player to reach 700 career NHL points, in just 457 games;
    -4th fastest player to reach 800 career NHL points, in just 531 games;
    -4th fastest player to reach 900 career NHL points, in just 599 games;
    -4th fastest player to reach 1000 career NHL points, in just 682 games;
    -is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • He was traded in 1990 to the New Jersey Devils, where he spent the next two seasons and remaining a quality NHLer, though not at quite the level he was previously.  He left the NHL in 1993, taking part in the 1994 Olympics for Team Slovakia (where he won the best forward award), but returned to the NHL for parts of 2 seasons with the St Louis Blues.  He was really only behind only Wayne Gretzky in terms of being a prolific scorer during the 1980s, and is a true legend of the game.  His two sons, Yan and Paul, both played in the NHL.  Yan saw some games with Edmonton, Boston and St Louis, but has since returned to Europe.  Paul meanwhile is a star forward for the same franchise that his father played for, becoming a great player in his own right.
  • M. STASTNY: 252 Games, 98 G – 143 A – 241 P
  • The final member of the Stastny brothers only spent 5 seasons in the NHL, from 1981 to 1986, but four of those were with the Nordiques and they were tremendous.  He had seasons of 35 goals/85 points, 36 goals/79 points (in just 60 games), 20 goals/52 points (in 68 games), and 21 points (in 50 games).  He also 5 goals and 22 points in 29 playoff games with Quebec.  Probably the least celebrated of his NHL brethren, he was nonetheless an extremely talented player who was a major part of an electric trio.

3RD LINE:

Peter Forsberg

Peter Forsberg

ALEX TANGUAY—-PETER FORSBERG—-MILAN HEJDUK

  • TANGUAY: 450 Games, 137 G – 263 A – 400 P 
  • Drafted 12th overall in 1998 by the Avalanche, Alex Tanguay was (and still is) a phenominally skilled left winger, but plays a very smooth, understated style.  He joined the team for the 1999/2000 season, putting up 17 goals and 51 points that year and was a finalist for the Rookie of the Year.  He improved to 27 goals and 77 points the following year, cementing his position as a top line winger.  He had further seasons of 13 goals/48 points, 26 goals/67 points, 25 goals/79 points, and 29 goals/78 points.
  • His best skills were his playmaking ability, but he is actually an extremely talented shooter.  Despite never scoring more than 29 goals, he fits in to the category of “super sniper” by virtue of his consistently well-above league average shooting percentage.  Those shooting skills helped him to perhaps his most memorable moments in the NHL, and the reason he remains beloved to many an Avalanche fan.  In the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, Colorado went to 7 games against the defending champion New Jersey Devils.  In the deciding Game 7, Tanguay scored 2 goals (including the game – and hence, Cup – winning goal) and an assist to lead the team to its second Cup in 5 years.  He enjoyed several more productive years for Colorado, before being traded in 2006 to divisional rivals Calgary.  He is still a productive secondary scorer, and after stints with Montreal and Tampa Bay is back in Calgary.
  • FORSBERG: 591 Games, 217 G – 538 A – 755 P
  • Was Peter Forsberg the greatest player of the late 90s and early 2000s?  It would be extremely easy to argue that point, and I might be inclined to agree.  The fact he is on the third line on this dream team is a testament to the Avs’ depth at that position over the years, rather than anything against Forsberg.  Drafted 6th overall in 1991 by Philadelphia, Forsberg was traded a year later in the blockbuster Eric Lindros deal to the Quebec Nordiques.  He didn’t come over from Sweden until 1995, but in that time was widely regarded as the best player in the World not currently in the NHL.
  • He didn’t disappoint upon arrival, joining a young and exciting Nordiques team.  He proved himself very quickly to be everything one looks for in a forward – fast, highly skilled, accurate shooter, extremely defensivily responsible, and very physical.  He put up 50 points in just 47 games in the lockout shortened season, finishing 2nd in team scoring and helping the team win their division, won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
  • The Nordiques moved to Colorado after Forsberg’s rookie year, and both team and player had seasons for the ages.  Forsberg had 116 points in 82 games and 21 more in 22 playoff games as the team romped to its first Stanley Cup.  In the playoffs he became only the 6th player in NHL history to score 3 goals in one period.  This season is also notable for really the only negative in Forsberg’s illustrious career – it was the only season in his entire career that he played all of his team’s games, as he struggled with injuries year in year out.  However, when he was in the lineup, he was almost always the best player on the ice – well, except for perhaps Joe Sakic!
  • Forsberg’s achievements as a member of the franchise are as follows:
    -three seasons with 10+ goals (none of which he played more than 49 games), four seasons of 20+ goals, and two 30 goal seasons;
    -three seasons of 30+ assists, one 58 assist season, three seasons of 60+ assists, one 77 assist season, and one 86 point season;
    -three 50+ point seasons (none of which he played more than 49 games), two 80+ point seasons, two 90+ point seasons, one 106 point season, and one 116 point season;
    -averaged only 58 games per season in his 10 seasons with the team (including the 2001/02 season that he missed all of the regular season), but averaged 74.1 points per season in that same time-frame, a phenomenal total in an era when scoring nose dived league-wide;
    -selected to play in 7 All-Star Games, though missed 2 due to injury;
    -won the Art Ross Trophy in 2003 for leading the league in scoring;
    -led the league in Plus/Minus in 2003;
    -won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1995;
    -won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2003;
    -was named to the NHL 1st All-Star Team three times;
    -won 2 Stanley Cups (1996, 2001);
    -finished his career as the 4th highest all-time Swedish point scorer in the NHL;
    -is currently in the Top 10 in NHL all-time points-per-game with 1.254;
    -is ranked 4th all-time in NHL career assists per game with 0.901, behind only Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr;
    -had his #21 jersey retired by the Avalanche, and is almost a lock for the Hall of Fame before long.
  • HEJDUK: 991 Games, 371 G – 423 A – 794 P
  • Drafted 87th overall in 1994 by Quebec and still playing with the franchise to this day, Milan Hejduk is perhaps not as heralded as those above him on this list, nor has he reached such lofty heights, but he is definitely deserving of a spot on this roster.  He didn’t join the team until 1998, but impressed right away with a 48 point season.  By the next season he was pushing towards 40 goals, and already by this point was considered one of the league’s premier goal scorers in an era where they were hard to come by.  He won the Stanley Cup with the team in 2001 – scoring 7 goals and 23 points in 23 games – and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003 after scoring 50 goals – a career high, along with his 98 points that same year.
  • All told, he has put together an unbelievably consistent career – the 2011/12 season was the first time since his rookie season in 1998/99 that he failed to score at least 20 goals.  On his resume, he has six 20+ goal seasons, three 30+ goal seasons, a 41 goal season and a 50 goal season, as well as scoring 70 or more points five times.  That is brilliant production, particularly when the bulk of it was in the so-called “Dead Puck Era” of low scoring.  He was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1999, has appeared in 3 All-Star Games, has won 1 Stanley Cup, won the Rocket Richard Trophy once, led the NHL in Plus/Minus once, and was named to the NHL 2nd All-Star Team in 2003.  Hejduk has stated a couple of times over the last season or two that he is close to retirement, but he is still soldiering on and currently has 10 points (4 goals) in 23 games to add to his career totals above.  He is counted on to provide veteran leadership to the Av’s young and improving core, even serving as team captain last year.  A terrific player for this franchise, yet somewhat overshadowed by bigger names, he should never be left out of the conversation for the best players this team has seen.

4TH LINE:

Owen Nolan

Owen Nolan

VALERI KAMENSKY—-MATS SUNDIN—-OWEN NOLAN

  • KAMENSKY: 460 Games, 166 G – 248 A – 414 P 
  • The skilled Russian forward was part of the initial “Russian invasion” of hockey players to the NHL, coming over in 1991 and joining the up-and-coming Quebec Nordiques.  He only played 55 total games in his first two seasons there, but was terrific – he scored 22 goals and 58 points in that span.  He finally managed a full season in 1993/94, playing 78 games and scoring 28 goals and 65 points, proving himself to be a quality secondary scorer for a team loaded with offensive talent (Sakic, Forsberg etc.).
  • It was after the lockout of 1994/95 that he really started to show what he could do though, scoring 38 goals and 85 points in 1995/96, followed by two straight seasons of 66 points.  He potted 10 goals and 22 points in 22 playoff games as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996, and was a force for them the following year too with 22 points in 17 games.  In what would turn out to be his final year with the team in 1998/99, his production dipped to 14 goals and 44 points, but he was rose again in the playoffs, scoring 4 goals and 9 points in 10 games.  Following that year, he moved to the NY Rangers, and had further stops in Dallas and New Jersey before returning to Russia to finish his career.  Certainly not one of the first names you think of when remembering the great Avalanche players, but definitely a huge part of the powerhouse mid-90s squad.  And of course, he’ll always be remembered for this goal, if nothing else:
  • SUNDIN: 324 Games, 135 G – 199 A – 334 P
  • Now I know he’s almost solely identified as a Maple Leaf, but Mats Sundin did spend nearly a quarter of his career in Quebec City first.  The Nordiques made Sundin the first ever European born-and-trained player to be drafted 1st Overall, in 1989, and joined the team in 1990.  He scored 59 points in his first season, improving to 76 points the following year, and exploded for what would stand as his career high with 114 points in 1992/93 and showing he was truly one of the great young players in the game.  He fell to a still fantastic 85 points the following season before being traded to Toronto in 1994 with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a 1st Round Draft Pick, for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a 1st Round Pick.  A blockbuster trade to be sure, but whilst the “spare parts” – Butcher and Warriner – didn’t turn out to be useful for Toronto, Sundin sure did.
  • Meanwhile for the Nordiques, Landon Wilson played only 16 games for the team with only 2 goals and 4 points to show for it; Lefebvre had 5 solid seasons for the team, though he was hardly a core player; and Clark spent only 37 games as a Nordique (thanks to injuries and a lockout), although he was solid with 30 points in that time, but a contract dispute resulted in a 3-way trade where he was sent to the Islanders, Claude Lemieux was sent to Colorado and Steve Thomas went to New Jersey.  Lemieux was brilliant for the Avalanche over four and a bit seasons, so the Sundin trade worked out eventually, but it is clear that Toronto ultimately wound up getting the best player in the deal.
  • NOLAN: 268 Games, 117 G – 107 A – 224 P
  • Regarded as one of the best power forwards of his era, Nolan was drafted 1st Overall by the Nordiques in 1990.  He is probably more commonly associated with the San Jose Sharks than he is with the franchise that drafted him, but he still had some quality seasons with them.  His career started off slowly, scoring just 3 goals and 13 points in 59 games at the age of 18.  It’s good that the team didn’t give up on him then, because he exploded in his sophomore year with 42 goals and 73 points in 75 games, following that up with 36 goals and 77 points in 73 games.
  • He was held to just 4 points in 6 games in 1993/94 due to injuries (something that would plague him his whole career), but returned with a vengeance in the lockout-shortened 1994/95 season with 30 goals and 49 points in just 46 games, adding 2 goals and 5 points in 6 playoff games.  In 1995/96, he started strongly with 4 goals and 8 points in 9 games, but was then traded to San Jose for Sandis Ozolinsh – a key player who we’ll see later on – and finished that season with 33 goals and 69 points in 81 games.  He played in one NHL All-Star Game as a member of the Nordiques.

13TH FORWARD:

DALE HUNTER

  • Drafted 41st overall by Quebec in 1979 – their first year in the NHL – Hunter was known as a skilled center, though an absolute pain to play against – earning the nickname “Nuisance”.  Joining the team in 1980, he put up two 60+ point seasons and four 70+ point seasons, along with four 20+ goal seasons, as well as 10 goals and 39 points in his last season with the team (86/87) in just 46 games.  Apart from that last season, he also never had less than 200 penalty minutes in a season – that just shows what kind of a player he was.  His trade to Washington in 1987 was devastating to the Nordique fans, who adored him, and was seen as part of the reason for the decline of the team.  However, the trade did net the first round pick that was used to select Joe Sakic in 1987, so you know, things worked out ok in the end.  Hunter returned in 1999 for a 12 game cameo after being traded “back” (even though the team was now in Colorado) there from Washington, putting up 2 goals and 6 points in 12 games, and helping the team reach the Conference Finals in the playoffs with 4 points in 19 games.  All in all, he scored 464 points in 535 games for the team, good for 7th on the Franchise All-Time list among forwards.

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

1ST PAIRING:

adam foote

Adam Foote

ADAM FOOTE—-ROB BLAKE

  • FOOTE: 967 Games, 56 G – 203 A – 259 P
  • Big, tough Foote isn’t your typical choice for a top pairing defenceman on an All-Time team – he only hit the 30 point mark twice in his entire career – but he definitely earned the spot with 17 seasons played for the franchise, many of them as a top 4 defender, and proved that offensive production isn’t the only thing that matters on a winning team.  Drafted by Quebec 22nd Overall in 1989, he made the team in 1991 and by the next season was a permanent fixture on the up-and-coming Nordiques squad that eventually moved to Colorado, where Foote won 2 Stanley Cups.  Foote was renowned as a great competitor and a top shutdown defenceman, on a team that had it’s fair share of offensive stars.
  • He left after 13 seasons to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent, but 3 years later was traded back to Colorado where he spent the last 4 seasons of his career.  He was named captain of the team for the last 2 of those seasons, and is regarded as a hero in Colorado – with many calling for a Hall of Fame induction.  Whilst I’m not sure his career warrants that kind of honour, it certainly was a great career and he was a key cog in one of the best teams in the league for a decade – call it the “Kevin Lowe” role.
  • BLAKE: 322 Games, 62 G – 146 A – 208 P
  • Rob Blake was already over a decade into his NHL career – 11 great seasons with the LA Kings – by the time he was the main part of a blockbuster trade to Colorado at the 2001 trade deadline, but he remained a bona fide NHL star in his 4 and a bit seasons with the Avalanche.  His acquisition can be seen as a major reason for the franchise winning it’s second Stanley Cup in 2001, as he scored 10 points in 13 games after being acquired, and 19 points in 23 games in the playoffs.  His puck-moving skills were the perfect compliment to someone like Adam Foote, and along with veteran superstar Ray Bourque gave the Avs two elite powerplay quarterbacks.
  • In his subsequent 4 years with the Avalanche, he never scored less than 13 goals in a season, nor less than 45 points, averaging just under 0.65 points per game.  He put up 16 goals and 43 points in 68 playoff games, a 0.63 points per game average – so barely any dip in production despite the supposed tighter defensive hockey generally played in the playoffs.  Blake rejoined the LA Kings as a free agent in 2006.  Despite his short time with the Avalanche, his contributions will never be forgotten.

2ND PAIRING:

RAY BOURQUE—-JOHN-MICHAEL LILES

  • BOURQUE: 94 Games, 15 G – 58 A – 73 P
  • For someone to have only played 94 games for a team – and only playing his first games for the team at the age of 39 – and still make the All-Time Roster is a testament to just how elite they were.  Having played for the Boston Bruins since 1979, Bourque was absolutely synonimous with that franchise.  He’d led the team to two Stanley Cup Finals, but lost both times to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers of the day, and in 1518 career games at that point he had an incredible 395 goals and 1506 points, along with five Norris Trophy wins as the NHL’s best defenceman.  By 2000, the Bruins were a team in dissarray, dropping to the bottom of the league, and Bourque reuqested a trade so that he would have a chance to win the Stanley Cup before he retired.
  • Believing the Avalanche gave him the best chance to win, then-Bruins GM Harry Sinden traded him to the Avs in March of 2000.  The Avalanche were actually struggling at the time, despite the presence of superstars like Sakic and Forsberg etc., but the addition of Bourque really helped solidify the team and he was key in getting the team to the Conference Finals of the playoffs that year, scoring 8 goals and 14 points in 14 regular season games and 9 points in 13 playoff games, before they bowed out in a heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Stars.
  • Determined to win a Cup, Bourque remained a part of the team for the following season – even being named an Assistant Captain – and led all defencemen on the team in scoring with 59 points in 80 games at the age of 40.  He was named to the NHL 1st All-Star Team, and was runner-up to Nick Lidstrom of Detroit for the Norris Trophy.  In the playoffs, the Avalanche were obviously one of the favourites for the Cup, and indeed they blew through the playoffs to meet the defending champion New Jersey Devils in the Finals.
  • The series was a hard-fought battle, but after a 4-1 loss in Game 5, the Avs were down 3-2 in the series.  However, the team dug in and won Game 6 4-0 in New Jersey, setting up the deciding Game 7 to be played in Denver, with the game likely to be Bourque’s last as an NHL player, and hence his last shot to win it all.
  • This video tells you what happened, and is considered the defining moment in the career of one of hockey’s best loved superstars, and one of the best moments in all of hockey:
  • Bourque was the player with the distinction of having to wait longer for his first Stanley Cup win than anyone else in NHL history, with 1612 regular season games and 214 playoff games before finally succeeding.  He bought the Cup back to Boston in an emotional rally, and retired soon after as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer on defence in both goals and points.  His number was retired by the Colorado Avalanche, as well as the Bruins, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as soon as he was elligible.
  • LILES: 523 Games, 68 G – 207 A – 275 P
  • Drafted by the Avalanche in 2000, deep into the draft at 159th overall, not a great deal was expected from Liles at that time.  He was undersized for a defenceman (approx. 5’10”, 180lbs), and although clearly a skilled NCAA player, it was not clear whether those skills would translate to far tougher NHL play.  He spent a further 3 seasons maturing in the NCAA, and finally signed with Colorado in 2003, playing his first pro games in the AHL to end the season.  All the development time paid off for the team and for Liles, as he made he the team out of camp for the 03/04 season, and by the end of the season led all rookie defencemen in scoring with 34 points in 79 games (the highest scoring rookie d-man in Avalanche history, 2nd in franchise history to Bruce Bell with the Nordiques), and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
  • Following the lockout of 04/05, Liles became a mainstay on the Av’s defence, putting up seasons of 49 points, 44 points, 32 points, 39 points, 31 points (in 59 games), and 46 points.  He became the first defenceman since Steve Duchesne in 1988 to score 10 or more goals in each of his first 3 NHL seasons, and made NHL history by recording assists in 9 consecutive games to start a season (2010/11).  Liles was traded in 2011 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2nd Round Draft Pick, a somewhat unceremonious end to a quality career with the Avalanche.

3RD PAIRING:

STEVE DUCHESNE—-SANDIS OZOLINŠ

  • DUSCHESNE: 82 Games, 20 G – 62 A – 82 P
  • Brought to the Nordiques in the blockbuster Eric Lindros trade in 1992, Duchesne was already firmly established as a quality offensive defenceman with both the LA Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers.  He only lasted one season in Quebec, but was a star whilst there, as you can see from his stats above.  20 goals and a point-per-game pace is outstanding for a defenceman in any league, in any era.  He also finished +15 that season, had 5 points in 6 playoff games, and played in the All-Star Game.  He was traded to the St Louis Blues following the 1992/93 season.
  • OZOLINŠ: 333 Games, 72 G – 181 A – 253 P
  • One of Latvia’s most high profile athletes of all time, Ozolinš was a genuine NHL star for 5 seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.  Ozolinš was traded to the Avs  from San Jose in 1995 for up-and-coming power forward Owen Nolan and posted 50 points in just 66 games that year, also helping lead the team to the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.  In subsequent seasons, he posted seasons of 68 points, 51 points, 32 points (in just 39 games), and 52 points.  He also reached double digits in goals in 4 out of the 5 seasons, including 23 goals in 1996/97.
  • Ozolinš also scored 18 goals and 65 points in 88 playoff games with the team, providing great value for the team particularly during their 1996 Cup run where he scored 19 points in 22 games.  He was a finalist for the Norris Trophy in 1997 as well as being named to the 1st All-Star Team, played in 3 All-Star Games, and holds numerous Avalanche (not Nordique) records:
    -most single season goals  by a defenceman (23)
    -most single season points by a defenceman (68)
    -most all-time regular season goals by a defenceman (72)
    -most single playoff assists by a defenceman (14)
    -most single playoff points by a defenceman (19) shared with Rob Blake
    -most all-time playoff goals by a defenceman (18)
    -most all-time playoff assists by a defenceman (49)
    -most all-time playoff points by a defenceman (65)

7TH D-MAN:

NORMAND ROCHEFORT

  • Rochefort was drafted in 1980 by the Quebec Nordiques, and played 8 seasons with the team.  Regarded as an underrated defensive defender – though not without offensive skill – Rochefort was a rock for a bad Nordiques team.  He actually posted only 2 minus seasons in his entire time with the team.  Unfortunately for Rochefort, once he started to become appreciated for his contributions, his injury troubles also increased significantly, and he was traded to the New York Rangers in 1988.  However, it is safe to say that without Rochefort, those Nordique teams of the 1980s would have been a whole lot worse.

GOALIES

STARTER:

Patrick Roy

Patrick Roy

PATRICK ROY

  • ROY: 478 GP, 262 Wins, 140 Losses, 65 Ties, 13 Overtime Losses
  • “Saint Patrick” will forever be adored by Avalanche fans.  Traded to the team in December 1995, mere months after they’d moved from Quebec, Roy was already a superstar and regarded as one of the finest goalies in history.  He had led the Montreal Canadiens to 2 Stanley Cup victories, but shared a tumultuous relationship with coach Mario Tremblay.  When Roy was in goal for most of an 11-1 loss to Detroit, he famously stated he had played his last game for Montreal.  He was then the prime piece in what became known as “Le Trade”, being moved with team captain Mike Keane for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.
  • Roy would go on to have perhaps even more success – at least with his team, if not individually – in Colorado than he had in Montreal.  His first season with the team, he backstopped them to the 1996 Stanley Cup – his third career Cup, and the franchise’s first.  His other achievements with the team are as follows:
    -one 22 win season (in just 39 games, ’95/’96);
    -six 30+win seasons;
    -one 40 win season (in 2000/01, surprisingly the first and only one of his career);
    -37 regular season shutouts;
    -81 wins in 133 playoff games;
    -18 shutouts in 133 playoff games;
    -five NHL All-Star Game appearances;
    -named to the 1st All-Star Team in 2002;
    -one William M Jennings Trophy for least goals allowed in one season, 2002;
    -one Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP in 2001;
    -two Stanley Cup Championships (1996, 2001);
    -became the first goalie to play 1000 NHL games (split with Montreal);
    -most Conn Smythe Trophy wins by any player in history with 3 (split with Montreal);
    -most NHL playoff wins by a goalie with 151 (split with Montreal);
    -most NHL playoff games played by a goalie with 247;
    -inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and had his number 33 retired by Colorado.

BACK-UP:

CRAIG ANDERSON

  • ANDERSON: 104 GP, 51 Wins, 40 Losses, 10  Overtime Losses
  • A surprising choice, perhaps, but other than Roy the team has not had many really good goalies – yet for the short time that Craig Anderson was an Av, he was a pretty good goalie.  Up until he signed with Colorado in 2009, Anderson had been a back-up goalie.  A pretty decent back-up goalie, but still only a back-up.  And that’s basically what he was expected to be in Colorado, or maybe at best share time in net with Peter Budaj.
  • However, he had a great year, taking on the starting job and going 38-25-7 with a 2.64 GAA, .917SV% and 7 shutouts to help propel the team into the playoffs.  The stats may not look overwhelming, but bear in mind he face the most shots of any NHL goalie that year (2233) whilst playing on a young and inexperienced Avalanche squad, yet still led the league in saves made.
  • He continued his strong work in the playoffs with a 2.62 GAA and .933SV%, along with one shutout, but fell to the San Jose Sharks in 6 games.
  • His second season with Colorado wasn’t nearly as good, as both he and the young team in front of him fell back to Earth, managing just 13 wins in 33 games, a GAA over 3.00 and SV% under .900, and was traded to Ottawa for goalie Brian Elliott.  Funnily enough, Anderson has recaptured his form for Ottawa, performing extremely well for them ever since, whilst Elliott was abysmal for Colorado and was not re-signed by the team.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  •  PAUL STASTNY – the son of Nordiques legend Peter Stastny, Paul was drafted by Colorado in 2005.  He has since played 458 games for the team as a centre, accruing 134 goals and 393 points whilst being a permanent fixture in their top 6 forwards.
  • ALAIN COTE – left winger played his entire career for Quebec from 1977 (in the WHA, until 1979) to 1989 (in the NHL, from 1979).  He was never a great point producer, scoring just 103 goals and 293 points in 696 NHL games with the team, but was a loyal third/fourth line forward for the team.
  • ADAM DEADMARSH – once regarded as an NHL star, Deadmarsh had his career stolen from him by concussion issues.  However, he still managed three 20+ goal seasons and one 33 goal season for the team in 453 games, whilst winning the 1996 Stanley Cup with them whilst putting up 17 points in 22 playoff games that year.
  • MARC TARDIF – played the bulk of his career in the WHA (leading that league in career goals), but was still quality in his later years in the NHL with Quebec, putting up two 30+ goal seasons and two 20+ goal seasons and finishing with 244 points in 272 NHL games with the team.
  • WILF PAIEMENT – right winger played parts of 5 seasons with the team from 1982 to 1986, putting up 102 goals and 223 points in 280 games.
  • MIKE RICCI – centre played in 339 games for the Nordiques/Avalanche, scoring 91 goals and 228 points whilst winning the Cup with the team in 1996.
  • MATT DUCHENE – young centre heralded the start of Colorado’s new era, drafted 3rd overall in 2009.  All-round player with outstanding skill, he has so far put up 186 points in 257 games.
  • JACQUES RICHARD – the late Richard had a troubled life and career, but was brilliant for the Nordiques towards the end of his career, playing 186 games for the team between 1979 and 1983 and scoring 79 goals and 182 points, including a 103 point season in 1980/81.
  • ANDREW BRUNETTE – played 3 seasons for Colorado from 2005 to 2008, never missing a game and scoring 205 points in 246 games.
  • RYAN O’REILLY – defensive centre surprised many after making the team in 2009 mere months after being drafted in the 2nd round.  He has since added an offensive dimension to his game that many didn’t know existed, and has scored 121 points in 256 games so far and is one of the Avs most important players.
  • GABRIEL LANDESKOG – despite only being in his second year in the league, Landeskog is already the captain of the Colorado Avalanche.  He is an absolutely incredible young player, being a fearless competitor, good skater, offensively skilled, defensively polished and able to take on the toughest competition in the league and come out ahead.  Unbelievable for a guy only 20 years of age.  Has 64 points in 109 NHL games so far, and won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year in 2012.
  • CHRIS DRURY – centre scored 85 goals and 222 points in 314 games for the Avalanche, Drury won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1999.  He is particularly renowned for scoring 11 game-winning goals in 4 straight playoff seasons in Colorado, becoming known for being a “clutch” player.
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One comment

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