In the midst of the Joe Sacco and beginning of the Patrick Roy era of Colorado Avalanche coaching came along a bottom-six member by the name of Steve Downie. Downie played for the Avs between 2012 and 2014 but found little ice time in those three years.
Downie started his professional career in 2002-03 in the OPJHL with 12 goals and 13 assists in 34 games. He was then promoted to the OHL for four years between 2003 and 2007. He played for the Windsor Spitfires, Peterborough Petes, and Kitchener Rangers. He also played one game in the AHL for the Philadelphia Phantoms in the 2006-07 season.
His most successful season in this developmental stretch was in 2004-05 with the Spitfires, with 21 goals and 52 assists in 73 games. In the playoffs, he played in 11 games with four goals and five assists. Downie also recorded an astronomical 179 penalty minutes in the regular season, and an additional 49 minutes in the postseason as well. He didn’t win the J. Ross Roberts Memorial Cup that season but would win it the following year with the Peterborough Petes.
Between 2007 and 2009, Downie then experimented with professional hockey splitting time between the AHL and NHL levels under the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning banners. He only played 38 games as a Flyer recording six goals and six assists in those two years but recorded a high amount of penalty minutes, 84 in total. He was subpar in the AHL with the Phantoms, with again only six goals and 19 assists in 25 games and an astonishing 137 penalty minutes.
After the 2008-09 season, Downie spent the majority of the rest of his career in the NHL. He spent a chunk of his time with the Lightning, four years to be exact. In 214 games for the organization, he recorded 47 goals, 65 assists, and a whopping 554 penalty minutes. His most successful season with the Bolts was 2009-10 with 22 goals and 24 assists in 79 games, the highest scoring mark and games played of his career.
Midway through the 2011-12 season, Downie would be shipped out of Tampa Bay to the Mile High City. Kyle Quincey would be sent the other way out of the Avs organization in the move and then immediately moved to the Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning in turn received a 2012 first round pick which became Andrei Vasilevskiy. Downie played the final 20 games of the season with the bigfoot on his shoulder, still recording two goals and 11 assists in that time. Little did we know that was going to be the most amount of games he’d play in a season for the Avs.
In 2012-13, he would only play two games before tearing his ACL and proceeding to be out for the season. Finally, in 2013-14 under Patrick Roy, it didn’t work out for him. He only played 11 games and recorded only one goal rounding out to three goals total in his Avalanche career.
He was then shipped off back to the Flyers for the rest of the year for Max Talbot in return. It was then revealed that Downie had gotten into an altercation with Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog at training camp to cause the trade. While Downie was little to no effect on the Avs at the time, he did take the least amount of penalty minutes in this three-year stretch and continued delivering big hits.
Downie flip-flopped around three teams for the rest of his career in three years. This included the aforementioned Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Arizona Coyotes. His last hurrah was with the Pens, with 14 goals and 14 assists in 72 games with an incredible 238 penalty minutes. Finally, his last year was the 2015-16 season with the Yotes while only playing 26 games with three goals and assists along with AHL-affiliate Springfield Falcons playing eight games with a goal and assist as well.
His career ended on a down note as he went on a Twitter rant against Don Cherry’s methodology of hockey. Cherry attacked Downie for protecting himself by wearing a visor to which Downie replied “Sad thing I listened to you.” He has not played professional hockey since 2016. Downie also came under controversy in 2020 when Akim Alu called him an “abusive, racist sociopath” while they played junior hockey. Downie never commented on the report.
Downie is a guy who was simply a bottom-six guy and never more than that. He was known to get into the rough stuff and be dirty, with his easy accord to attain so many penalty minutes - over 1,000 total in his career. He only played in the NHL Playoffs three times in his career and never won the Cup. While he does have the OHL championship to his name, Downie will always be known as a guy who was lost in the Avalanche.
With only 33 games in an Avs uniform in three years, he never lived up to the potential he had. If he had stayed in Colorado for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, could he have been the difference against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round defeat? Could he have gelled well in the Roy coaching system if he didn’t get into it with Landeskog at training camp? A lot of questions remain about Downie and what his time in Colorado could’ve been like.