Colorado Avalanche: A Culture of Playoff Performance

One of the greatest things about sports is the potential it offers for debate. Men have argued about hockey for many many years, and will continue to do so.

Who is the greatest player ever?

Who is the greatest goaltender ever?

Who was the greatest captain?

Who has the most degrading nickname?

For most of the questions, it is inevitable that statistics will be brought into the discussion. I’ve noticed a lot of debate going on around hockey circles about where some of the great Colorado Avalanche players fit in the history of the sport.

Who was the greatest goaltender of all time?  Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, or Dominik Hasek?

Who was the better captain? Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman?

Who was better in their prime? Peter Forsberg or Jaromir Jagr?

Each one of these questions could be (and have been) argued for hours on end. Many people fight passionately for both sides.

Stats are similar for the most part. Sakic and Yzerman are remarkably similar. But the truth is, stats can’t tell the whole story? Just as the idea of “the greatest” is a subjective notion, so too must the debators rely on their own rhetoric to state their cases.

The things that I hold most important in measuring the value of a hockey player’s worth are simple, and they are values that send Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy to the top of their respective debates. One of the things that I prefer to see in my players is the ability to play in every situation. A multi-dimensional player who’s not just an offensive stat magnet, nor simply a defensive stalwart. No, the players I want on my team are balanced, skilled, and hard-working.

The most important thing, however, that sets the tradition of the Colorado Avalanche greats apart is their ability to compete when the games truly mattered: in the playoffs.

Joe Sakic Carried the Colorado Avalanche to the 1996 Stanley Cup with a remarkable 34 points in 22 games.

Joe Sakic is one of the greatest playoff performers of all time. Not only does he hold the NHL record for most overtime game-winners in the playoffs, he also scored an astounding 34 points in the playoffs when the Avs won their first Stanley Cup in 1996, a point total that hadn’t been touched until last year, when Evgeni Malkin finally surpassed it with 34 points, albeit in two more games.

Peter Forsberg is 8th All-Time in points per game (1.254).

Peter Forsberg was one of the greatest two-way players to ever lace up the skates, and twice in his career he was the top scorer in the playoffs, while not even playing in the finals!

Patrick Roy, pictured with his three Conn Smythe Trophies as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Simply the greatest playoff performer in NHL history.

Patrick Roy, it could be argued, is the greatest player in the history of the NHL when the playoffs started. Nobody has been named the MVP of the playoffs as many times as Roy, who won it a record three times (twice with Montreal and once with the Avs).  He turned it up another level during the most important time of the year. By the way, his two rivals, who admittedly have their own strengths, have been named playoff MVP a combined zero times.

Once the people start to look past the stats, it becomes a question of what qualities are valued above others. For me, I’ll take the guys who can play in all situations, and have a record of domination in the playoffs.

By the way, our young star Matt Duchene has been called the most complete player of the 2009 Draft year, with great offensive and defensive skills.

Oh, and he really started turning heads last year during the Brampton Battalion’s playoff run, where he turned up his play and scored 26 points in 21 games.

It seems our playoff culture is in good hands.

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