DENVER, Colo. – Never has a February gone so poorly for the Colorado Avalanche. The hope and excitement of this young club has slipped through their fingers during this coldest, darkest, and shortest of months.
With the All Star game break over Peter Forsberg signed with the team in early February and the buzz was back despite a relatively mediocre 5-6-1 win loss record in January. After four quick losses to begin February before Forsberg’s immigration issues were settled he joined the team for the last two games of a four game road trip. Sadly after testing his ankle at game speed in two road losses in Columbus and Nashville, Forsberg announced his retirement on Feb. 14 2011, citing concern about his inability to protect himself on the ice with his unstable ankle.
A shell shocked Colorado Avalanche team took to the ice that same night and suffered the most devastating loss in franchise history including the Quebec Nordiques years. The 9 to 1 loss to division rival Calgary included a bizarre goalie-go-round with both goalies being pulled – first Budaj and then Anderson with Budaj put back in to finish the game. It was the apparent low point of the year for the Avalanche – until the next night’s game against the Penguins resulted in a 3 to 2 overtime loss.
The play of Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson has been suspect at times this season (due in part to injury) and with Anderson purportedly turning down a very generous extension offer this past Summer it was not surprising to see the Avalanche make a move to get something for him. A one for one trade with Ottawa sent Anderson to the Senators and the Avalanche received backup goalie Brian Elliot in return.
A far less anticipated trade occurred while the Avalanche were in San Jose the following Saturday when forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were traded to St. Louis for defenseman Eric Johnson and forward Jay McClement.
Emotion and a desire to show their former teams that they made a mistake propelled both sets of traded players to up their performance in the next game where the Avalanche challenged the Blues in St. Louis. The resulting 4 to 3 win for Colorado turned out to be their only win in the month of February.
Three more losses to the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks ended the futility for the month. With only one win, one overtime loss, and 11 regulation losses for the month chances for making the playoffs are all but gone.
After the trade deadline passed on Monday, February 28, several Avalanche players who had been talked about in possible trades can relax and play hard the rest of the year. The earlier flurry of trades apparently satisfied the Colorado management and other than a minor trade of defenseman Kevin Mongomery for Edmonton defenseman Shawn Belle, the team as it stands now will be the team to finish the season.