For the Colorado Avalanche, the late 1990’s/early 2000’s were the glory days.
Perennial contenders, they were swimming in more talent than they knew what to do with. In 1998, with mainstays like Adam Foote, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy already on board, the team managed fourfirst-round draft picks in the NHL Draft.
Martin Skoula (17th), Robyn Regeher (19th), and Scott Parker (20th) all had differing impacts throughout their Avalanche and NHL careers, but it was the 12th pick in that draft who ended up having the biggest impact.
Alex Tanguay had been lighting up the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads for the previous two seasons and would finish up his junior career as the Mooseheads’ all-time leader in goals (101), assists (113), and points (214).
He would finally make the jump to the NHL for the 1999/00 season and he did not disappoint. Instead of getting lost in the shuffle and pushed to the background by all of the stars, Tanguay asserted himself as one of the top rookies in the league with 17 goals and 51 points, second only to Calder Trophy winner Scott Gomez.
It would be his sophomore season where Tanguay would really shine. Finishing sixth in the NHL in plus/minus at +35, Tanguay improved to 27 goals and 77 points, both new career-bests. He was also a vital contributor to Mission 16W – the team’s quest to get veteran defenseman Ray Bourque his first Stanley Cup championship. Tanguay picked up 21 points in 23 post-season games and was at his best when it mattered most, scoring twice in the decisive game seven against New Jersey in the Finals, including the game-winning goal.
Around this time, the Avalanche were riding high. Fresh off their second Stanley Cup championship, they were loaded despite Bourque riding off into the sunset. Tanguay, Forsberg, Sakic,Roy, Foote, Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury, and Rob Blake littered the lineup with star power and made the Avalanche the undisputed favorites.
The Avalanche rolled to the second seed in the Western Conference the next year despite missing Forsberg for the entirety of the regular season. Tanguay, coming off career-highs, struggled. He managed just 13 goals and 48 points in 70 games – the worst of his young career. Forsberg would return for the playoffs that year and Tanguay was solid with 13 points in 19 games as the Avalanche were ousted in the Western Conference Finals by the rival Red Wings.
2002/03 would be a rebound year for Tanguay. Stepping his game up, he fell one goal shy of his career-best and added nearly 20 points to his previous year’s total. He also managed a career-best 16-game point streak, setting a Colorado franchise record, as well as his first career hat trick. It is also rumored that Tanguay was nearly dealt to Boston that year. The Avalanche had offered Tanguay and Skoula for Martin Lapointe and Kyle McLaren but a deal never finalized.
Tanguay would make the team glad the deal never happened as the 2003/04 season would be his best yet. Playing on the “AMP Line” with Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg, the trio combined to be one of the league’s best, though Forsberg was limited to just 39 games. Tanguay would pick up 54 assists, tying him for fourth in the league, as well as a career-high 79 points, good for ninth in the league. Tanguay also made the 2004 NHL All-Star Game – his first in the league.
Coming out of the lockout for the 2005/06 season, Tanguay continued to perform well. He battled knee issues late in the year but scored 29 goals, the most he’d managed in a season, and 78 points.
Going in a different direction, with Roy, Foote, and Forsberg long gone, the Avalanche decided it was time to part ways with their talented winger. He was traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2006 NHL Draft for defenseman Jordan Leopold and two second-round picks.
Seven years, two stints with the Flames, as well as stops in Montreal and Tampa Bay all led back to Colorado for the 2013/14 season. Tanguay was traded back to the Avalanche along with defenseman Cory Sarich for David Jones and Shane O’Brien.
Tanguay, a lot older (34) and theoretically wiser, will act as both top nine forward and guiding force for the young forwards making up the team’s promising future.
From young forward on the rise to established star scorer to opponent, Alex Tanguay has had many miles both with the Avalanche and against them. But as he returns to the mile high city, he has a chance to add to his legacy in the burgundy and teal.
For all he’s done and will do for the team, Alex Tanguay is one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time.
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