Colorado Avalanche – 2009 In Review by Bruce Wilkie
As 2009 draws to a close, here’s a look back at an eventful year for the Colorado Avalanche. It was a year that saw the team reach an all-time Colorado low and then turnaround to become one of the surprises of the 2009-10 NHL season.
-The Avs missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years
-The Avs finished the regular season with a 32-45-5 record, good for 28th of 30. It was the worst finish since the team moved from Quebec in 1995.
-GM Francois Giguere, Pierre Lacroix’s handpicked successor, was fired the day after the regular season ended.
-The Avs drew the third pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. They took Matt Duchene, an 18 year old forward from the Brampton Battalion who some observers had rated the top player available. The Avs brain trust was then elated to be able to pick Ryan O’Reilly in the 33rd spot.
-Joe Sakic retired as the Quebec/Colorado franchise’s all-time points leader and the 8th leading scorer in NHL history. He was later named as the 1st team center on the NHL.com 2000-09 All Decade Team.
-Peter Forsberg did not return to the Avs (or any other NHL team), opting instead to play for his hometown Modo team and to try to play for the Swedish team in the Vancouver Olympics.
-The Avs flirted with Patrick Roy, reportedly offering him the dual position of GM/Coach. Unfortunately, at that time the Avs still had a coach in place in Tony Granato. After an embarrassing delay, Roy decided to remain with his junior team in Quebec. The Avalanche then fired Granato and promoted Joe Sacco, coach of their minor league affiliate Lake Erie Monsters, as his replacement.
-Colorado got what was arguably the steal of free agency when they signed goalie Craig Anderson. In his first chance to be a #1 goalie in the NHL, Anderson has been outstanding, and could be earning himself a spot on the US Olympic team.
-The Avs lost a fan favorite when they let free agent Ian Lapperiere leave to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers.
-Despite being picked by most observers to finish 29th out of 30 in the NHL, Colorado started out the 2009-10 season on fire. They did cool off a bit, but they entered the Christmas break in 1st place in the Northwest Division and 3rd in the Western Conference. Their 48 points is the third highest point total at this point in the season since the team moved to Denver, behind only the 1997-98 team and the Stanley Cup champions of 2000-2001.