Long Shadows

There are three banners hanging beside the center ice scoreboard in the Pepsi Center that cast long shadows on the ice.  The shadows reach from end to end, and are particularly dark near the goal crease.

The one with the number 77 on it has the shortest shadow of the three.  Some people who aren’t fans of the Colorado Avalanche don’t think it should be there, and I’m sure there are some fans who agree.  Ray Bourque was with Colorado for a moment, but his presence was as necessary to the Stanley Cup winning team as any other person on the ice.

The shadow cast by the banner with the number 19 is pretty long.  It also has the captain’s C on it, and that is the part that makes this shadow particularly insidious.  The Avalanche had a great captain in Joe Sakic.  He was a leader on the ice, and in the locker room.  But the key word is ‘was.’  He retired as a player and moved to the front office when it was time to do so, but it is as if the rest of the organization and the fans don’t want to move on.  Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting the past, but it’s time to put the past where it belongs.  There is a reason the NHL keeps going back to nostalgia when it comes time to sell something.

The number 33 banner is the hardest to overcome.  The shadow is a back breaker, because it is held so highly in the minds and hearts of the fans.  Patrick Roy was an unbelievably good goaltender, the kind that doesn’t come along very often.  He helped change and refine the position.  And he left the crease for good when it was time.  He moved on, but the fans don’t want to move on.  They still want Roy back.  They want him as a coach, a GM, and falling short of that, they want his reincarnation.

The Avalanche needed three things desperately coming off the bust of last season: goaltending, a bigger defense, and goaltending.

The Avs gave up two draft picks to sign Semyon Varlamov, and wound up bringing in JS Giguere, both for two years.  Eerily similar to Craig Anderson, the Avs are taking a chance on Varlamov, and if it pans out, they will look like geniuses.  It looks like a huge price to pay, until you start looking at how many top draft picks have worked out for the team, and how many goaltenders that were drafted by the Avs ever played for the Avs.  HockeyDB provides the Avalanche draft history, and when you take it all in, it’s an interesting picture.

Here’s the goalies drafted by the Avalanche to play in the NHL through their history, starting with the most recent:

Tyler Weiman – Drafted 2002 –  Played 1 game (16 minutes in relief) for the Avs

Peter Budaj – Drafted 2001 – Played 242 games for the Avs

Philippe Sauve – Drafted 1998 – Played 17 games for the Avs

David Aebischer – Drafted 1997 – Played 174 games for the Avs

Marc Denis – Drafted 1995 – Played 27 games for the Avs

Brent Johnson – Drafted 1995 – Played 0 games for the Avs

This is only a list of goalies the Avalanche drafted.  It doesn’t include draftees of the Quebec Nordiques, such as Tim Thomas, who never played a game for the Nords.  You may have heard of him?

The thing with that list is, the most successful goalie, in terms of games played and longevity in the league, never played for the Avalanche (and you can include Tim Thomas in that as well).  The ones who did play for the Avs did so in the shadow of Roy.  How does your guy feel when you read their names?  Most of them are disappointing, but I don’t feel like it was entirely deserved.  The Avs haven’t developed a goalie that could steal games like Roy could, or like Craig Anderson could in his first season with the Avalanche.  Taken in that context, to me, a first rounder and a second (that is made up for with the trade of John-Michael Liles to Toronto for a second round pick) seems like a small price to pay for a good goalie.  He doesn’t have to be Roy, and hopefully he won’t be held to the fire to be Roy.

The defense got bigger starting with Eric Johnson coming to the Avs for Stewart and Shattenkirk (who I think will be the one who got away), and the Liles trade made way for Jan Hejda, a free agent signing by way of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Ever since Scott Hannan was traded to the Washington Capitals, the need for shutdown defensemen was obvious.  If the Avs have their men, then that need was addressed, even if it isn’t completely solved.

The final shadow belongs to the captain.  The Avalanche are only one person removed from the captaincy, and that was a fairly obvious choice at the time.  There wasn’t another person who had the respect of the team, or the fans, to wear the C.  But by continuing to hold out and make the C a bigger deal, it becomes heavier and heavier.  The Avs are going to have to announce a captain at some point, and the longer they hold out, the worse it is going to be for the person who has to wear it.  The obvious choice to me is Paul Stastny, and if it doesn’t work out or someone else steps up in a few years, give it to them.  It’s sacrilege to the faithful, but you shouldn’t even try.  Joe Sakic was the original captain, and after that, it’s someone else’s turn.  Let them do it their way.

Those shadows, they loom large, but they aren’t helping.  Living in the past doesn’t work anymore.  By continually looking back and wishing things were like the old days, there is no room for the new.  There isn’t room for success, or possibility.  It’s time to let the boys be boys.  Let them play, without having to live up to the standards of 2001, and come out from the shadows.  It’s time for the new Avalanche to emerge.


  1. The fans can’t let go of Roy, I agree. Last season, when Anderson was still an Avalanche, I heard a woman in the crowd scream at him, “What makes you think you can do that? You’re not Patrick!” I was a bit disgusted and yelled back at her. It’s sad. The Roy era is over. The sooner fans get that through their heads the better.

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