Is this the final game, Avalanche fans? I'm worried that it might be, and I'm having a tough time coming to grips with it.
I don't mean the final game of the season. I'm as optimistic as any fan of the team, and I just don't see them beating this Detroit team four times in a row. Heck, I'm not even sure they can beat them one time in a row, as they are 0-7 against the Wings this year. The Wings winning the series is as close to inevitable as it gets. If it's going to end, it might as well end tonight, on home ice. No sense drawing this out.
My fear, of course, is that this may be the final game for the one hockey player I idolize - Joe Sakic. I could list all of his career achievements here, but you guys already know the drill. He's the best player to ever wear an Avalanche jersey (yes, Detroit fans, I know that's only a 13 year history and no, I don't give a fuck). He'll likely be the best player to ever wear an Avalanche jersey for a long, long time.
In this day and age of conditioning, 38 years old is not quite as ancient as it used to be. Nick Lidstrom will likely win the Norris trophy again and he's just 8 months younger than Super Joe. Other players around Sakic's age or older are still playing - Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Mathieu Schneider, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and, of course, Chris Chelios. Steve Yzerman retired at 41. Mario Lemieux played until he was 40.
But Father Time catches up with everyone eventually, even heroes. Sakic is not the same player he was even just one year ago. He seems to have lost far more than just a step or two, and his dangerous wrist shot is no longer striking fear into the hearts of opposing goalies. It may simply be due to the injury he suffered this year, but that's immaterial. At that age, once you start losing it, it's almost impossible to get it back (as I'm reminded every morning as I watch a few more hairs wash down the shower drain).
Even with diminished skills, Sakic clearly has the secondary skills to continue to be a useful player. He showed us (and Minnesota) in round 1 that he can still have an impact on the game, but it won't be with the consistency he's had in the past. That's fine with me. Personally, he'd have a spot on any team I was running as long as he's willing and able to lace on the skates. Is it fine with Joe, though?
I'm not even going to pretend to tell you I have any idea what Sakic is thinking right now. I could go on about body language, family matters and going out on top...blah blah blah blah. I've never met the man and I have enough trouble trying to predict the actions of people I do know. He could play for 5 more years for all I know, or, perhaps, he could retire tomorrow. I will say, though, that Super Joe doesn't strike me as a "Farewell Tour" type of guy. I don't expect him to give us a lot of advance notice about his departure. And that's why if the game isn't going our way, I'll be wondering as the final seconds tick of the clock if this is my hero's final shift in his final game. I sincerely hope that won't be the case. My favorite team just won't be the same.