Newcomer Steve Downie ("Iron Man"—I'm trying to get that to catch on here in Colorado) arrived in Denver this morning and will make his Avalanche debut tonight when the Avs conclude their season series with the Los Angeles Kings.
Not to be dramatic, but if the Avs do not earn two points tonight (preferably in regulation), Sherman and company could very well shift into full-on seller mode over the next five days.
Downie will skate on the right wing with center Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog will return to his natural left wing position. O'Reilly, who's been good with just about everyone this year, will have two physical, checking forwards around him who can also score.
Matt Duchene, who had been skating with O'Reilly and Landeskog, will return to Paul Stastny's left wing with captain Milan Hejduk on the right side.
Downie will wear No. 27 for the Avs, the same number as the player he was traded for, Kyle Quincey. Downie was previously No. 9 in Tampa Bay, but 9 is of course currently occupied by Matt Duchene. Downie began his career in Philadelphia with the number 27.
Downie was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005, the same draft as Sidney Crosby and Stastny. He was the penultimate selection of the first round, 29th overall. He played one year of his junior career with the Kitchener Rangers, the team that Landeskog would go on to captain a few years later.
He also played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in 2006 and 2007, winning Gold Medals in both of those years.
He made his NHL debut with the Flyers during the 2007-08 season and played parts of the next two seasons in Philly. In 2008, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with Steve Eminger for former DU Pioneers defenseman Matt Carle.
Downie's best regular season came in 2009-10 when he posted career-highs in goals, assists and points with 22, 24 and 46, respectively, in 79 games.
Downie really turned heads however, with his performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs in which he recorded 14 points in 17 games and was an integral part in helping the Lightning defeat the favored Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals and ultimately come within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Downie was also a member of Team Canada in 2010 for the World Championships, along with Matt Duchene.
At 5'11", 191 pounds, Downie is certainly not the biggest guy in the NHL, but he plays a very physical, tough, strong and mean game. He has developed a reputation for dirty hits and has earned a few suspensions throughout his career.
Although he has not faced disciplinary action this year, I have a feeling that the Shanahammer already knows his name.
While penalties can certainly be a liability, Downie brings the kind of grit that has been lacking among the Avalanche forward corps. While the Avs have plenty of skill and talent up front, it seems that often times a line of Duchene, Stastny, and Hejduk can get muscled around by other teams' defenses, rendering them virtually ineffective.
Denver Post writer Adrian Dater discussed the Avs reputation for being too easy to play against and how Downie's presence will help in that regard.
I like the quote from Downie's former junior coach, Peter DeBoer: "I’d rather have to tame a tiger than paint stripes on a pussycat.” While the Avs certainly have added size and grit to their defensive corps over the last year, their forward group could certainly use a boost like Downie.
Landeskog has by far been the Avs' most physical forward this season—not counting Cody McLeod who sees limited ice time—and Landy has been phenomenal, but he is just one player. The addition of Downie should help Colorado's forward lines be a bit more imposing.
Critics of the Quincey-Downie trade say that the Avs gave up a top-tier defenseman for a third- or fourth-line checking forward. I would not be so quick to pigeonhole Downie as a fourth-liner.
While he may not be a point-per-game player, his offensive numbers are not chopped liver. He does enter tonight's game fifth on the Avalanche team in scoring, behind only O'Reilly, Stastny, Landeskog, and Hejduk.
Sure he may not be as sexy an acquisition as Rick Nash or Alex Semin, but their price tags would have been much, much higher than just a Kyle Quincey.
Downie will not be lacking adrenaline tonight as he hopes to propel his new squad back into the thick of the playoff race. The Kings team is a good one, and Downie and the Avs will have to battle for a full 60 minutes to earn a big check mark in the win column.
Some other pre-game notes: Semyon Varlamov will make his third consecutive start and fourth appearance in as many games. Jean-Sebastien Giguere will serve as his backup and Cedrick Desjardins has been returned to Lake Erie. The Avs also recalled defenseman Stefan Elliott yesterday to replace the departed Kyle Quincey on the blue line.
Peter Mueller was activated today since Desjardins is no longer on the active roster, but Muells will not play tonight. T.J. Galiardi is eligible to come off the IR on Friday. Both he and Mueller practiced in non-contact jerseys today. The Avs' only healthy scratch tonight will be seventh-defenseman Matt Hunwick.
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