Monday, June 30, 2008

The Shape Of Things To Come

In less than two short hours (here on the west coast at least), it will be July 1st, the start of the NHL's free agency period. Depending on how your team ended last season and their current roster/contract situation, this can be a highly anticipated or incredibly dreaded day in the life of a hockey fan. As a life-long Avs fan, I don't know if I can face this season's 'special day' with excitement or total and complete dread.

As of about an hour ago, based on east-coast time, Joe Sakic is no longer "ours". Now, fellow Avs fans, let that thought sink in for a bit. How absolutely terrifying is that thought? I have been a fan of the Nordiques/Avalanche since 1992, and he has never been this close to not belonging to us, unless you count that near-debacle in '97 where the Rangers did their best to court our beloved leader, captain, and, let's face it, our entire franchise to the east coast. Luckily, Joe has remained ours for the next ten years since then, but now, where does he stand with us? At this point, he still remains undecided as to whether or not he will return to the NHL and our team this fall, and who knows when we will get a decision from him. I, as I'm sure all of you were as well, was hoping that he would announce his return, or in the end-of-the-world situation, his decision to "r-word" (yes, I refuse to use that word when talking about Joe until we get an official statement from him).

Now what happens if he doesn't return? As much as I love each and every member of this team, we will lose almost everything in Joe Sakic. Well, maybe I'm over-exaggerating a bit. Perhaps, it will not be nearly as catastrophic as I and every other Avs fan will make it seem. But in my mind and heart, nothing could be worse. The name Joe Sakic is synonymous with the entire Colorado Avalanche franchise and image. If he decides that hanging 'em up is the best decision for him and his family, I will fully respect it as there is no one on this planet that I respect more. But I can't promise that I won't cry for days, weeks, months, or years if we no longer have #19 leading the way. Honestly, a little (but probably closer to ginormous) piece of me will die inside and I might not be able to ever fully recover from this devastation.

But hey, he could still be back! :)

As far as I can tell, Andrew Brunette, Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, and Jose Theodore will not be returning next season. I would love to see Finger back, but I don't know how much ice-time he would see as the 7th d-man on our roster, though with Leopold's injury problem, he could potentially play nearly the entire season! If we don't have room for Finger, we definitely don't have room for Sauer, which I am not too happy about either. I feel he was a bit under-rated by our coaching staff and fans, but I guess there's no place for him left in our organization. Hopefully he can get a fresh start somewhere and make a fool out of everyone in Denver who constantly bad-mouthed him. I am somewhat indifferent about the Theodore situation. I would like to see him back, but not at the inflated price that he's asking for. If we could get him back for the $3mil a year that we reportedly offered him, I would have no problem bringing him back for next season and beyond. The Andrew Brunette situation is beyond my comprehension. I cannot understand what would keep FG from bringing him back. He has arguably been our most consistent player over the last three seasons, and is criminally under-rated by the rest of the league. The way I see it, esepecially with the impending doom from Joe's decision, Bruno should be re-signed at all costs. Whatever he asked for, we should give him. Rumors are he will be returning to the Wild which would break my heart, because I refuse to root for that team and really wanted to follow him to his next destination if he left us as I did with Brett McLean and the Panthers last year.

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day for our organization. I don't see us signing any d-men as we already have a pretty solid squad set up for the season, but a couple minor forward signings wouldn't surprise me at all. Personally, I wouldn't mind bringing in a veteran forward or two (as we did with Brunette a few years back), because I am not yet sold on the abilities of T.J. Hensick or David Jones yet. I assume a goalie will be signed as well. I would love to see someone like Ty Conklin come in to back up Budaj.

Free agent signings can begin at 9am PST tomorrow morning, and I will undoubtedly be glued to my television with the NHL network on, and constantly refreshing every hockey website I know of to stay on top of the latest moves. Expect updates with every Avs related signing tomorrow.

The Big Three.

Last week, Francois Giguere, or FG as he's lovingly (or despisingly) referred to by the Avalanche faithful, made his first signing of the off-season. And to be honest, this was the last person of our free-agents whom I expected to receive a contract extension. Yes, Scott Parker, The Sheriff, will be lacing 'em up for another year as part of the Colorado Avalanche. For the most part, this signing seemed to be met with a lot of disdain from Avs fans. Most cannot understand why we would spend the money and a roster spot on a guy who rarely dresses for games, and when he does, plays less than five minutes per contest. I, for one, do not mind this signing in the least. Scott obviously never lived up to his original potential, as he was drafted 20th overall in 1998. But the stats do not lie. Since we re-acquired him from San Jose at the 2007 trade deadline, we have a record of 25-6-4 when he is in the lineup. Even though he doesn't do much on the ice, I suppose FG found that stat too appealing to overlook.

Last night, TSN reported two signings by the Avs which were confirmed today on the Avs website. Adam Foote for 2yrs/$6mil, and John-Michael Liles for 4yrs/$16mil. I honestly couldn't be happier by these signings. Along with everyone else in Avalanche nation, I am a huge fan of Footer and feel he should end his career with the organization he was so successful with, so I am not very surprised with him returning to us. On the other hand, I am absolutely shocked that we retained JM Liles. All the rumors claimed he was all but gone, and I really didn't see FG shelling out the money to keep both him and Footer around. With four free-agent defensemen, including two big-name guys, I figured that FG would sign one of the top two guys (either Foote or Liles), and one of the others (Finger or Sauer). But FG proved that he has a few tricks up his sleeve and shocked us all by signing both, which unfortunately will most likely mean that Finger and Sauer will be leaving us as we now have six defensemen plus Kyle Cumiskey waiting in the wings.

This past week, the Avs gave offer sheets to four players who were restricted free-agents; Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Marek Svatos, and Wojtek Wolski. I am very excited to most likely have all four of these guys back with us next year, and I assume that the contracts will be hammered out within the next few days.

The Beginning

Now, I assume that if you are reading this blog, you consider yourself a fan of the greatest hockey organization EVER! No, I am not talking about the Red Wings (I don't know if I'll be able to forgive myself for even posting that dreadful name on this blog), the Canadiens, or the Oilers. I, of course, am talking about the one, the only, COLORADO AVALANCHE!

A bit of a background on how a Los Angeles boy raised to be a Kings fan came to love a team originally located 3,000+ miles away. As a youngster, I spent most of my days playing video games. In 1992, I got NHL '93 for Sega Genesis. I started off playing as the Kings, but could never win with them (a trend that has become a reality in the real world). After a number of losses, I decided it was time to try my luck with another team. At the ripe old age of six, it was hard for me to be familiar with many teams outside of the Kings division because most of the games I attended were against divisional opponents, and of course, I hated all of those teams as much as a six-year- old could hate something that wasn't a green vegetable or the latest Disney cartoon villain. As I scrolled through the NHL teams, I came across a team name that was so incredibly cool that I could barely figure out how to pronounce it! Little did I know as I spent what seemed like an eternity how to even say the team name, that I would devote the next 16 years of my life and every single day for the rest of my life to this team with a location 3,000 miles away and a name that most six-year-olds wouldn't even attempt to pronounce, let alone become a die-hard fan of. The Quebec Nordiques. After choosing to play as this super-cool team, I started winning nearly every game I played. Sakic instantly became my favorite player as I scored the most goals with him (go figure), and I even had a specialty move with Mats Sundin that I labeled the "Sundin Special".

Sixteen years, two Stanley Cup Championships, and millions upon millions of memories later, I am so thankful for the fact that I chose the Nordiques/Avs to be "mine". There is nothing in the world that makes me happier than seeing the Avs on the ice, win or lose, and that will never, ever change.