When considering the list of the 18 greatestColoradoAvalanche of all-time, the superstars names stood out as they always do. It’s hard to ignore the historically great players that have permeated this franchise.
But a name kept ringing in my head. A name that, to hardcore Avalanche fans, was greatly appreciated even if the rest of the fan base and the league didn’t necessarily recognize it.
That’s how Stephane Yelle made it to #15 on this list.
The Bourget, ON native was never known as a flashy scorer during his time with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, though he did manage a 104 point effort in 66 games during his final year there.
Drafted 186th overall in 1992 by the New Jersey Devils, he would never see a game with the franchise. He was traded toQuebec, where he made his professional debut during the 1994-95 season with the AHL’s Cornwall Aces.
Getting his first shot at the big leagues with the newly-relocated Colorado Avalanche for the 1995-96 season, it couldn’t have been a better rookie season for the young Yelle. Playing in 71 games, he didn’t contribute much offensively – just 13 goals and 27 points – but his work as a shutdown third center didn’t go unnoticed as the Avalanche tore through the Western Conference, winning the Stanley Cup in their first season inDenver.
During his seven years with the Avs, Yelle became known for his defensive play and was considered one of the best in the league at one point. Always a tremendous skater, Yelle used his wheels to become the ultimate checking line center – fast, a tenacious hitter, and a fearless shot-blocker not to mention a tremendous asset on the penalty kill. Despite his style of play, Yelle rarely missed time due to injury.
Yelle is exactly the type of player that most teams covet because you can’t win Stanley Cups with only superstars or offensive players. You need that heart-and-soul grit, that determination, and defense to push you over the top. Yelle was that and more for the Avalanche during his time with the team.
His departure from the team just prior to the 2002-03 season wasn’t met with happiness and open arms by the fan base. He and clutch, popular player Chris Drury were traded to the Calgary Flames for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond, and Jeff Shantz – a whole lotta nothin’. Not exactly the ideal return for two popular, valuable players.
He would make one final return to the team in 2009-10, being traded fromCarolinaback toColorado. He would play 11 games in an Avalanche uniform before hanging up his skates and taking a developmental coordinator position with the team.
For Stephane Yelle, on a team full of superstars, finding a way to contribute without lighting up the scoresheet was key and Yelle managed to be an integral cog to the Avalanche as he helped them capture a pair of Stanley Cup championships during his tenure.
And that is why Stephane Yelle is one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time.
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