Avalanche Final Grade 2012: Milan Hejduk

Mar 26, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk (23) before a face off against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Colorado 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Milan Hejduk

#23 / Right Wing / Colorado Avalanche



Feb 14, 1976

2011 Cap Hit: $3,000,000

2012 Status: UFA

It's probably safe to say that this was Milan Hejduk's worst season in his NHL career. His 37 points were a career low and he failed to score 20 goals for the just the 2nd time in 13 seasons. The Avs' captain was doing well, with 29 points in 51 games at the all-star break (46 point pace). But he fell hard after the All-Star break, with 8 points in the last 30 games. He also was demoted to the 4th line late in the season and averaged just 15 minutes per game after the break, compared to 18+ before. It is certainly possible that the Duke was just in a slump - he has had cold streaks before. But Hejduk is 36 and has a lot of miles on those knees of his; he broke in at 22 and has 1100 NHL games (postseason included) under his belt velcro hockey pants tie thingy.

Hejduk has never been much of a Selke guy, but there was a time that he could be counted on for some nice defensive coverage and even some sneaky toughness from time to time. That wasn't evident last year, even though he did spend the latter part of the year on the lower lines. That accurate sniper shot no longer seemed as accurate or sniper-like and the dazzling stickhandling moves weren't so dazzling.

All in all, he just didn't look like Milan Hejduk. The question, though, is why? Was it age? The pressure of being named captain? Or was it just an off year? Unfortunately, that's not an easy one to answer.

2012 Outlook: Hejduk is 4th on the franchise all-time scoring list and is just 9 regular season games from becoming just the 2nd player with 1,000 regular season games for the franchise. I don't think he's going to get that shot though. My gut take? I think the Avs would prefer to move on and I doubt either side is interested in an Yzerman-like 4th-line swan song.

DDC's Take: Personally, I thought Hejduk looked like a guy riding out the string last year. He just didn't seem to have that drive, which is easy for me to say while my fat ass is parked in this comfy leather chair. Then again, I remember thinking something similar about Teemu Selanne back in 2004 when he scored 32 measly points for the Avs. He went on to score 90 for the Ducks after the lockout. Sadly, I'm not predicting a similar resurgence here.

Cheryl's Take: Milan Hejduk has spent his entire career with the Avalanche. In an ideal world, he'd retire in an Avs sweater. There wasn't any question about that happening...until now. Hejduk had a season that was so bad it saw his ice time drop to under 10 min/night while playing on the fourth line. Whether it was due to his age catching up to him or just a bad season, we may never know as signs are pointing to the end of Hejduk's tenure in Colorado. Duke has said he wants to keep playing hockey, so it's up to the Avs to bring him back. It's not clear if they are going to do that or not. Personally, I hope they do. I think that Hejduk simply had a bad year, much like Duchene and, to a lesser extent, Stastny did. If he doesn't come back to Denver, expect Hejduk to be in another team's sweater next season. Sadly.

2011 - Milan Hejduk 81 14 23 37 -12 14 6 0 1 170

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