Joe Sakic: A Career Comes Full Circle

Sandy MacPhersonContributor IMay 5, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 26:  Joe Sakic #19 and Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche chat during warm ups prior to facing the St. Louis Blues during NHL action at the Pepsi Center November 26, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Drafted 15th overall in 1987 National Hockey Leagues Entry Draft the Quebec Nordiques, future Hall of Fame National Hockey League center Joe Sakic was passed over by Los Angeles (No. 4 Wayne McBean), Pittsburgh (No. 5 Chris Joseph), Minnesota (No. 6 Dave Archibald), Chicago (No. 8 Jimmy Waite), Quebec (No. 9 Brian Fogarty), New York Rangers (No. 10 Jayson More), Detroit (No. 11 Yves Recine), St. Louis (No. 12 Keith Osborne) and the New York Islanders (No. 13 Dean Chynoweth) before finally Quebec snapped up the British Columbia native in the second half of the first round.

Although they selected him the Quebec team were lucky to get him as there scouting department definitely didn't hold a crystal ball on draft day.  The Nordiques selected Bryan Fogarty six picks ahead of Sakic. Fogarty is arguably the biggest 'bust' in NHL history. 

The 6'2" defenseman had talent oozing out of his ears and in 1988-89 while playing for the Niagara Falls Thunder posted the greatest offensive season by a defenseman in Canadian Junior Hockey League history leading his team in scoring and setting CHL records for rearguards along the way with 47 goals, 108 assists and 155 total points.

Despite all of that talent, Fogarty could never beat the personal demons he faced and managed to suit up for just 156 NHL games in a career that saw him dress as a home team member for 20 different clubs, cities and towns in 27 different stops over his 12-year career. 

His offensive game never left him as Fogarty managed 74 points in the few looks he did get with various NHL clubs (Quebec - 112GP, Pittsburgh - 12GP, Montreal - 34GP) but alcohol and substance abuse problems won the battle over Fogarty in end.  He died Wednesday March 6, 2002 at age 32. RIP Bryan Fogarty.

Sakic, meanwhile, has played in nearly 1,400 games (1378) while dressing as the home team member for just one organization in two cities (Quebec 1988-89/1994-95 & Colorado 1995-96/Present).

He's Won the Stanley Cup and captained the team that won it—twice—all while being selected to and playing in 13 all-star games. He's the leagues MVP award, scoring title, playoff MVP award and the NHL's award for being the Most Gentlemanly Player.

A gentleman and a thinker in a game of brutes and brawn. There is no doubt that a person real strength's and weaknesses are always found between the ears and Sakic has got grey matter to spare.

Did we mention the three Olympic hockey teams he's played in as well as possessing one of the finest wrist shot's in hockey history? I would have argued for greatest ever before the duo of Alex's—Kovalchuk and Ovechkin—came along with their mind bending quick releases.

His 1641 points are the eighth highest total in history, his 1016 assists rank him at No. 11 and his 625 goals sits at the No. 14 spot.

Joseph Steven Sakic began his NHL career season in 1988-89 after two years of junior hockey where he played with the Swift Current Broncos. In his rookie season Sakic survived a team bus accident that took the lives of four of his teammates, something Sakic has never publicly talked about during his pro career. 

The next season, his last in junior hockey Sakic won CHL Player of the Year honors. 

Sakic immediately made the jump to the NHL the next year scoring 23 goals and adding 39 assists for a 62 point rookie season with the Quebec Nordiques. 

A lock for the Calder Trophy awarded to the leagues top rookie, the 19-year-old Sakic shattered his ankle with 10 games remaining in the season and lost out on the award to the 30 year old Russian fad that was the Calgary Flames Sergei Makarov. 

The NHL have since been amended their rules regarding the leagues Rookie of the Year by disallowing men with grey in their beards or geritol in their cupboards from winning it

That first year in 1988-89 while Sakic was laying the foundation to his pro career the Quebec Nordiques franchise was likewise building their foundation, finishing last place in their division while a man by the name of Peter Stastny lead the Nordiques in scoring.

In 1992-93, Joe Sakic after a couple seasons of being the Nordiques co-captain was named full time captain of the franchise and the team promptly made the playoffs for the first time in six years. 

Under Sakic's reign as captain the morbid bound Nordiques/Avalanche organization have made the playoffs 15 times and rang off a streak of nine consecutive division titles.

This past season - which if injuries don't heal proporly right could have been Sakic's last—this same franchise which originated in Quebec and relocated to Colorado in 1995, finished in last place in their division for the first time since Sakics' first four seasons in the league.

AND the man who lead Sakic's cellar dwelling team in scoring first season in 1988-89, Peter Stastny, his son Paul led the team in scoring last season (2007-'08) and was on pace to do so again this past year before a series of injuries derailed his season and limited him to just 45 games.

So is this the end?  Has it come full circle on Joe Sakic's career, or is the circle still open?  Next year the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic's will be literally hosted in 'Burnaby Joe's' back yard and barring injury Sakic is a lock to be named to the Canadian Men's Hockey team in a leadership role.

Sakic leadership skills and ability to lift teams to play up to and beyond their potential are legendary and with the Icon's of Hockey Canada in the '80s and '90s all going by the wayside, Sakic along with Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Pheonix's Shane Doan will be expected and needed to provide that steady hand at the games most crucial moments.

If the injuries—he has a nagging herniated disk in his back and was out this season do to other various 'mishaps'—don't heal up in time to allow him to play next year so be it, but the Olympics transcend time, and the odds of ever having them being hosted in front of your friends and family while you get to perform in them only happens once in a life time to very few people.

A player like Sakic who is known to elevate his game couldn't possibly find a bigger stage to elevate from.

To Joe, one of the true nice guys in any sport, lets wish him healthy enough physically to play one more year and then Sakic can make this a happy ending by helping Canada take a bite out of the World in Vancouver 2010 and perhaps even get a Stastny finishing back on top of the teams yearly scoring race.

Circle closed.