Giving Kyle Quincey a Break

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images

With his parting words in February, 2012, Kyle Quincey became enemy No. 1 in Avalanche Country. But does he deserve that title?

Kyle Quincey was seen almost as a throw-in for the 2009 trade that saw Ryan Smyth head to Los Angeles in exchange for Tom Preissing. Preissing was supposed to be the answer to the Avalanche blueline woes; unfortunately, he started the season injured and just never materialized as a regular on the roster. In fact, he was such a disappointment that the Avs bought out his contract. Fans' dismay from letting go of a talented veteran forward for a lemon was palpable. Enter Quincey.

The 24-year-old made himself right at home on a team full of Young Guns who were underestimated and even ridiculed throughout the league. He solidified himself as an NHL player and, in the process, won the hearts of Avs fans. Slick slap shots from the point and massive hip checks along the boards, those things made him a burgundy and blue favorite.

Of course, there was also frustration with Quincey. Sometime around the All Star Break, his play would drop off, making him a tale of split seasons. What was once a bad ass performance became a face-palm inducer. By the middle of his second season with the Avalanche, the love affair with him was on-again off-again.

Despite appearing to be fairly innocuous, a shoulder injury in December, 2011, nearly ended his career. He lost all feeling in and had limited use of his arm due to a stretched nerve. He worked for eight months to regain what he'd lost, but once back, he found that his spot on the roster was no longer secure. The Avs had created a new blueline, loaded with heavy hitters designed to make other teams suffer when in the Avs zone. The addition of number one draft pick Erik Johnson forced Quincey into that 3-4 d-man spot, but he just never seemed to click with his partners.

In a three-way, trade deadline deal, Kyle Quincey went back to where he started: Detroit. On his way out the door, he made some harsh comments about the organization in an interview with Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports.

“Everyone is ready to get shipped out any day,” Quincey said. “There’s a lot of guys, their bags are packed beside the door, and they wouldn’t be unhappy to go – trust me. I know I had a big smile on my face, and all the guys were jealous. I think there’s a bunch of guys that were pissed off they weren’t in a package deal.”

That was the money quote that left fans feeling everything from pissed off to apathetic about Kyle Quincey. The very next day, Quincey made a public apology.

“The last thing I wanted to do was throw Colorado under the bus, an organization that was great to me, and I loved Colorado. I shouldn’t have said what I said and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. It wasn’t meant to be ‘Colorado-specific.’ I was talking about the trade deadline in general and it came out wrong. I don’t want any of the teammates I went to war with in Colorado to think I don’t think and wish anything but for the best for them.”

Many people rolled their eyes at the apology, saying it was too little too late. Quincey had shown his true colors, and the Avs were better off without him.

Sadly, some of the other things Quincey said in the Cotsonika interview never made the rounds.

“There’s guys that have been talked about for two, three weeks – and I was, too, right?” Quincey said. “That’s all I’m saying. With guys getting talked about all the time, your mindset kind of changes. It’s tough there because they’re in a dogfight. When you get talked about every day, it kind of wears on you. You start thinking, ‘Where am I going?’ “

When taken in perspective, one could see his controversial comments in a new light. Perhaps what he meant to say just didn't come out right. Maybe he was really saying

“Everyone who is the subject of a trade rumor is ready to get shipped out any day,” Quincey said. “There’s a lot of guys like us in the NHL, their bags are packed beside the door, and they wouldn’t be unhappy to go – trust me. I know I had a big smile on my face knowing the uncertainty was over, and all the guys who aren't getting ice time were jealous. I think there’s a bunch of guys who are spending games in the press box that were pissed off they weren’t in a package deal.”

When put in context with his other comment, his words aren't so harsh.

One also has to remember how he felt knowing he was on the trade block. Imagine hearing that your team—a team where you have developed best friends, a team you know is on the rise, poised to become a serious contender, a team that gave you the chance to become a true NHL player—imagine hearing it's actively shopping you to other teams. There would be hurt, anger, disbelief, and sadness. Then the news actually comes, you're off the team. But you're not going to the team the Avalanche traded with. They didn't want you either. There had to be a third wheel in this deal to make it happen.

I can imagine a lot of emotions bubbling over at that point. Hockey people are passionate, and that extends to the players, too. We react with emotion, and that sometimes gets us into trouble. Quincey is a passionate, young guy. And he made a mistake. He spoke before he thought about it. In a flurry of calls for interviews, he responded to a question in a way that didn't convey his true feelings. In a recent interview, he said, "What came out in the article was not what I meant or felt."

Moreover, when asked how he feels about the organization now, he was thoughtful, and you could see his response was not contrived at all. It came from the heart.

I have zero hard feelings for the Avs. The trade is what it was. It was really hard purely because of how much I love Denver. The guys in the room are the best. . . It's hard leaving those guys.

Leaving Colorado was tough because of the organization. I had so many good memories there. . . It's hard to leave somewhere you're happy with at the drop of the hat.

It would be easy to dismiss Quincey's words if it wasn't for two things: he has made Denver his permanent home and he's thrilled to be back in the Avalanche organization, playing for the Denver Cutthroats.

All too often, we create villains out of public figures for what they say, and we base that on snippets we read online and in newspapers or magazines. We forget that there is a context that is purposefully ignored by the media in order to create intrigue, intrigue that will generate traffic.

In the end, what really matters is that Kyle Quincey, a guy once beloved in Denver, is back, and you can watch him lead Denver's newest pro sport team to great heights. At least until the lockout ends.

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