The captain will be back! After a subpar season that saw Milan Hejduk fail to score 20 goals for the first time in his career since his rookie season and the lowest point production of his entire NHL career, the Avalanche and Hejduk agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal to keep the longtime right winger here in Colorado.
After his disappointing 2011-12 season and the Avs' failure to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year, there was much speculation that Hejy could call it a career or that he and the Avs could part ways.
Although Hejduk previously stated that he would like to finish up his career here in Colorado, there are certainly no guarantees in professional sports. He has lived here since his NHL debut in 1998 and he has made his family here with his wife and twin sons who play youth hockey here in town.
It certainly would have been odd to see him in another team's sweater and many teams certainly would have bid for his services had he remained unsigned come July 1st. Forsberg in Flyers and Preds gear still looks weird as does Foote in a Blue Jackets jersey. Although we here in Denver certainly got accustomed to Ray Bourque and Peyton Manning in our teams' colors very quickly!
Hejduk will look to have a bounce-back campaign.
At the age of 35, he is certainly approaching the twilight of his career, but he also could have plenty of gas left in the tank. Bourque was 40 during his miraculous playoff run and a 40-year-old Martin Brodeur is currently in the Eastern Conference Finals with his New Jersey Devils.
While it is very unlikely that Hejduk will blow up with 50 goals and win the Rocket Richard like he did in 2002-03, I see no reason why Hejy can't get back on track with 20+ goals and 50-60 points this upcoming season.
In addition to his scoring capabilities, another reason the Avs opted to bring him back was no doubt for his leadership skills.
He remains the lone player in Colorado from the 2001 Stanley Cup winning team and one of only two players under contract with the Avs to have captured Lord Stanley's prize with Giguere being the other.
Hejduk will continue to mentor the Avs young players like Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog, all of whom have played and may continue to play on a line with No. 23.
The question now that remains regarding the former all-star is if he will continue to wear the captain's "C" into the new season. There has been speculation that the added pressure of the captaincy contributed to his poor production last year. Of course, he and the Avs said that's not the case.
My guess is that he will continue to serve as the Avalanche captain.
Joe Sacco does not seem like the kind of coach to stir up the pot like that. His two selections for captain (Foote and Hejduk) have been the safe choices and stripping a player of the "C" definitely shakes things up.
I personally feel that guys should not be stripped of their captaincies and demoted unless they do something that warrants it. Hejduk certainly hasn't gone out and gotten himself arrested this summer or incurred a sizable suspension from Brendan Shanahan and the NHL for a dirty play.
Has Hejduk ever put a dirty hit on someone?
Hejy has been a model citizen, player, teammate and leader during his career and short stint with the "C" thus far. Even his 37 points from last season weren't terrible. Disappointing, sure, but I bet the Habs would have loved for their $7 million-dollar-man Scott Gomez to get 37 points. Gomez finished the year with a meager two goals and 11 points.
Some notable names who have lost the "C" but remained with their clubs have been Mike Modano, Patrick Elias and Patrick Marleau.
If Hejduk tells the coaches and management that he would prefer to wear an "A" over the "C" then fine, let's give Landy or Factor a deserved promotion! Both those guys should get promoted to alternate captain this year regardless. Otherwise though, Hejduk should and likely will don the "C" once again.