Alex Tanguay didn't waste a lot of time establishing himself as a top offensive player when he joined the Avalanche as a rookie in 1999-2000. And he maintained that reputation over the course of six seasons with the team, consistently putting points on the board and helping to win important games.
For his steady stream of points, his great chemistry with his teammates and, most importantly, his brilliant performance in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, Alex Tanguay cruises easily into the top half of the Top 19 Avalanche Players Of All Time.
Tanguay showed impressive potential early on. In 1995-96, at the age of 15, he scored 63 points in 44 games with the Cap-de-Madeleine Estacades in his home province of Quebec. Upon his arrival in the major junior ranks, he showed that this offensive prowess was no fluke. In two seasons as a member of the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), Tanguay scored 153 points in 121 games, including 74 goals and a spot on the 1997 QMJHL All-Rookie Team. He also made an appearance at the World Junior Championships in 1998, playing for Canada, and scored three points, but Canada lost to Russia in the first round of the medal tournament, ending a five-year gold medal streak for the Great White North.
The Colorado Avalanche had four picks in the first round of the 1998 Entry Draft, and of those, Tanguay was the first one, picked 12th overall. He was also the best out of a pretty decent crew that also included Robyn Regehr, Scott Parker and Martin Skoula. While the Avs should have picked Simon Gagne and Scott Gomez over two of those three, it could have been worse. At any rate, Tanguay went 12th and proved to be a great pick.
He played one more season in Halifax (31 games, 61 points) and then moved up to the Hershey Bears, a former AHL affiliate of the Avalanche. Alex played only five games in the minor leagues though, because he made the Avs out of training camp in 1999-20 at the age of 20. Immediately he became the top line left winger, playing with both Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg depending on the line setups at the time.
Tanguay's rookie season was superb. 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points overall in 76 games, including five goals on the power play. Unfortunately, though his debut was impressive (the best ever for an Avalanche rookie until Paul Stastny showed up), Alex was consistently overlooked by the NHL. He was not named to the All-Rookie Team (Gagne was picked for LW) and he also wasn't named as a finalist for the Calder Trophy, despite having the second-highest point total of any rookie in the league. (Seriously, Mike York as a finalist? Really?) Scott Gomez won the award for his 70-point scorapalooza that year, and Tanguay had to content himself with a team record and not much else.
If it's any consolation, Tanguay has since proven to be the best player out of his rookie class, having outscored every other player by a significant margin (save Gomez) .
Also a consolation: Alex Tanguay's stellar sophomore season. All Avalanche fans know how amazing the 2000-01 season was, and Tanguay was a huge contributor to that success. During the regular season, he scored 77 points in 82 games, including 27 goals and a shooting percentage of .20.
But the playoffs were where he truly came into his own. During "Mission 16W," as the team called their crusade to get Ray Bourque a Stanley Cup, Tanguay had 21 points in 23 games, including two game-winners.
One of those game-winners came at the most critical possible time, during game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils. Tanguay opened the scoring with a turn-around wrist shot to the left of Martin Brodeur early in the first period. His second goal, the eventual clinching tally, was amazing. Joe Sakic streaked in from the left of Brodeur on a 2-on-1 break began by a bouncing outlet pass from Adam Foote. Sakic launched a quick wrister but Brodeur made the save. The rebound, however, was fat and juicy, and landed right on the tape of Tanguay. Losing his balance, he managed a quick shot from Brodeur's right, finding the net before he slid into the boards. The Can exploded and the Avs went on to win the game (and the Cup), 3-1. Ray Bourque loves him some Tanguay, no doubt.
(Hint: You'll see this clip again on the Top 19 list)
Tanguay had a sub-par year in 2001-02, however, scoring only 48 points in 70 games. The Avs struggled offensively in general that year, and were shown the door by the Red Wings in the playoffs.
In 2002-03, it was back to business. While Peter Forsberg was busy winning the Hart Trophy and Milan Hejduk was busy scoring 50 goals, Alex Tanguay was the steady winger setting them up, ending the year with 26 goals and 41 assists in 82 games, the last year in which he played a full season.
Tanguay would stick around for two more years, scoring 79 and 78 points respectively, and maintaining a scoring percentage better than a point-per-game. Unfortunately, Pierre Lacroix's obsession with sending talent to the Flames caught up to him, and in the summer of 2006 Tanguay was shipped off to Calgary for defenseman Jordan Leopold, who has never missed a game in his career. Oh wait.
After two years with the Flames (one good, one bad), Tanguay is now playing for the Montreal Canadiens, no doubt a dream for the Quebec native.
Alex Tanguay wasn't the best forward on the Avalanche when he played in Colorado, or the fastest, or the flashiest. That's a tough feat for anyone playing alongside Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic. But Tanguay was consistent, and put up points and helped win games. He symbolized, at least for a while, a new, youthful side to a team of all-star veterans that was beginning to show its age.
Though he's long gone now, Alex Tanguay remains an honored member of the Top 19 Avs of All Time.
[Highest rating: 6. Lowest rating: 13. Average score: 9.75]