I have been struggling with this topic for a while now, but with Foote announcing his retirement on Friday, I figured I may as well jot some thoughts down to share you guys and gals.
The Avs have been clinging to the past for years now, and I feel that, this upcoming year, they will finally be able to move on. The Avalanche, from the time that they moved from Quebec to Denver, have been the city's most dependably awesome team. They had a few ups and downs, and some significant problems stemming from the team's salary management and the implementation of the salary cap, but overall they were always solid. Better than solid: Great.
Over the past 4-5 seasons, as mismanagement and other issues affected team play, the shadow of the 8 year Avs dynasty would be constantly hovering over everyone's shoulder. Management only reinforced this at every turn. In a lot of respects, I have no problem with that; tradition and paying homage to the greats are important to the fanbase of a franchise. However, in this instance, I feel like it has hampered the growth of the team significantly over the past few years.
For me, this started in February 2008. Forsberg wanted to try and play again, and who wouldn't want him? The Avs, of course, signed him to a contract. But the thing that really got to me was the trade of our first round pick for Adam Foote. That pick ended up being the 19th overall; not a stunning pick by any means, but some of the players still on the board were Del Zotto, Eberle, and Ennis, as well as a host of as-yet unproven, and probably mostly 'meh' guys just starting to break into the big leagues. I love Footer, but he was already 36 at the time. Trading away a #1 pick, the future of the team, for a guy that was only going to be with the team three years? I was not a fan at the time.
Was that the year that the Avs were making their final push for the cup? Did they really think that they had a chance at it? Stranger things had happened, I suppose, but I wasn't holding my breath. The team sent away that first rounder for one last stab at the good ol' days, and it didn't pay off. Oh well. That would have been the perfect time to move on, right?
Apparently, fate had other designs for the team. The Sakic saga (see Fingers vs. Snowblower, Nov. 2008, and Disk vs. Herniation, Oct. 2008), dragged on, making a good bit of the Av's future uncertain. Joe was the cornerstone of the franchise, and with his loss, the team floated a little. Luckily, altho I have no recollection of hockey being played that year, we were able to draft a future cornerstone of the team: Matt Duchene. Joe Sakic's loss drastically altered the team landscape. His ghost haunted the locker room, cased in glass. Even so, this would be a good time to move on, right? Riiiight?
Well, the team tried. The Young Guns came out a-blazin', with Craig Anderson making save after incredible save. Remember how pleased we were with the team? Foote was still here; scary, if slow, Foote. The kids were tearing it up. Things were looking good. We got into the playoffs, despite our kids "over-achieving", and hopes soared for '10-11.
Offseason 2010: The rebuild continues. This time, the defense needed re-tooling. However, the Avs signed Adam Foote to a 1 year extension. I was not a fan of this move, either. I know we had paid a high cost to get him back into the Burgundy and Blue, but he was just getting sooo slow. I didn't think, at the time, that even his leadership abilities would be enough to outweigh his roster spot. Once again, the Avs were clinging to the past. I guess that they felt that they owed Foote a debt, and that, in the event he were to get hurt, the D prospects could slide into his place. I understood that logic, but having him out there wasn't going to make the team much better.
Good ol' Footer showed his age a lot in the early season. He was at his absolute best on the PK; that was almost vintage Foote. Didn't have to speed off somewhere, could get his elbows in in the corner, all of that good stuff. But his injuries and overall play were letting the team down, especially since he was the Captain, and once again causing a lot of turmoil on the team.
And Forsberg. Oh, you tantalizing, wonderful, blue-eyed tease. I remember SlamDunkTheFunk expressing a lot of concern over the disruption Peter the Great's return might cause on the team, but I sort of glossed over it. Wasn't that about the time we started losing? I mean, prolonged losing? I don't want to shift the blame entirely in that direction, but I definitely believe that it played a big role. Distractions, disruptions. "Which way is the team going?" 'Oh man, we get to play with PETER FORSBERG!' The whole thing could not have been good for the team, especially with the abrupt retirement announcement at the end of it.
All I get from this team has been confusion. Coupled with humping the salary floor, this team has just lost its way. The management longs for the glory days, and in doing so, will not fully commit to the rebuild.
Well, guys, the time has come. The last vestiges of the Old Guard are gone from the team. Moves have been made to acquire key guys for the future, even while sending away some of our favorites. Let's start to forget the past and get excited about the future. I want Lacroix, Sherman, Billington, Enos Jr, and the rest of the Avs management team to see this, grab the bull by the damn horns, and build on the foundation that they have. Lets get this team back up and running, and start winning like Charlie 'effen Sheen.