Colorado Avalanche 30 Under 30: Gone Players

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John Michael Liles

Position: Defenseman

Age: 35 (age 23-31 with Colorado)

Avalanche Acquisition: Draft, 159th overall, 2000

Left Avalanche: Trade with Toronto Maple Leafs, 2011

Years as an Avalanche: 7

Under-30 Colorado Stats: 447 games played, 62 goals, 167 assists

Another gone player who made the 20th Anniversary team is John Michael Liles, and with good reason. For the seven years he played for the Colorado Avalanche, Liles was a significant factor on the team. The above stats indicate only those in his under-30 years — his total stats for the Colorado Avalanche were 68 goals and 207 assists in 523 games.

It started from day one and against one of the most hated of teams in Avs history — the Minnesota Wild. He scored his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game, and it proved to be the game-winner. Pretty impressive start. That year he led all rookie defensemen in scoring with 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) and became the highest scoring rookie defenseman in Avalanche history.

In his years with Colorado, he tied Hall of Famer Rob Blake for most goals scored by a defenseman, 14. He also set a team record in October 2005 for most points scored in a month by a defenseman, 14. The next season he became the first defenseman since the 1980s to score at least 10 goals in his first three NHL seasons.

Liles continued to produce points at a rate impressive for a defenseman, especially considering he was playing in the Colorado Avalanche Dark Ages. Like Stastny, he served as something of a bridge player between the old guard and the youth resurgence.

When the Colorado Avalanche traded John Michael Liles in the summer of 2011 — and for nothing more than a second round pick — to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Avs Nation lost their collective minds. For obvious reasons Liles was wildly popular.

The writing had been on the wall, though. Even before the current management team of Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy had taken over, the team was moving more toward youth and size. They’d acquired the big, young Erik Johnson from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the also-young but small Kevin Shattenkirk.

By the time Colorado traded Liles, he was 31, set to make $4.5 million in the upcoming year and just that one season away from unrestricted free agency. He just wasn’t a player that made sense for the Avalanche anymore.

No question he had a significant impact on the team while he was around, though.

Next: Stewart