Few names on the list of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time have quite the reputation for being a winner as #8 on the list. Hell, few in sports have quite the reputation for winning as he does.
For Chris Drury, his reputation has always been that he just wins.
Starting at age 13, Drury started his winning ways by leading his Trumbull, CT little league team to a Little League World Series title over Taiwan. Drury pitched a complete game and had two RBI in the championship game.
Drury continued his winning ways with a pee wee hockey Amateur National Championship that same year as well as a 1991 Connecticut state championship with Fairfield College Prepatory School.
After graduating from Fairfield, Drury was selected 72nd overall in the 1994 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques but had committed to play on the collegiate level for Boston University.
Sure enough, the Terriers won the national championship during Drury’s freshman year. From there, Drury would become one of the best players in all of college hockey, being named Hockey East’s player of the year in 1997 and 1998 as well as winning the Hobey Baker Award for top collegiate player his senior season.
Debuting with the Avalanche for the 1998-99 season, Drury stepped into about as ideal a situation as a rookie could hope. Slotted as the third line center, behind Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, he was allowed to avoid top lines and develop at his own pace.
He wasted little time making an impact, scoring 20 goals and racking up 44 points to earn the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and became the first player in history to win the Hobey Baker Award and the Calder Trophy.
Drury didn’t stop there. During the 1999 post-season, he made his name as a clutch player by scoring four game-winning-goals in 19 playoff games. As a rookie. The talent-rich Avalanche had stumbled onto another gem (two, actually, as Milan Hejduk also debuted that season).
Ignoring the dreaded sophomore slump, Drury upped the ante in year two, matching his goal total but besting his rookie year totals with a 67-point output. More importantly, he began to make an impact in the locker room. With teammates like Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, and Patrick Roy, it’s no easy task to make a dent in the locker room but Drury established himself as an ultimate team player and a locker room favorite.
The following year, 2000/01, Drury added the last piece of hardware to his “Ultimate Winner” trophy case – the Stanley Cup. Fueled by “Mission16W”, the quest to win a Cup for Ray Bourque, Drury added a pair of game-winning goals and 16 playoff points. His reputation as “Mr.Clutch” even had an impact on teammate Joe Sakic, one of the most clutch players in NHL history:
“You want a goal, you’re in overtime – you want him,” says the 37-yer-old Sakic, who holds the record for OT playoff goals, with seven [now 8 – Joe]. “He loves that time. His level of play rises.”
Drury, unbeknownst to him and the rest of the Avalanche fan base, would spend his final year in Denver during the 2001/02 season, a steady 20-goal scorer. The Avalanche made another deep run in the playoffs; Drury’s 12 playoff points helping the Avalanche reach the Western Conference Final. Matt of fact, since Drury arrived in Colorado, the team had never lost sooner than the Conference Final – three in four seasons to go with that 2001 Stanley Cup title.
In a move that was considered one of his worst as general manager of the Avalanche, Pierre Lacroix, in an attempt to bolster his defense, dealt Drury and Stephane Yelle to the Calgary Flames for Derek Morris, the center piece of the deal, Jeff Shantz, and Dean McAmmond.
Drury would go on to have a very productive career, even racking up a pair of 30-goal seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, before calling it a career after the 2010/11 season.
For four seasons, Chris Drury was arguably the heart and soul of the Avalanche – a gritty, passionate player who came through when it mattered most and just seemed to win. Three conference finals appearances and a Stanley Cup championship during his four years in Denver seem to point to that.
His winning ways and clutch performances make Chris Drury one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time.
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