I'll admit, it seemed weird when Patrick Roy retired. It was unsettling not to see Peter Forsberg or Adam Foote on the roster in 2005. It took some getting used to.
This is radically different.
When 33 was raised to the rafters, we were certainly reminded that the Avs had a significant gap between the pipes. Maybe that's just become so commonplace, it doesn't seem weird anymore.
When Peter Forsberg made his only visit to the Pepsi Center in an opposing uniform while with the Nashville Predators, it didn't look right, but by that time, he'd been gone for two years and we'd somewhat adjusted.
Admittedly, Foote never looked right in a Blue Jackets jersey, but we all have to admit that the post-lockout Foote is a shadow of the pre-lockout Foote.
But for #19, it's different.
Since he was re-signed after the 2001 Stanley Cup, it was never a consideration to see Joe Sakic in another NHL jersey. It wasn't something to worry about. He would be an Av forever.
After the lockout, he was retained instead of Forsberg. Tough decision, but the right one. He would still be an Av forever.
When he flirted with retirement last summer but eventually returned, a collective sigh of relief was audible. He would be an Av forever.
Despite a herniated disc and an evil snowblower, he would be an Av forever. Right?
Certainly, Joe would relish the opportunity to mentor a dynamic young talent in Matt Duchene, who idolized him as a youngster. Worst season in Denver be damned! He's an Av forever.
Remember how your hopes skyrocketed when it was rumored that Sakic told Duchene in a post-draft phone call that he would see him soon. Told ya, he's an Av forever.
No matter how much we tried to convince ourselves that it would never end, reality has a way of crashing the party. It really is stupid to think it could last forever, but I still cannot imagine an Avalanche squad without Joe Sakic. It's just plain wrong.
Unlike the departures of Peter, Patrick and Adam, this one doesn't seem real. I didn't like the idea of an Avs team without those guys, but I could fathom it. Sure, there was an idea of losing great players, but this time it just seems like losing. It doesn't just seem like the end of an era. It seems like the end. Period.
The future of Stastny, Duchene, Shattenkirk and O'Reilly doesn't seem to matter at this moment. Sure, it will matter. It just doesn't seem like it. Maybe it it's because of all the other bad news Avs fans have had to endure over the last six months. Maybe if Sakic was going out on a winning team, it would be easier to take. But maybe not. You have to admit that the franchise is in disarray. We may look back on the draft classes of 2007, 2008 and 2009 as the foundation of a future Avs juggernaut, but right now that seems a long way off.
So now, we begin the unthinkable. The post-Joe Avalanche.
But as much as this has seemed like a eulogy, I must correct myself. This may be the end of a career and it may also be the beginning of a long downhill slide for a franchise. But that doesn't matter. Regardless of whether he's on the ice or not, whether he's on the roster or not, Joe Sakic will be an Av. Forever.
Now for some Random thoughts.
- Do you get the feeling that Matt Duchene absolutely must make the team next year? Without Joe and without a prayer to be competitve, watching this kid grow into a superstar is the only reason I can think of to watch games next season. With Shattenkirk, Cohen and other prospects unlikely to be on the roster, he is the only glimpse of the future. I'm not counting Paul Stastny because he's already the present.
- What was the point of all the drama in the Gustavsson sweepstakes? Did anyone really believe he was going anywhere other than Toronto? You know, there already is place where you make superstars out of players who haven't suited up for a pro game. It's called the NFL (hello there, Matthew Stafford).
- If Joe Sakic really wanted his announcement to be surprise, he should have done it today when 99% of the world was only paying attention to Pope Michael's funeral. Nobody would have noticed and then they would all be shocked when Super Joe wasn't on the training camp roster. I still haven't seen the white smoke to declare the new Pope. That was what all the hub-bub was about, wasn't it?