Outside of franchise Hall-of-Famers like Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, and Peter Forsberg, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more popular Colorado Avalanche player over the years than Alex Tanguay. That's what winning a Stanley Cup in your second season will do for you: fans forever associate your name with victory.
He was also the final link back to the golden age of Avalanche hockey -- important to fans, but also a symbol to a young Avalanche team trying to regain that level of success. Also, unlike yesterday's featured player, Brad Stuart, it's pretty clear why management pursued Tanguay after five years away from the club. He was a reliable scorer, an effective facilitator, and consistently brought an intelligence and vision they desperately wanted to rub off on the likes of Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog.
After an injury-plagued 2013-14, Tanguay put up one of the better seasons of his career, notching 22 goals and was third on the team in scoring with 55 points. If he could have provided even 80% of that production this past season, Colorado would have iced a pretty effective scoring 3rd line. Was he able to do it again at the age of 36?
Unfortunately, no. Following a rash of leg injuries, Tanguay was considerably slowed in 2015-16. No longer was he beating opponents to pucks on the boards or outskating helpless defenders for breakaway opportunities -- Tangs looked every bit the 17-year veteran he was, with flashes of his former brilliant self, but mostly frustrating shifts where he was dragging down his line on both ends of the ice. It was terrible frustrating to watch, because wanted nothing more than to cheer-on one of its all-time favorite players.
It appeared management grew frustrated with Tanguay's level of play too and traded him at the deadline to the Arizona Coyotes, along with junior players Conner Bleackley and Kyle Wood, for Mikkel Boedker. Through 52 games, Tanguay only tallied 4 goals and 18 assists -- both well below his career averages.
Biggest reason for the decline? Shooting percentage.
In 2014-15, Tanguay shot 21.2%. In 2015-16 that fell all the way down to 8.2%. Sure, it's closer to the league average for forwards, 10.58%, but that's not Tanguay's game. Throughout his career he was a pass-first player who took only the most high-percentage of shots. Seven times in his career he had a shooting percentage above 20%, a feat which is becoming increasingly rare -- if not impossible -- in today's NHL with its focus on high-volume shots. Tanguay wasn't getting the same opportunities anymore, much of that can be chalked up to declining speed.
MHH Staff Grade: D
Explanation? Yeah, it was probably the worst (non-injury-shortened) season of Tanguay's career and he was a major drag on the Avalanche's other Top-6 players, but wasn't AS MUCH of a drag as some of the other options were. He was a Plus-1.5 CF%rel last season, which was 6th on the team. Yeah, that number is affected by having played much of the time with the team's best players, but it wasn't as bad as other options that got time on those lines.