Former Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, along with Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure and Adam Oates.
For a generation of hockey fans across the world, Sakic was the perfect role model for young players to shape their on- and off-ice performance after. There aren't many better examples for young players to study than Sakic.
Like all great players, he played at an elite level when there was a lot on the line. Sakic is one of the top three clutch players in NHL history, and he rarely failed to deliver in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Take a look at some notable playoff stats from Sakic's legendary career and where they rank all-time.
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Sakic won two Stanley Cups in his career, both with the Colorado Avalanche. The team's championship during the 1995-96 season happened in large part to his scoring and leadership.
He scored a career-high 120 points (51 goals, 69 assists) during the regular season that year, then followed that up with 34 points in 22 playoff games, including 18 goals (second all-time). The performance earned Sakic the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
He was also a major part of the Avalanche's Stanley Cup squad during the 2000-01 season, which will forever be remembered as one of the most amazing journeys in playoff history.
The team was under immense pressure to win for Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, who came to Colorado the year before in a trade with the Boston Bruins to pursue his first Stanley Cup title.
Thanks to Sakic's brilliant performance in the playoffs, the Avalanche completed their season-long goal with a seven-game Stanley Cup Final triumph over the New Jersey Devils. Later that month, Sakic was awarded the Hart Trophy as the MVP of the 2000-01 season.
Not only was Sakic a dominating player in the NHL playoffs, he also shined on the Olympic stage, evidenced by the fact that he won the 2002 Winter Olympics MVP award as part of Team Canada's gold medal-winning squad.
It didn't matter what kind of competition he was playing in (regular season, playoffs, Olympics, All-Star game), Sakic was at his best when his team needed a strong performance.
He finished his career with 1,641 points (625 goals and 1,016 assists).
You cannot mention his offensive talents without discussing his legendary wrist shot. Sakic's wrist shot was so accurate, so powerful, and was a goaltender's worst nightmare.The way he generated an incredible amount of power from the shot was simply amazing, and the quick release made these shots very difficult to save.
Who was the better player?
Even though Sakic's on-ice performances were legendary, the leadership and class he displayed throughout his career were what separated him from a lot of the great players of his generation.
When the Nordiques moved from Quebec to Colorado in the summer of 1995 following the club's disappointing first-round playoff exit that spring, the team needed a strong leader to help the transition and ensure that the players' on-ice performances wouldn't decline in a new environment.
As captain for well over a decade, Sakic was a tremendous leader in the franchise's first season in Colorado. And that was a major reason why the club finally won the Stanley Cup after years of playoff failures.
It's hard to find a player who played with more class than Sakic. He was a gentleman on and off the ice, but that didn't prevent him from being a very competitive player and someone who played hard every shift.
Sakic was also one of the classiest players that the NHL has ever seen. When the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001, he handed the 35-pound trophy immediately to Bourque instead of skating it around the rink as captain. Overwhelmed with emotion, Bourque lifted the Cup as tears of joy raced down his cheeks.
That's arguably the best moment in NHL history. Even though Sakic was a major part of that team, he understood that the accomplishment was for Bourque.
Sakic is the perfect role model for any young player. His combination of offensive skill, hockey intelligence, leadership, strong work ethic, class and dedication to the game represented a skill set that we hardly ever see in a single player.
Sakic will be remembered as one of the best players ever and a legend that every hockey player can learn something from.
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