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Profiles In Avalanche History: Mr. Lunch Pail

Jon Klemm
These days, the only defensemen that interest the Avalanche are scoring defensemen.  John-Michael Liles, Jordan Leopold, Kevin Shattenkirk, etc., are all d-men who shoot first and defend second.  With the exception of recent signee Scott Hannan, the Avalanche have left behind their history of stacking the blue line with hard-hitting, stay-at-home defenders.

A major part of that history was Jon Klemm.  A completely unremarkable player offensively (he's never scored more than 24 points in a season), Klemm was much better known for his tireless work ethic and dedication to keeping the opposing team out of his zone.  Poke check or body check, Klemm was always willing to do whatever it took to shut down the opposition's offense.  Though overshadowed by star blueliners like Ray Bourque, Rob Blake and Adam Foote, Klemm still managed to contribute considerably to the success of the Avalanche.

Klemm played six seasons in Colorado, including both Stanley Cup winning years.  He established himself as both reliable and hard-hitting, and rarely prone to careless penalties.  In fact, despite finishing each season high on the list in hits, Klemm totalled more than 50 penalty minutes only once with the Avalanche.  His discipline and fearlessness overshadowed his unimpressive physique and scoring ability.  

His start in the league was unimpressive, too, since he was undrafted and managed to score a spot on the Quebec Nordiques roster only through his hard work and dedication to his role as defenseman with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL.  He won a Memorial Cup with the Chiefs in 1991 and even made the WHL second all star team that year.

When his contract with the Avalanche ran out just after winning his second Stanley Cup in 2001, Klemm signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played three full seasons before being traded to the Dallas Stars early in the fourth.  Still with the Stars, this past season was a rough one for Klemm, since he spent much of the year sidelined either by injury or as a healthy scratch.  Though he will return with the Stars he's been signed by the Kings for the coming 2007-08 season, his ice time will likely continue to be limited as he enters the twilight of his career.

Jon Klemm defined the Avalanche defensive corps of old: hard working, gritty and defensive-oriented, with little scoring ability but lots of heart and discipline.  In this, the "New NHL," players like Klemm are finding themselves on the outside looking in, but in the glory days of Avalanche history, his place was secure.  Jon Klemm, lunch pail in hand, went to work every game and did his job as well as anybody else, and earned two Stanley Cups because of it.