Colorado Avalanche: 10 Best Players in Franchise History

Chris Hoffman@@cs_hoffmanContributor IIISeptember 9, 2011

Colorado Avalanche: 10 Best Players in Franchise History

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    After a few rough years for a very proud franchise, Avalanche fans are realizing how lucky they were to watch the star-studded teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s play night in and night out.

    As we move towards the launch of a new NHL season, here is a look at the top players in the history of the Colorado Avalanche and what they were able to contribute to the team.

    Hopefully we'll see members of the current squad like Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Peter Mueller make their way onto this list in the near future.

Honorable Mention: Adam Deadmarsh and Valeri Kamensky

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    While they didn't crack the top 10 list, these players filled major roles with the Avalanche and their contributions to the franchise definitely bear mentioning in any list of Avalanche greats.

    Valeri Kamensky—Kamensky began his career with the Quebec Nordiques and followed the team to Colorado when the franchise moved to Denver. He scored 261 regular season points for Colorado and added 66 playoff points for the burgundy and blue, including a 28-point campaign in 1996 that ended in the Avs' first Stanley Cup championship.

    Adam Deadmarsh—Deadmarsh played for six seasons in Colorado and was a consistent fan favorite. He was a reliable 20-plus-goal scorer and contributed 271 points during his Avalanche career.

10. Uwe Krupp

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    Uwe Krupp will forever be immortalized in Avalanche lore as the player who scored the goal that clinched the franchise's first Stanley Cup. In the third overtime, deadlocked at 0-0, Krupp blasted a shot from the point that beat John Vanbiesbrouck and gave the Avs a 4-0 series sweep over the Florida Panthers.

    While he only played three seasons in Colorado, he was an anchor on the blue line. He put up 55 points and a plus-37 rating during his time with the Avalanche.

    Krupp is currently the head coach of the German men's national team, where he has had good success and turned Germany into a contender on the international stage.

9. Claude Lemieux

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    Claude Lemieux endeared himself to fans and made himself public enemy No 1 to opponents (especially the Detroit Red Wings) through his hard-hitting playing style.

    His playoff hit on Kris Draper pushed an already hot rivalry to well past the boiling point.

    The thing that really set Lemieux apart, though, was that he also had the ability to hurt opponents on the scoreboard. He tallied 267 regular season and playoff points in an Avs jersey at the same time as he racked up over 500 penalty minutes.

    He defended the Avs stars, got under the skin of opponents and put points on the board. Claude Lemieux was the complete package for the Avalanche for many seasons, including a 71-point regular season in 1996.

8. Alex Tanguay

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    Alex Tanguay is one of the most prolific scorers in Avalanche history. He tallied 400 regular season points in 450 games for Colorado between 1999 and 2006.

    He also put up 50 points in the playoffs for the Avs, with the highlight of his postseason career coming in 2001. Tanguay played alongside Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk as part of one of the most effective scoring lines in league history. He tallied 21 playoff points that year.

    Tanguay will forever be remembered for the two goals he scored in the deciding Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.

    In an ill-advised trade, Tanguay was shipped to the Calgary Flames in 2006. That season, he would score 81 points for the Flames.

7. Ray Bourque

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    Ray Bourque came to the Avalanche in one of the most unlikely scenarios. The veteran, Hall of Fame defenseman had done all he could in Boston except win a Stanley Cup. He requested a trade to have a chance in the playoffs, and ended up in Denver.

    Though he only played a season-and-a-half for the Avs, to say he left a lasting impact would be an understatement. He formed a stellar defensive core that also featured Rob Blake and Adam Foote, and brought to the team a blue-line shot that was as accurate as it was powerful.

    He provided consistency and stability in the Avalanche defensive zone and an offensive spark as well—he led all Avs defensemen in scoring in 2000-01.

    Bourque famously called his shot in Game 3 of the 2001 finals. The question of who would score the game-winner was posed in the locker room in between the second and third periods. Bourque answered simply, "I got it." He then went on to blow a shot past Martin Brodeur 31 seconds into the third period that would win the game for the Avs.

    In addition to pure hockey skill, Ray Bourque gave the 2001 Stanley Cup team a script that seemed to come from the best hockey movie.

    Only this was real life.

    For two years, Boston fans became Colorado fans. The scene of Joe Sakic handing Ray Bourque the cup after a Game 7 win against New Jersey will forever be one of the shining moments of the Avalanche, and of the NHL.

6. Rob Blake

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    Rob Blake came to the Avalanche via a trade in the last half of the 2000-01 season. He immediately became a high-impact player, quite literally. In addition to bringing a cannon of a shot to the blue line, he possessed a hip check that was capable of breaking players in half.

    When paired with Adam Foote, the Avs had one of the best shutdown defensive pairs in the league.

    Not only was Blake capable of league-leading point production from a defenseman, he made life very painful for opposing forwards trying to find space in the Avalanche zone.

    At the end of his time with the Avalanche, he had contributed 208 regular season points, 43 playoff points, over 300 penalty minutes and would be remembered as one of the best defensemen ever to wear an Avs jersey.

5. Milan Hejduk

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    Milan Hejduk is the only member of this list who is still on the active roster for the Avalanche. He broke into the NHL in 1998 and has only played for one team—Colorado—in his decorated career.

    We will, without doubt, see Hejduk's No. 23 hanging from the rafters at Pepsi Center one day.

    Hejduk has been one of the most consistent players in franchise history. He has played in over 70 games per season in all but two of his 12 years in the league. During that time, he has scored 757 points for the Avalanche. Hejduk won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer in 2002-03, scoring 50 goals and totaling 98 points during the regular season.

    His playoff totals are no less amazing—in 112 postseason appearances, he has posted 76 points (34G, 42A). Fans in Denver have come to know him as a soft-spoken, class act who always provides quiet leadership and pure results on the ice.

4. Adam Foote

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    Adam Foote, only the second player to wear the captain's "C" in Avalanche history, retired at the end of the 2010-11 season. Aside from a three-season stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2005-2008, he played his entire career with the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise.

    While he wasn't known for exceptional offensive ability, he will be remembered in the record books as one of the grittiest shutdown defensemen in team history.

    He amassed over 1,500 penalty minutes in 1,154 career regular season games played. Foote was also a rock solid defenseman for Team Canada during its 2002 Olympic gold medal campaign.

    Foote provided the team with exceptional defensive presence and leadership during his career.

3. Peter Forsberg

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    The Swedish legend known simply as "Foppa" saw his career cut short by injury and several failed comeback attempts. That will never diminish what he did for the Avalanche franchise when he was healthy, though.

    Forsberg was not only one of the greatest players in Avalanche history, but in the history of the NHL. He brought a complete package to his game—incredible skill, vision and creativity coupled with a gritty physical presence.

    He, more than anyone else in an Avalanche sweater, could create a dangerous offensive situation out of nothing and give opposing defensemen fits.

    Forsberg suited up in 708 NHL regular season games and tallied 885 total points. He added 171 points in 13 playoff campaigns.

    In addition to a stellar NHL career, he retires with a trophy case of international medals, including two Olympic golds. He is one of the only professional hockey players to score a goal so famous it was preserved on a postage stamp in his native Sweden.

    When the Avalanche raises Forsberg's No. 21 to the rafters on opening night this year, the NHL sees one of its true All-Stars officially retire. Foppa was one of the game's greats, and fans in Denver were lucky enough to see him play there for the better part of a decade.

2. Patrick Roy

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    Avalanche fans had the privilege of watching one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history man the crease for eight years in Denver (1995 - 2003). The Hall of Fame member always threw stellar numbers on the board for the Avs, averaging 2.28 goals against and a .917 save percentage during his time in Colorado.

    He also won three Conn Smythe Trophies, three Jennings Trophies, and three Vezina Trophies during his career.

    A slight arrogance also defined Roy's game and made for some very entertaining moments. He was famous for the "Statue of Liberty Save," which often times involved shoving the puck in the face of the player who took the shot and was denied.

    Press conferences were never dull events with Roy. After Jeremy Roenick criticized his performance in the 1996 playoffs, Roy's response was, "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."

    Patrick Roy was the complete package—a fiery competitor who backed up his words with on-ice performance. The Avs have been searching, unsuccessfully, for a suitable replacement since his retirement in 2003.

1. Joe Sakic

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    Joe Sakic wore the captain's "C" for 13 years in Denver. He is one of the few players to play his entire career with one franchise, being drafted by Quebec 15th overall in 1987 and moving to Colorado when the Nordiques became the Avalanche.

    Sakic retired last season at No. 8 on the all-time regular season scoring list—1,641 points in 1,378 regular season games played. He added 188 points in 172 playoff games to that total to tie for No. 7 on the all-time playoff scoring list.

    In addition to being one of the greats on the ice, Sakic was the face of the Avalanche during his entire career in Denver. He led the team to two Stanley Cups in 10 playoff appearances and eight division championships.

    Sakic was one of the league's true class acts—he was a constant finalist for the Lady Byng trophy, given to the player with the most sportsmanlike conduct.

    At the end of his career, his trophy case included a Conn Smythe Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, All-Star Game MVP award, Lady Byng Trophy and an Olympic gold medal.

    Sakic is currently spending his time with the Avalanche front office, so luckily for Denver fans, you haven't seen the last of "Super Joe." He will continue to have an impact on the Colorado Avalanche franchise for years to come.