"Foote has lost a step"
"Foote is slowing down"
"Foote is great as a leader but hurting us on the ice"
OK, I get it. My favorite Avalanche player is a seasoned veteran on the youngest team in the NHL. But I'm here to tell you, Foote is still the best defenseman on this team.
Let's talk about this whole mantra in the media and continued in the blog world, "Foote is slow". In a sprint from goal line to goal line I will grant you, Foote probably doesn't beat out many on his own team. But let me ask you something, when was the last time Foote got beat on the edge? When was the last time Foote got blown by on the rush for a scoring chance? Now, in contrast apply those same questions to Liles and Quincey. Two defensemen who are "faster" than Foote.
Guess who else is "slow"? Chris Pronger, Ken Daneyko, Al MacInnis, Nicklas Lidstrom, and younger examples like Books Orpik or Jeff Schultz. Look, I'm not saying that Foote is comparable in all skill sets to these guys. What I am saying is that none of those good defensemen I mentioned have great straight-away speed.
Contrary to popular opinion, Adam Foote is a brilliant skater. His skating has been his biggest asset in the NHL, not his ability to throw a forearm shiver along the boards. His transition skating, edge work and posture are really amazing. If you have the inclination just watch Foote on the point of the offensive zone. Like Hejduk (another amazing skater) rarely do his feet ever stop moving. He glides and effortlessly transitions to break out of his zone before the rush starts, not after. He always, always, always takes away the middle of the ice and you will even see him skating past the mid-line of the ice to support his D partner when a single forward to trying to rush the zone during a line change. He's got zero head-bob (compare and contrast his transitions to Wilson for example) and fantastic balance as he doesn't over-lean or do many of the cheats skaters can take.
Another thing to watch with Foote is his blind-side awareness. If he has duty on the weak side he knows where that backdoor player is....always. He checks his "six" constantly and rarely gets caught staring at the puck. Some fans will complain that when a play happens on the strong side and the puck releases for a scoring chance, that Foote isn't fast enough to attack the puck and make a play. That's not his job. There's glory in throwing your body in to a blocked shot here. Some have even gained high praise for leaving their assignment and making this play. I can only imagine Patrick Roy turning in to The Predator and ripping out Clark's spine for that move. As Iceman and many goaltenders would tell you, you never leave your wingman Maverick. Watch Foote in front of the net and contrast that with some of this fellow defensemen.
In the end, Foote may not be rushing up the ice to carry the puck out of his own zone. Foote also isn't going to jump up in the play between the circles for scoring chances. Foote has "lost a step" when it comes to pure foot speed when it comes to shadowing a player with a lot of side stepping on the boards and he has limitations on things he can do when the puck is on his stick. However, when the puck is on the opposing man's stick in the Avs zone he's still the best we have.