Dear Colorado Avalanche of 2009-10,
I am writing this to you because...well, I love you. There's just no other way to put it. I have loved hockey since the burgundy and blue moved to Denver in 1995 and shortly thereafter brought the city its first championship. And I have followed the team loyally ever since. But this season was special. This year was really something.
My dearest Avalanche, I will never forget this season. You have given me hope in the franchise once again, and it came so much quicker than I thought it would. You were hated from the beginning of the year, picked to finish in the cellar once again. I'll admit that I even predicted you'd miss the playoffs and make for a long, hard, hockey-less summer. But you persevered, ignoring expectations, and proved that anyone who predicted a repeat performance of last season was just plain ignorant.
Thoughout the season, phrases like "come down to earth" and "Corsi" and "the slide now begins" were thrown at you all year. Did you listen to them? Did you let the pressure of expected failure press down on your shoulders and drive you into the ground, into the cellar, out of the playoff picture? No, dear Colorado Avalanche, you did not. Indeed, you did quite the opposite. You fought through the injuries of top and bottom six forwards, important defensemen, and even the starting goalie. In the face of doubters you skated hard and continued to amass points despite trials and tribulations. For that, you inspire me, and for that you earn my love.
At this time, my beloved Avalanche, I'd like to take a moment to speak to some of you individually, to share my love an appreciation with some of the men who inspired.
To Joe Sacco, the rookie coach of a young team, I'll admit that I was skeptical of the choice to install you on the bench. You assembled a rather inexperienced (though historically significant for Avs fans) coaching staff after the Patrick Roy debacle. It couldn't have been easy to step into that situation. It's always difficult for a fan to judge what on-ice performance is a result of coaching and what is a result of player personality, will, and skill. But I do contend that you, Mr. Sacco, whipped and Avalanche roster into shape that had previously been led by a retarded monkey. If you don't at least get nominated for the Jack Adams award, I'll be furious. So, for your ability to finally instill an identity in this squad, I say thank you and you have my love.
To Adam Foote, the second man to wear the iconic "C" on his chest for this team, your leadership was quite welcome, and it was grand to see you with that letter on your chest. Though sometimes, especially in the playoffs, your on-ice performance left something to be desired, your absolute passion to win and your furious grit certainly instilled inspiration in both me and the young players. Honestly, I hope you call it quits and begin to find your way to a coaching position, but despite being slow of foot, Mr. Foote, your contributions to this team were worthy of my love.
To Milan Hejduk, the classy man who skipped the Olympics in an effort to get health for the team, it is always sad to see such a staple in the franchise lose much of his season to injury. But nonetheless, when you were on the ice, you were a reliable cog in our top six, setting a good example for all the young guns who will fire off sniper shots in your stead when you finally hang 'em up. For your continual commitment to the franchise, I love you, and wish you better health.
To Paul Stastny, the young man who doesn't seem so young anymore, you quietly put up almost point-per-game numbers in both the regular and post-season. Though many criticize you in dry-patches, you are consistently earning your salary on both ends of the ice. You make your lineage proud and I believe you will be the next captain of this hockey team. For your quiet production, tireless effort in all three zones, and maturity for a man of so few years, you have earned my love and respect.
To Chris Stewart, the one and only Manbearpig, you are proving the naysayers wrong and becoming a game changer. As the years go on, I expect you not only to score tons of goals and register tons of hits, but to intimidate the fuck out of opponents all over the ice. Drop those gloves, Manbearpig, and don't be afraid to pummel someone. You aren't the next Jarome Iginla, Jarome Iginla is an aging you! And for that, I love you...in a very manly way, please don't kick my ass.
To Ryan O'Reily, the youngest player on the ice, and yet one of the most responsible. How is it you play beyond your years, good Radar? People look at your play and hear that you're only 19, and they certainly tilt their head to the side and as "O RLY?" You are awesome, you kill penalties like ants, and you only get better during the playoffs. For these things, I love you.
To TJ Galiardi, the man whose name cannot be pronounced by opposing commentators, the man who ruffled the feathers of the Sharks such that they wish they had wings to fly away. You are built for the playoffs. Though I wasn't sold at the end of last season, you quickly earned a spot in my heart and on the team this year. In fact, you made more than one spot. You can pretty much play anywhere. Hell, you're so versatile that if a good string of goalies go down with injures sustained by Keith Ballard's sick, I'd be willing to put the pads on you! You do it all, scoring, hitting, strong defense, killing penalties, annoying the shit out of Dan Boyle...all of it. And I gotta love it.
To Matt Duchene, the boy-man that sparked new life into this franchise, after the dismal year that was 08-09, you gave us something to hope for. From game one, you electrified the ice, with lightning speed and passionate tenacity. You made hockey fun again. I cannot help but smile knowing that you and Paul Stastny will be our top 2 centers for a long time to come. Yes, Sakic-Forsberg are big shoes to fill...and you don't have to fill them...you simply have to wear your own shoes. It was only fitting that your shootout goal put us back in the playoffs, and I know there is much more to come. I oft had to ask myself "Is it a man-crush if he's younger than me?" Though the question always makes me massively uncomfortable, I love it.
To all the other skaters I'm not mentioning by name, whose energy and enthusiasm made the game fun and made the team succesful...I love you.
And last but not least, to Craig Anderson, the one and only Mr. Anderson, the Neo of the NHL-matrix, the MVP of our team this season, you took the first opportunity you had to be a starter and performed brilliantly. Your passion leads you to defend your crease with aggression with necessary, and that's always fun to watch. Not since Patrick Roy have we been blessed with a goalie with that much heart and passion to win...and the talent level isn't too far off either. My only advice: keep those wide eyes on the puck, not the ice-girls. The ladies will fall at your feet after your ridiculously good performances. One of the things I love most about you is your humility. You always give credit to your teammates and to the home crowd. That important piece of character will continue to take this team a long way. You are loved.