There’s something quite interesting about #4 on the list of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time: he’s both synonymous with the franchise yet a bit lost in the shuffle because of all the big names that have come through Denver.
Yet Adam Foote remains one of the most important members of the Avalanche to have laced up the skates.
Foote had already been with the franchise since the 1991/92 season, having been selected by the Quebec Nordiques 22nd overall in the 1989 NHL Draft. By the time the team relocated to the Rocky Mountains, the 6’2” 220lb defenseman had made a name for himself as a hard-nosed, stay-at-home defender; the type of defenseman most teams need and covet.
When the team acquired Sandis Ozolinsh at the beginning of 1995/96, the team’s first year in Denver, Foote would stand out as the defensive yin to Ozo’s offensive yang. While Ozolinsh would dazzle with speedy rushes and power play work, Footer was the heavyweight shutdown defender; in your face and making your life hell if you got anywhere near Patrick Roy.
His punishing play (he would finish +11 in the playoffs that year, second among defensemen) would be a key component to the Avalanche shutting down opponent after opponent, capped off with a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Finals to capture the franchise’s first championship.
After three relatively healthy seasons for the Avalanche, Footer would see his style of play start to chip away at his health. He would go from three straight seasons of at least 73 games played (the last two saw him rack up at least 124 PIMS) to 64 in 1998/99 and 59 in 1999/00, battling through and giving his all in the playoffs where the Avalanche had fallen short to the Dallas Stars in back-to-back Western Conference Finals.
The 2000/01 season, what would turn out to be the finest for the Avalanche since that magical 1996 run, would be a nightmare for Foote. A fractured heel and separated shoulder would limit him to just 35 games during the regular season. He would return in late March and play a huge role in the playoffs, playing all 23 games, racking up more than 28 minutes per game in ice time, and helping the Avalanche secure their second Stanley Cup title.
Foote would battle injuries once more in 2001/02 (he played just 55 games) before returning to relative good health with back-to-back seasons of 73+ games but coming out of the lockout, Foote and the Avalanche were at a crossroads. The wild spending of the pre-cap era had taken its toll on the Avalanche in the new NHL landscape and they could no longer afford to keep everyone on board. Foote, as well as star center Peter Forsberg, left town via free-agency.
After three decent but injury-affected seasons as captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Footer made his return to Colorado after a February 2008 trade. Unfortunately for him, the magic of his first run with the Avs wasn’t there. Injuries became the focal point of his career and by the 2008/09 season, had visibly slowed him. Beat up and a step slower, Foote would make it through just 47 games in 2010/11 before hanging up the skates.
Since then, Foote has been added to Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic’s coaching staff with the team for this season and will also see his #52 raised to the rafters of the Pepsi Center during the 2013/14 season; an honor well deserved.
Adam Foote wasn’t the flashiest player on the ice and certainly wasn’t the attention-grabber Patrick Roy was, wasn’t the consistently great player Joe Sakic was, nor the dazzling two-way player that Peter Forsberg was. But he went about his business as a quiet, physical, effective stay-at-home defender.
During his 13 years in Denver (and 17 with the franchise), Foote made himself as valuable as the big three in so many ways and it’s pretty safe to say that without him, there may not be a pair of championship banners hanging in the rafters of the Pepsi Center without him.
For those reasons and many more, Adam Foote is one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time.
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