This is not your mother’s Colorado Avalanche. It isn’t even the Colorado Avalanche of your youth, or the one from last season. Things are changing, and it is a bit of a shock to the system.
- Finally fired the coach? Yep.
- Skipped the top rated draft pick that plays a position of great need? Done.
- Management shakeup? Oh yeah.
- Talking to the press and fans? Someone released the kraken here.
- Didn’t overspend in free agency, signing depth instead? It’s dogs and cats living together (mass hysteria).
Anything that comes as no shock might be a shock at this point. But the fact Milan Hejduk won’t be back by the team might give a few fans whiplash. It’s… almost shocking. Almost.
Hejduk previously decided to go the route of Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne (and what I thought Alfredsson should have done with the Senators, but decided to do with Detroit), and sign one year contracts until the end of his career. In this season, he is going to sign a contract with another team. From the Denver Post:
Hard as it is to picture, it is possible Colorado Avalanche fans will see Milan Hejduk playing in another NHL uniform next season.
“He wants to keep playing,” Hejduk’s agent, Jiri Crha said Monday in a phone interview. “If there is any team that really wants to use him for his offensive skills, he still believes he could do it.”
The Avs, however, don’t appear to be interested. Hejduk, 37, is an unrestricted free agent and Crha said the Avs have informed him he is not in their plans.
“They are very honest about their different plans. They don’t believe he can play in their top six of forwards,” Crha said. “We just saw a player (Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa) who left after 17 years with the same team. That’s the reality of the hockey life.”
I agree. He can’t play with the top six forwards on the Avalanche, and the top six just got harder to crack. Hejduk played himself out of the top two lines over the course of the last season, and unless he had surgery on something that was ailing him or found some serious youth cream to swim around in, he wasn’t likely to crack those lines next season. So where do you put him? Third line? With the youth movement going on now, sticking him with MacKinnon and O’Reilly doesn’t look like a good fit. He has decent hands, but his feet and legs aren’t going to keep up. Fourth line? Hejduk is a lot of things, but a grinder he is not. He does not belong on a checking line.
So it’s time for him to leave, as he doesn’t fit on with the Avalanche any more. For some reason, Alex Tanguay fits but Hejduk does not, and that reason is actually obvious to anyone who watched him last season. The Duke is slowing down. It happens. It’s not a slam, or mean to him. It’s just what happens as time goes by. If I had the legs and lungs I had when I was bicycling all the time in my teenage years, I would be lighting up the rec leagues. Nope, I’m 40 and it shows. In a league that is getting younger and younger, a 37-year-old that is slowing down a bit is something you have to make a hard decision about.
The scary part is that the team that is generally associated with older players looking for one more shot at glory is the Detroit Red Wings. If he were to go there, it would hurt the fans quite a bit. The rivalry has cooled between the Wings and the Avs, but not for the fans. The hockey hate is still there.
But the cap era, forcing teams to make money decisions that force players out, has brought about Team NHL. The anger and bile thrown at Daniel Alfredsson was stunning considering this is how the NHL is set up now. From cap crunches to the penalties associated with over 35 contracts, the CBA forces teams to consider letting go of their aging (former) stars. Hejduk, wherever he lands, deserves to take another shot, and maybe a change will be good for him.
It’s will be strange to see him in another uniform after cheering for him in an Avs jersey for so long. But this isn’t the same Avalanche. And I’m good with that.