With the fallout of the Peter Forsberg saga hitting the front page of most hockey outlets in the last 24 hours, one key question remains unanswered—did his comeback ruin the hockey team's chances at a playoff spot?
Let it be stated that I am an avid Colorado Avalanche fan. I have been since Patrick Roy was traded there in 1996. Over the years, I saw first hand how dominating Peter Forsberg was on the ice. In my opinion, he was the most dominant two-way player the game has ever seen.
However, I cannot look at what has transpired over the last few weeks with rose-colored glasses. The timing of his return to the team serendipitously coincided with a free fall down the Western Conference standings. So, is there a case to be made that this is all Foppa's fault?
It's difficult to say for sure. When he joined the team for 'light skating' in January, the Avalanche had three wins in four games. The Avs weren't playing great hockey, but they were going along at a regular pace and were in the mix with all the other teams vying for a playoff spot.
Yet there were many pundits who thought the team needed something more to separate itself from the pack. It is no secret that Colorado has been hit hard by the injury bug this year. Countless forwards have been put on long-term injured reserve throughout the season. When Tomas Fleischmann went down, the timing of Forsberg's comeback seemed perfect.
Matt Duchene also got a lot of press for his boyhood idolizing of Forsberg. He wasn't the only one excited about the new possibilities. Milan Hejduk would be re-united with his old teammate and offer another veteran presence in a young locker room.
But this is where the problem could have started. It seems like the team went on 'pause mode' in anticipation for his return, and the numbers support that. Since Forsberg began skating with the team, its record is 1-10.
Where did this nosedive come from? The team hasn't had a losing skid like this since the 2008-09 season. Is it possible that Forsberg created too much of a distraction for a young team lacking in leadership?
The first practice he had was described as a circus, because every hockey fan in Denver fit him or herself into the Avalanche's practice facility. After a few weeks of this, he finally debuted in a game and played a combined total of 35 minutes and 10 seconds over two contests.
He didn't embarrass himself, but he also didn't look like the impact player most of us were hoping to see either.
In his retirement press conference, he conceded that he might have been a bit selfish with his latest comeback attempt. I'm not sure anyone is going to fault the guy for trying, because he clearly has a love for the game that rivals any other player's in hockey history. He didn't go through 25 surgeries because he likes the nurses.
Unfortunately, his desire to play might have come at the cost of the Avalanche's season. Yesterday, the Avs showed how they responded to the retirement news as they got wiped off the ice in a 9-1 drubbing to Calgary.
On the surface, it looks like the team expected Peter the Great to be some kind of savior that was going to lead it to the promised land. This is a convenient excuse to have when you don't want to take on that responsibility yourself.
Which brings me to the real issue at hand for Colorado. The evidence is there to suggest that Forsberg ruined its season, but did he really?
Sure, it has had significant injuries. Yes, the Avs are a young team in need of some veteran leadership. But the problems go deeper than this. Colorado's goaltending has been average this season, if not poor, and there is a huge void on the defensive end. Where are the defensive defensemen? John Michael-Liles and Kevin Shattenkirk are nice players, but they aren't about to shut down a top line anytime soon.
The reality is that the problems on the Avalanche go far beyond Peter Forsberg. Yes, the timing of his return looks bad, but he is not the reason this team went in the tank. That is on the players and the coaching staff.
If they don't wake up and turn things around soon, let me be the first to say that Peter Forsberg could be making another comeback—but this time for the head coaching vacancy.