Thursday, April 7, 2011

End of An Era

It's the end of an era for the Colorado Avalanche. Not officially for about 12 more hours, but Avs' Captain Adam Foote will be announcing his retirement from the National Hockey League. This will mark the end of an era in Avalanche history. Adam Foote is the last remaining player on the Avalanche who also played for the Quebec Nordiques. Foote is also the last player on the roster who won both Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 with the Avs.

Foote's retirement shouldn't come as a surprise to any Avalanche fans. Last year, it was uncertain whether or not Foote would want to play another season. In addition to all the injuries he has suffered this season, it was pretty clear he was going to be hanging up his skates. Also, if you play close enough attention things, prior to today's news that Foote would be making an announcement tomorrow morning, a story came out that Foote was going to be coaching a youth hockey team next season. It would be pretty much impossible to coach a youth team and still play in the NHL at the same time.

Adam Foote spent most of his 19 seasons in the NHL with the Quebec/Colorado franchise and only played a short amount of time with the Columbus Blue Jackets after the lockout. Foote was with the Avs for both Stanley Cup victories and also won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2002. After the retirement of long-time Avalanche Captain Joe Sakic, Foote took over as captain of the Avalanche.

Despite announcing his retirement at the end of the season tomorrow morning, Foote will try to play his final game in front of the home fans on Sunday, April 10th. He has missed many games lately due to a foot injury, but wants to play in the final game of the season. Whether or not he's able to suit up and play in the season finale, it's a classy move on Foote's part to at least attempt to play one more time in front of the home crowd. After a disappointing, injury-riddled season for the Avs, it would be nice to see our captain play one last time before his retirement.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Avalanche Hockey in Heels

Last night was part one of the Colorado Avalanche's 1st Hockey in Heels Ladies' Night event. Out of curiosity more than anything, I attended this event with a couple of friends. We weren't really sure what to expect of the event as we had very little in the way of details for the night. We knew there was going to be a wine-tasting and a player appearance for this first night at La Sandia restaurant at Park Meadows Mall and that was about all the details we had.

When we arrived, we were given a brochure with 'Hockey 101' facts and a 'VIP Access' pass. None of us were really sure what the pass was for as we were not really given any instructions on whether we really needed to wear it or if it was just a souvenir. Inside the private upstairs room of the restaurant there was a patio with a pretty nice view of the mountains in the distance and a table set up with some appetizers. We grabbed some appetizers and then sat down to wait for the event to start.

The host for the night started up by asking the ladies in the crowd some basic trivia questions about the Avalanche, such as 'when did the Avalanche come to Denver?' We blew through the questions pretty quickly as it was apparent that this crowd really knew their hockey facts. It seemed to us that they weren't really prepared for the ladies to actually know their stuff and that they had planned on taking some time to go over the hockey 101 information. Since that was unnecessary, they moved on to the player appearance of the night, Kyle Quincey.

Kyle introduced himself and talked a little bit about how he got his start in hockey, and how he came to the NHL. He was original drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, which of course received a chorus of boos. At one point, he mentioned that he liked to call the city 'Detroilet', which went over quite well with the crowd. He talked about how he won the Stanley Cup with Detroit during his first year with them and then how he went to Los Angeles after Detroit waived him. Afterwards, there was an open Q&A session with the crowd for a few minutes. One nice thing that came during the Q&A was that at one point he gave Peter Budaj a lot of credit for being a good, hardworking goaltender who was really good at communicating with this teammates.

Following the Q&A there was some free time to enjoy more appetizers, do some wine-tasting and a chance to get an autograph from Kyle Quincey and/or have your picture taken with him. This went on for around half an hour and then they gave away some prizes that everyone entered to win when they first came in. The prizes given away included: a couple pairs of tickets to a future Avs game, a couple gift certificates, a Matt Duchene signed puck, and a 2 night stay at a hotel in Vail. Kyle picked the names from the jar, but hilariously wouldn't read most of them aloud as he was apparently afraid of mis-pronouncing the names. He would pull a name out, read it and then hand it over to someone else to read aloud.

After the prizes were given out, the night was basically over and everyone was given a gift bag from Park Meadows on the way out. The bags included a coupon book for Park Meadows, a keychain, and some perfume samples among other things. The night ended about a half an hour earlier than planned, but apparently their plans were derailed when the women in the group actually knew about hockey. The overall opinion I heard was that the night was not bad, but a little bit disappointing that only one player came.

In the end, maybe they were little bit unprepared, but this is their first time doing this event. It was interesting to hear from Kyle Quincey in that kind of setting and hear his opinions on things. It was a little disappointing that it was only one player and the event ended earlier than planned. Still, I'll give the Avs a little bit of credit for trying something new and attempting to get more fans interested in the game, which is better than their general policy in the past of doing as little as possible. There is still the night of the game on March 31st in which we will be going to the club level restaurant in the Pepsi Center prior to the game and having another wine-tasting and player appearance.

There is room for improvement and maybe next year they'll do it again and do a better job of it. And hey, at least the event didn't cost a fortune. $30/person gets you upper level seats for the game and $65/person gets you lower level seats to the game. By the way, if you are interested in the March 31st game and doing the pre-game wine-tasting and player appearance, you can still get tickets by calling 303-405-1376.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Haven't blogged much lately, but there hasn't been a whole lot to say about the Avs. Since their 6 game winning streak in mid-December the team has gone a dismal 6-21-4. That's right, after winning 6 games in a row, the Avs have since won only 6 games since December 19th (the last win of that 6 game streak). During this streak we also saw Peter Forsberg attempt his NHL comeback and only manage to play in 2 road games before finally announcing his retirement.

After being one of the top scoring teams in the NHL for the first part of the season, the Avs have turned into the most-scored upon team in the league (they have allowed 229 goals, more than any other team). The trade deadline saw goaltender Craig Anderson packing his bags, which was probably a positive since many were questioning whether Anderson wanted to be in Colorado (and given his pretty good play since being traded, I think the answer to that is apparent). They also traded away young talent in Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk while getting Erik Johnson and Jay McClement in return. The trade may not be horrible in the long run, but it made lots of fans question if the 'rebuild from within' plan the Avs had was being given up on.

Anyone still watching the team knows that they have failed to consistently put a full 60 minute effort into a game for a long time. They either come out slow and fail to "start a game on time" as Coach Sacco likes to put it or they start fine and quit in the middle of the game. It's quite disheartening as a fan to see the team just completely quit mid-game. These are supposed to be professional athletes who shouldn't just give up when things aren't going right. Fans have blamed the injuries, the players, the coaches, the management and ownership for the teams' troubles, but none of us can say for sure where things went so horribly awry.

I can't speak for all Avs fans, but I'm sure a lot of you out there agree, this has been the single most frustrating and upsetting period of time ever for me as a fan. I can handle the team losing as long as they are at least putting in an effort. I can't take it when the team gives up mid-game or comes out unprepared for the game at the start. The problems this team has are many, but the solutions are not simple. All of the players who have injuries can't be magically healed and even if they could be, it's not certain that it would fix things.

Perhaps the answer lies in getting rid of the head coach. The Avs did better last year with Joe Sacco at the helm than was expected of them, however this success probably was not just because of Sacco's coaching. The Avs had a lot of young talented players have breakout seasons last year. It could be that they're having a collective sophomore slump this year. However, it could be that the team is just not responding to their coach's methods.

Sacco has a reputation for benching players he feels are not performing up to their potential. He even sends players to the minors as a wake-up call. Both methods have shown success in the past (Chris Stewart came back from the minors last year and was great afterwards), but his methods probably don't work for every player. The team says that he will be kept on through next year, so if the team gets healthy in the off-season we will see what Sacco can really do as a coach.

Obviously something has to change because the Avs have been downright horrible lately. The playoffs are out of the question at this point this season. It's not too late to try and at least salvage some pride though. It's awful watching the team lose game after game and not even putting in an effort most of the time. It's completely unacceptable for a team to play the way the Avs have been lately and even the players say that when interviewed, but then it's the same thing night after night on the ice.

They have put in a few decent efforts lately, but they need to put in a good effort every night. Then maybe things will start going their way more. If you don't try, things will just not go your way and only get worse and worse as we have seen. Maybe there's some bad luck involved for the Avs with all their injuries, but that doesn't explain the pitiful effort the team has been putting forth of late.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Peter Forsberg Retiring

It is finally official…well at least it will be in a few hours. Peter Forsberg is going to announce his retirement from the National Hockey League today. Forsberg signed a contract last week and played 2 games for the Avalanche on the road before deciding that he couldn't keep up with the current NHL level of play. In his 2 games, Forsberg had no points, was a -4 and had 4 penalty minutes.

Personally, I didn't get to see either game because I was working, so I can't really comment on Forsberg's play. When he first announced that he was coming to practice with the Avs, I thought he might just play one game and then retire as an Av. Little did I know, that was pretty accurate. I think right now a lot of people are really disappointed and even irritated that Forsberg couldn't play just one more tonight in front of Avalanche fans at Pepsi Center.

For years Forsberg has been plagued by an issue with his foot. He has had multiple surgeries in an attempt to fix the injury and return to the NHL. His last attempt at a return was at the end of the 2007-08 season and Forsberg played in 9 games where he had 1 goal and 13 assists. At that time, Forsberg was bothered by a groin injury due to his foot not sitting right in his skates. After that Forsberg played some overseas in Sweden, but the two games he played for the Avs this year have been the only NHL time he has seen.

In 708 career regular season games Forsberg had a total of 249 goals and 636 assists. In 151 playoff games Forsberg had 64 goals and 107 assists. He played most of his career for the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise. After the NHL lockout season, Forsberg played most of 2 season for the Philadelphia Flyers and then played 17 games for the Nashville Predators at the end of the 2006-07 season.

While the end of Forsberg's NHL career has been filled with frustration and disappointment for both himself and the fans, there will always be all the spectacular years that Forsberg for the Avalanche. He was here during the glory days with Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, winning both Stanley Cups with the team. When he was healthy and even when he wasn't 100%, Forsberg could skate circles around other players and dazzle everyone with his moves.

Peter Forsberg will retire from the NHL today after playing in just over 700 games in the regular season and 151 in the playoffs. He put up great numbers throughout his career and was always a fun player to watch (although probably not much fun for opponents to play against). His passion for the game of hockey drove him to try one last return to the NHL, but he decided it wasn't going to work out as the pace of today's game is not the same as when he last played a full season. It's disappointing that Forsberg didn't hang on for one more game and play in front of the home crowd one last time, but he made the decision not to play when he felt he wasn't at the right level. Thanks for everything Peter!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

All the Latest

Last night's shutout loss to the Anaheim Ducks marked a special point in the career of Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles. It was NHL game number 500 in the American-born defenseman's career. During those 500 games, Liles has amassed 68 goals and 196 assists for a total of 264 career points. In 53 games this season, Liles has 6 goals and 29 assists for 35 points, on pace for a career best season. His previous best points total was 44 points during his sophomore season. Liles is also one of two players who has remained healthy and not missed a single game this season (the other player is Matt Duchene). So congratulations to Liles on his 500th NHL game.

In other news, Peter Forsberg is officially set to return to the Avalanche, although his exact debut remains in question. Forsberg had to travel to Canada today in order to re-enter the country with a work visa so he can begin playing for the Avalanche. Forsberg also said he wouldn't mind taking a few more practices with the team before joining real game action. Forsberg's return will come at a time when the Avalanche are in need of some kind of spark. They have lost 4 games in a row and have been shut out the last two games. Whether Forsberg's joining the team will provide the needed spark remains to be seen, but it certainly can't hurt anything.

The NHL trading deadline is coming up on February 28th and with the Avs recent struggles, it wouldn't be surprising to see them make another move. Lately, Sacco has seemed to show little confidence in either of his goaltenders (both of whom have been allowing at least 3 goals in their last several starts). Both Budaj and Anderson have been starting lately. The defense has not been solid in front of either goalie and obviously with the shutouts, the offense has died off as well. So it wouldn't be surprising to see the Avs pursuing players at any position at this point.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Forsberg - Here We Go Again

You can count me among the people who were totally caught off guard by the announcement that Peter Forsberg was going to come and start practicing with the Avalanche. I sincerely believed after hearing earlier this season that he was not playing in Europe that he was finally going to hang up the skates. Then comes the announcement that Forsberg is back in Denver to practice with the Avs for a while to see if he's able to keep up with players at the NHL level.

I had planned on attending practice Sunday prior to the announcement and considered not going because I knew it would be a circus with Forsberg's presence. However, I ultimately decided to go and see some of my friends that I don't get to see all that often. When I showed up at the practice facility, the parking lot was full, but that was attributed at least partially to the people there for the two youth hockey games going on prior to practice (there are two sheets of ice there). However, after the rink emptied out from the game, I took a seat and watched as the bleachers slowly filled up with Avs fans. On an average practice day there is plenty of room in the stands to sit without being packed in. In fact, the only time it ever fills up really is training camp.

Forsberg came out onto the ice to the cheers of the crowd and took part in the team's normal drills. The practice was definitely one of the harder ones I've seen in a while, understandable given the teams' last two large losses at home. After a run-through of the usual drills, the team skated suicides at the end of practice. Forsberg participated in the whole practice and looked pretty good the whole time. He did a pretty good job of keeping up with the Avs young, fast team. While only he can tell you how the foot felt, anyone watching could tell you it didn't look too bad.

The official word is still that Forsberg has no contract of any kind and he is just practicing with the team to see how he feels. I think a lot of us suspect that there is some kind of deal brewing, especially given that he looked good skating with the team and has said to the media that his foot feels better than it has in a long time. Whether or not he ends up signing with the team and playing this season, the Avs have certainly seen an astronomical boost in interest at practice. Just imagine what a Peter Forsberg signing could do for attendance at games. It's a little sad that the signing of one player could actually do more to boost attendance than any of the other attempts by the team to get fans in the seats (although I'm not sure they've really done much).

Personally, I don't think Forsberg joining the Avs could hurt anything at this point. With the recent loss of Tomas Fleischmann for the rest of the season and no real progress being made on the part of Peter Mueller, the Avs could use another scorer in the lineup. It seems that after being among the highest scoring teams in the league for a while, goals have been in shorter supply of late. Even if he's not the Forsberg of the past, he is still probably a better player than many of the players in the league right now. Anyway, he would bring a great veteran presence to the team and our young players could learn a lot from playing with him. So, really what would it hurt bringing Peter Forsberg back to the Avs?

If, for some reason, Forsberg decides he can't keep up with the pace of the fast-paced game that the Avs play, then I really hope he retires. I understand that he really loves the game of hockey and can only imagine how frustrating it is for him to not be able to play. However, I think we are all getting sick of hearing about how Forsberg might try to come back sometime (is this going to continue until he's an old man?!). We hear it pretty much every year at some point, usually early on and then again as we draw nearer to the trade deadline. He is right up there with some of the best players the Avs have ever had, but at some point enough is enough. If he's physically able to play the game, good, if not, I think it might really be time to give it up.

I don't have any inside knowledge, but it seems that all the news coming out regarding Forsberg lately has been positive. That would lead me to suspect that he will be signing a contract and joining the Avs at some point relatively soon. Obviously, he has only had one off-day practice and two morning skates with the team, so he'll probably need some time to get back up to NHL-level conditioning. I guess we will all just have to wait and see what develops as far as the latest comeback for Forsberg.

And as for those drawing comparisons between Peter Forsberg and the NFL's Brett Favre, give it a rest. Favre officially retired from his league, whereas Forsberg never has. Forsberg has left the NHL and played overseas while attempting to get back from a nagging injury. He never called it quits where Favre has, so it's not the same situation at all. Sure, it's getting a little annoying hearing about how Forsberg might come back all the time, but at least he didn't quit playing in the league by choice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hello Again!

It’s been a while since I’ve written for numerous reasons: real life was busy with a lot of things going on and I’ve had some technological issues as well. The good news is I’m back! As always, there’s no guarantees as to how often I can post (who knows, maybe this computer will die on me tomorrow!), but I’ll try to update at least once a week.

A lot has gone on with the Avs since my last posting, so there’s no way I can cover it all. When I last wrote, Chris Stewart had just recently broken his hand in the fight against Kyle Brodziak of the Minnesota Wild. Now he has returned to the lineup as of January 14th and has recorded one point, an assist in the 5-1 loss to Nashville on January 20th. Kyle Quincey was injured on December 11th in the game vs. the Washington Capitals and shortly thereafter it was announced that he was out for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery.

Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, who has not played a game since October 30th when he got what was initially deemed to be a minor concussion, finally returned to the lineup against Nashville on January 20th. He had been previously cleared to play, but was sticking to practice only as he needed to get back up to speed with his conditioning. He was a -2 on the night, but the whole team did not play spectacularly well and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it’s just a bit of rust from not having played in nearly 3 months.

TJ Galiardi was a healthy scratch for the January 14th game against the Minnesota Wild and then played against the Vancouver Canucks on January 18th. Following the Canucks game, Galiardi was demoted to Lake Erie in a move that came as a pretty big surprise to most. Due to the unfortunate loss of Tomas Fleischmann for the season due to pulmonary emboli, Galiardi has been recalled to the Avs and will be available to play against the Bruins. There was much speculation as to why Galiardi was demoted, but clearly Sacco was trying to send the message that he needs to play better. In his one game with the Lake Erie Monsters, Galiardi had an assist. Hopefully, he will play much better now that he’s getting to come back to the Avs.

Ryan O’Reilly has been lost for approximately 2 weeks with a shoulder injury after a scary incident in which he lost an edge and fell awkwardly headfirst into the boards on January 14th against the Minnesota Wild. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, always a scary sight for teammates and fans alike, and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. After it was determined that O’Reilly did not suffer a head or spinal injury, he was able to return to Denver with the team. Given the initial scary appearance of the injury, it was a relief to all that O’Reilly would only be out temporarily. He skated on January 21st prior to practice in a non-contact jersey for the first time since his injury.

Peter Mueller, who was not even seen at practices or games for a time due to his post-concussion symptoms, has lately been seen around the team again. He has been seen leaving the Pepsi Center after games and was even spotted peaking out of the locker room during a recent practice. Whether or not he’s anywhere close to attempting to practice with the team in the near future remains to be seen, but I’d take it as a positive sign that he’s hanging around the team again.

In probably the most talked about news of all, it was announced that starting with the pre-game skate on January 22nd, Peter Forsberg would be practicing with the Avs. There are no guarantees whatsoever that he will be able to re-join the team, but this is rather a test to see whether or not he can compete at the NHL level. If nothing else Forsberg’s presence could be beneficial for the team as the young players can get tips and advice from him.
Given all the horrible luck the Avs have had with injuries this year, it really probably couldn’t hurt to have Forsberg in the lineup if he were able to play. Even if he’s not 100% at the level he used to be, he can still be a very skilled hockey player. If it’s determined that he won’t be physically up to the NHL level, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. Maybe he would finally throw in the towel and decide to retire. It’s not that anyone necessarily wants to see the end of Forsberg’s career, especially in what will be such a frustrating manner, but it would end the constant speculation that he might try for another return to the NHL.

The going has felt like a bit of a roller coaster for Avs fans lately with players returning from injury only to lose more players. They’ve been winning games and seemingly losing quite a few as well, but they’re still hanging in the very tight playoff picture in the Western Conference. As of January 21st, the Avs are clinging to the 8th spot with 54 points, even with Chicago and only 4 points behind 4th place Nashville. Unfortunately, San Jose and Minnesota are right on their tail with 53 points each and St. Louis is not far behind with 51 points. Even 12th and 13th place Los Angeles and Columbus have 49 points. The Western Conference playoff picture will likely not be solidified until the last day of the regular season.