While the Avalanche are enjoying some forced golf time, I thought it might be fun/depressing/cathartic to check in on some former Avs still alive and kicking in the playoffs, see how they're doing and how their fortunes may have changed since last donning an Avs sweater. I've only included people who actually suited up for the Avalanche, not just drafted by the organIzation (Tim Thomas, Sami Pahlsson, etc.) and I've probably left somebody out, but based on my spotty research, it seems only four of this season's playoff qualifiers did NOT boast a former Avalanche player on their rosters: the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks. Let's go match-up by match-up and see where Colorado's discarded children have landed.
#1 Vancouver VS #8 Los Angeles: As mentioned, the Canucks don't employ any former Avs on their roster, but the Kings have one in Avalanche-killer Brad Richardson. Richardson played his first game of the 2012 postseason last night after missing time due to an emergency appendectomy a week ago Monday (fun trivia: which current Avs player also underwent an emergency appendectomy in-season?). Richardson played mostly on the 4th line left wing, after playing on all other Kings' lines during the regular season - at one point he was even the left wing for Kopitar and Brown on the Kings' top line during the regular season. But last night he was all about the Kings 4th line that created a plethora of chances and drew penalties against the Canucks. Brad managed 3 shots on goal, but 0 points in the loss. His Kings however maintain a stranglehold on the Canucks with a 3-1 lead in the series.
#2 St. Louis VS #7 San Jose: This big bodied match-up plays host to a number of former Coloradans. For those with Memento-like memory: the Sharks have Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, whom they acquired in this season's trade deadline bonanza of boredom. Galiardi has been fairly invisible for the Sharks playing in all 3 games and managing a +/- -1 (only two other Sharks are a minus), 6 PIMS, and just 1 shot on net in 12:37 of average ice time (if not for the double OT game in game 1, his avg TOI would be even less). Like Daniel Winnik, his playing time has decreased each contest, but TJ has wrangled in 75% of his faces (3 for 4). Galiardicus where art thou? Winnik hasn't fared any better scoring 0 points, 2 shots, 4 PIMs, an even +/-, and 13 minutes average TOI. Pretty blah in general.
On the other side of the ice, the Blues boast three former Avs on their roster in Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Brian "Vezina' Elliot. While Stewart has been scratched (still too soon to declare a winner on this trade?) one of the three games, he has "played" the other two. Stewie has no points, 2 shots, a -1, and is averaging 12:04 TOI. Shattenkirk is doing well for himself with 1 point, an assist, in 3 games. He also is averaging 4 shots p/g and is 4th amongst Blues defensemen in avg TOI. The weirdest stat for Shatty is that his 1 point and 11 of his 12 shots all came in game 1. In the 2 subsequent games he has just 1 shot and 0 points despite fairly consistent ice time. The usually steady blueliner has also accrued no PIMs and is an even +/-. Now to the surprise of the 2011-2012 season: Brian Elliot. The Blues "back up" netminder led the league this regular season in save % with .940% and GAA at a ridiculous 1.56. Elliot was second in shutouts with 9 (Kings' Quick had 10), and finished with a 23-10-4 record as he and Jaroslav Halak teamed up to win the William Jennings trophy for allowing the least amount of goals of any goalie tandem in the regular season. Even though Elliot's numbers surpassed Halak's similar strong stats, St. Louis asserted that Halak would be their starter for the playoffs - and he was. He dropped game won, then righted the ship in game two allowing no goals before being injured after colliding with his own teammate in period 2. In steps Elliot who continued the shutout and secured the win. Elliot would win game 3 as well. So the question now is, if Halak is healthy, who should start? St Louis is getting the better of the series up 2 games to 1.
#3 Phoenix VS #6 Chicago: 3 games. 3 OT wins. Radim Vrbata led his Coyotes in goals during the regular season with 35. Unfortunately he was knocked out of game one on his first shift and hasn't been the same player since returning in game 2. He has 0 points in 2 and 1/16 games played and is a -3. Former Avalanche rearguard Derek Morris patrols the backend for Phoenix and has picked up 1 assist and 4 shots in 3 games. The Yotes rotate their D fairly evenly with Morris fitting in on the bottom 4 in TOI and often does not face the Hawks top lines, but he has been serviceable this April.series. Both clubs involved have a former Av bolstering their line up.
For the Blackhawks, forward Andrew Brunette takes his net presence and veteran savvy into yet another post season, but this isn't the same Bruno that ended the Avs' under-performing run in 2003. The 38 year-old has 1 goal in 3 contests, but has only managed a meager 3 shots total. Granted, his 15:10 average ice time ranks 10th out of the 13 Hawks' forwards, but I'm sure the Hawks would like to get more out of a guy who is probably involved in his final run at a Cup.
#4 Nashville VS #5 Detroit: How is Nashville so good with no huge offensive stars on their roster? Balance. Every forward has at least 1 point, with the exception of Jordan Tootoo, but he's only played 1 game and is not worthy of talking about further unless we're discussing his qualities as a douche. Brandon Yip, acquired off waivers back on January 19, was picked up to add depth, energy, physicality, and a flashes of scoring to the Preds bottom 6. In 3 games this post season, Yip has 1 assist while only averaging 6:44 in ice time. The Preds mostly roll 3 lines and that 4th line sees scarce minutes. Yip has shown a nose for the net and an opportunistic scoring ability, and I personally hope the Preds go far. To do so, they'll need to defeat the scourge of all scourges in the Red Wings Presented by Amway.
In perhaps Sherman's best move - and it should qualify as best because he did not deal with the devil and instead used a middle man in Steve Yzerman to send Quincey to Detroit. If Sherman HAD dealt directly with Detroit, he would have betrayed us all. Savvy move Shermy. The lynch mob has been recalled. For now. Many around MHH were disappointed to see Quincey go, but many were simply disappointed in Quincey. No team needs a player who only plays till Christmas. Is Quincey bad? No. Is he indispensable? Hell no. #27 has 2 assists in 4 games against the Predators, to go along with 6 PIMs, 9 shots, and a -1. Solid numbers. Interesting stat: KQ is last in average ice time amongst all Detroit Blueliners.
#1 Rangers VS #8 Ottawa: Ah, Mr. Anderson. How them post season ice girls treating you? Are they bringing it? The only former Avalanche in this series is none other than
the polarizing kitchen klutz Craig Anderson. Andy has done a solid job helping his 8th seeded Sens knot things up at two games a piece with the Rangers. He's 2-2 this post season with a .922 save % and 2.24 GAA. His Goals against weighs in at 9th overall in the playoffs and his save % comes in at 10th (for goalies who have played more than 1 game). So he's basically perfectly middle of the road across the board in the "important" stats. If you dig a bit deeper, we see that he continues to be leaned on very heavily by his squads: he is second in ice time amongst all goalies and he's faced the 5th most shots. It's not generally considered that the Sens will upset the Eastern Conference champs, but if Anderson can put together playoff performances like he did when he wore the A, then the boys from Ottawa have a chance.
#2 Boston VS #7 Washington: Although he only played in 4 games for the Avalanche, Johnny Boychuk still qualifies for this article's purposes (which are mundane and still relatively unknown). The hard hitting defensman has no points in 3 games against Washington, but has been his usual physical self and is a strong depth defender on a nasty and deep defensive corps for the defending champs. The Bruins' bench is also strengthened by another former Avalanche: Brian Rolston. The old man turned 39 this season, but has rediscovered his scoring touch of late potting 3 points (1 G, 2 A) in 3 playoff games. In 49 games on Long Island this season, Rolston put up a paltry 9 points. In 22 games with Boston, he threw down 15 points in 21 games. If he continues that kind of play, he could provide Boston the depth they need to repeat.
In what has been a low-scoring affair featuring dueling net minders, only 6 Capitals have a point. Matt Hendricks is not one of them, but then again, that's not his role. Hendricks quickly became a fan favorite in Denver, and that love has followed him to Washington, enduring him to fans with his physical selfless game. With Niklas Backstrom suspended for tonight's game 4, the Caps need someone to step up, and who knows, maybe Hendricks will be that guy - probably not, but I wouldn't mind seeing success rain down upon this former Av.
#3 Florida VS #6 New Jersey: Ah, what could have been, eh? The Panthers retain the services of three former Avs, tying the Blues in the important stat of former Avs on roster, or FAOR. The standouts are Tomas Fleischmann and Jose Theodore. Flash is doing the same thing he did in Colorado: put up points. He's got 3 points (1 G, 2 A) in 3 games, he's a +1, is shooting 20%, and is 3rd among Florida forwards in average TOI. The enigmatic Wojtek Wolski wallows on the Panthers bottom lines as he too does what he did in Colorado: frustrates fans. He's played 2 games and scored no points. He's a -1 with 4 PIMs and is battling for the least amount of ice time on the team. Theodore is the intriguing former Denverite here. He split the first two games of the series while allowing 5 goals in those two games. His save % in both games was solid at around .920%, but in game 3 the wheels fell off and ignited upon impact. Jose was yanked after allowing 3 goals on 6 shots. Back-up Scott Clemmensen stopped all 19 shot she faced in relief and backstopped the Panthers to the biggest comeback in their history as they stormed back to win 4-3. So the question is: who should start in net tonight? Florida leads the series 2 games to 1.
New Jersey ain't got no freakin' former Avs on their roster. Now yous guys go get me a Rita's Water Ice. Cherry.
#4 Pittsburgh VS #5 Philly: In maybe the strangest series in years, the Flyers hold a huge 3 games to 1 lead over Pittsburgh, despite being decimated last night 10-3. Ian Lapperriere is listed on the Flyers Roster, but the beloved rugged winger hasn't played a game for almost two years. Heal Lappy. We love you. xoxo.
Conspiracy Theory: If you look at each match-up, the team retaining the most former Avalanche players is winning their series, or tied at the very least. What does it all mean? That even though the Avalanche's season is over, it still lives on in some small way as the former members of the greatest team ever keep winning. Yes, those are the pathetic words of someone grasping at straws, but.......Go (former) Avs!
If you made a roster out of the discarded Avalanche players, it could look something like this (a little weak at Center and D)
Fleischmann - Galiardi - Vrbata
Rolston - Richardson - Brunette
Wolski - Winnik - Stewart
Matt Hendricks - Yip
Shattenkirk - Morris
Boychuk - Quincey
Elliot, Anderson, and Theodore