When the city of Denver is overcrowded with citizens in neck braces tomorrow, don't worry—it's just Colorado Avalanche fans trying to recover from whiplash.
The week of Feb. 14, 2011 will go down as the most memorable week in Colorado Avalanche history, but for all of the wrong reasons.
Colorado started the week with the return of former star forward Peter Forsberg, who would go on to play only two games before his shocking retirement was announced mere hours before the future Hall of Famer's highly anticipated home-ice return against the Calgary Flames.
In what will forever be known as the St. Valentines Day Massacre, the Avalanche were decapitated, 9-1, by the Flames, the worst loss since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995.
To make matters worse, leading scorer Matt Duchene was injured while needlessly blocking a shot, and is out indefinitely with a hand injury.
The game would be significant for yet another reason, as it would mark the last time starting goaltender and 2009-10 MVP Craig Anderson would wear an Avalanche sweater, as he was moved to the Ottawa Senators in the four days between the loss and the Avalanche's next game.
For the seven Avalanche fans who weren't comatose after taking all of this in, the biggest bombshell of all was announced in the wee hours of Saturday morning: The club had acquired former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, and in exchange traded away two of the most promising young players on the roster—forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
In other words, a complete facelift for a franchise that looked like it was taking a "slow and steady wins the race" approach.
And as the Avalanche fell to San Jose 4-0 on Saturday night—a franchise record 10th straight loss—fans can rest content with the knowledge that not only are the Avalanche making a beeline for the NHL's sewer, but that Anderson (47 saves in his first shutout of the year), Stewart (two goals) and Shattenkirk (one assist) all helped lead their new teams to victory with outstanding individual performances.
That is a lot to take in, for even the most casual of fans.
In the aftermath of all of the chaos, the Avalanche (25-27-7) find themselves with 57 points, placing them 14th in the Western Conference, and 25th overall in the league.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs (57 points) a tie-breaker away from leapfrogging the Avalanche, and the surging New Jersey Devils (54 points) not far behind, it's likely the Avalanche will sit 27th overall by this time next week.
For a franchise which expected to capture a second consecutive berth in the NHL playoffs, even as recently as a month ago, the collapse has been colossal.
But, there's always "next year."
The addition of the franchise-caliber defenseman Johnson, coupled with All-Star centers Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, and what will positively be a very high first-round pick in the upcoming draft, the Avalanche should have a solid core of players to build around.
As was the case in the last 48 hours, expect the demolition of the Avalanche's roster to continue in the nine days before the NHL's Feb. 28 trade deadline.
And as Shattenkirk and Stewart have proven, no player is safe.
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