Colorado Avalanche: Is Alex Tanguay Washed Up?

Oct 30, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Colorado Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay (40) skates against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Colorado Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay (40) skates against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche left wing Alex Tanguay has only three goals and 18 points in 39 games. Is this a sign that he’s washed up as a 36-year-old?

At 36 years old, left wing Alex Tanguay has officially entered veteran status in the NHL. He’d be in the prime of his life in most any other field, but that’s the way professional sports work.

Now, there are outliers such as his teammate Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr currently of the Florida Panthers. These athletes are seemingly ageless at 39 and 42 respectively. However, mid-thirties is usually veteran — and near retirement — for most professional hockey players.

Alex Tanguay’s Statistics

This season Alex Tanguay has only three goals and 18 points total in 39 games — this despite often skating on a line with the likes of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, who currently lead the team in points. He has a shooting percentage of 8.1%.

Conversely, last season Tanguay finished third on the team with 55 points — 22 goals and 33 assists — and a league-leading 21.20 shooting percentage.

Colorado Avalanche fans see this sharp drop in production as a sign that Alex Tanguay is washed up. They hate seeing him skate on a line with the young wonder kids, Duchene and, especially, MacKinnon. Most want to see Tanguay scratched if not outright traded.

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Alex Tanguay’s Colorado Avalanche History

Now, just a quick history lesson in case you’ve forgotten. At the time of his draft in 1998, Tanguay was the highest pick (12th overall) the Colorado Avalanche had ever had. Just three years later he went on to score the Stanley Cup winning goal:

Tanguay eventually got traded and spent a fair amount of time with the Calgary Flames. However, he has definitely earned his spot in Colorado Avalanche history — indeed, he was voted in as part of the 20th Anniversary team.

While some fans may want him traded, the rumor is that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy respect Tanguay enough to allow him to control his own destiny.

Alex Tanguay’s Role on the Team

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As I mentioned before, Tanguay is far from a scratch. He’s generally considered a top-six forward, seeing an average of 18 minutes of ice time per game. (As a comparison, bottom level forwards see six to eight minutes of ice time on the Colorado Avalanche.)

Coach Roy has Tanguay skating on a scoring line with MacKinnon — specifically with MacKinnon. Roy told The Fan Morning Show that MacKinnon “likes” playing on a line with Tanguay, especially because of how the veteran sees the ice.

The unstated sentiment, though, is that he’s serving as a mentor to MacKinnon. Actually, I was a little surprised that Roy mentioned MacKinnon specifically because I’ve noticed Matt Duchene enjoying his time with Tanguay — you can tell by their animated conversations on the bench after a shift.

In any case, coach Roy is big on veteran players mentoring the youngsters. It’s part of the reason the Colorado Avalanche are so successful in developing their young talent.

Another aspect that makes Tanguay valuable is his leadership. He’s pretty much the only Colorado Avalanche player I’ve heard be truly biting when things are going wrong with the team. That’s something a hockey locker room needs to hear on occasion.

Is Alex Tanguay Washed Up?

You never want to think a person is “washed up” at 36 — that’s still pretty young in life, I assure you. Especially when he can still do this:

And this:

What I like about both those goals is they came of Alex Tanguay having the ice vision to be in the exact right position for a rebound. That’s a skill the Colorado Avalanche has been lacking this season.

However, hockey is a physically demanding sport.

Tanguay isn’t a big hitter, though he’s not afraid to lay a check. At 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, Tanguay was never meant to be a power forward. So the fact that that isn’t very evident in his current game can hardly be seen as a decline in skills.

Tanguay was once consider fleet-footed, and that has inevitably left his game. However, the ice vision born of playing over 1,000 NHL games helps put him in the correct position when playing with younger, faster players, as evidenced above.

I don’t know what’s going on with his accuracy. Prior to this season Tanguay’s shooting percentage had never dropped below 11% and it tended to hover more between 16 and 23 percent.

Jaromir Jagr has remarked more than once that, while his skating and physical game may have declined over the years, his hands are still the same. The hands are born of skill, talent and excellent hand-eye coordination. There shouldn’t be a decline in those skills until a man is in his 50s or 60s — long after his retirement. (Probably want to ask Joe Sakic — I think his hand-eye coordination is still pretty sharp.)

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In any case, the reality is that players go through slumps. I think Tanguay’s skills may have declined slightly since his prime  just a few years ago. However, his talent, experience and leadership make him a value to the team.

Sometimes, it really is about the intangibles. A mental hockey club like the Colorado Avalanche needs its veterans, even if their production skills aren’t entirely up to par.