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The Soapbox

One fan’s personal goodbye to departed Avs players

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Here is the second in what I hope will be a long, ongoing series of guest columns from subscribers of Colorado Hockey Now. You’re passionate about your team, and I like hearing from you, and reading your thoughts on the team. I call it “The Soapbox.” If you want to write what’s on your mind on the Avs, email me your column at adater@comcast.net.

Keep in mind: I may have to be a meanie and not run it, if it doesn’t make any sense or some other reason. But I doubt that would happen too often. I’m a good editor too, and I like hearing from diverse voices – not just my own. I imagine you feel the same way sometimes! (don’t answer that).

Today’s guest column is by Karen Cherrett. Follow her on Twitter here.

By Karen Cherrett

It happens at the end of every season, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We lose some of our favorite players. Whether they were an Av for just one season or more, the players become part of our family, the Avalanche family, because that’s what it feels like as a fan, one big family. The players, the team and us fans. We embrace them as soon as they pull on that burgundy and blue sweater. They are the ones we cheer for every game because they are representing the team that we love.

This off-season has seen some of our very favorites leave.

Matt Calvert (Calvy) #11. The bulldog, the terrier, the guy who gave us short-handed goals, and gave 110% every time he hit the ice. He was part of our fourth line dynamos, that line that Beds put on the ice when he needed the game to change. And it did, because of the conviction and dedication of Matt Calvert. We as fans all felt dread when Matt suffered a concussion again earlier in the season. Collectively we held our breath hoping that it would not be a career-ending injury. He didn’t return for the season and then the inevitable happened; he announced his retirement. No, please no. 

We understand, and it hurts. We are going to miss Matt Calvert each and every night. Our fourth line just won’t be the same.

Pierre Edouard Bellemare (Belly) #41. Who will forget this man’s smile and the fun he had on the ice. Our fourth-line center. He and Matty playing a big part on our team, making those plays in front of the net to snatch a goal when you didn’t think anyone was going to get one past the opposition’s goalie. The ‘Belly’ bumps at the end of the game had you laugh and know that he was still there. 

Just like Matt, PE found a home with us fans in Colorado. He was with us for two seasons, it felt like more. We’ll miss you Belly.

Philipp Grubauer (Gru) #31. Ball Arena isn’t going to be the same without the “Gruuuuu” chant when this man saves the day stopping that puck from going to the back of the net. He came to us from the Capitals three seasons ago and it took a little while for us to get used to him after our Varly left. What is it with goaltenders? It feels as though they are the backbone of the team and yet we take longer than usual to accept them. Strange, that.
We’d all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for GM Joe to ink Gru’s extension and it didn’t happen. And all of a sudden we have no starting goalie. Well, we do know. Let’s go Kemps!. Gru will certainly be missed by the fans, and we’ll cheer for him in Seattle, coz that’s just what we do.

Ryan Graves (Gravy) #27 Right before the expansion draft he disappeared on us. Traded away to the Devils. What? Don’t think anyone saw that coming. Gravy played a strong part on our D core. Was he always perfectly on point? No. Will he be missed by us? Yes! Enjoy your new team Gravy. The Avs’ ice, without the flow, just won’t be the same.

Betting with the Barbers!

Conor Timmins (Timbits) #22 – 31 times this past season he played on the ice. We watched him become stronger and have more confidence in himself and his play. After his serious injury it was fantastic to watch. I for one was cheering him on big time. When GM Joe gave Timmins his qualifying offer, everyone was happy. We could see him prospering even more with the team this season. Then it happened. He got traded. There was a collective “No” from some fans. Others considered it an okay trade. We will miss watching you grow and prosper into an even more confident player Conor.

Joonas Donskoi (Donny/Donkey) #72. We got this guy two seasons ago and he became part of the magic that turned our one-line-only team into a four-strong team. He was one player that I wasn’t sure about when he arrived, and he grew on me. That quiet achiever. When he and Andre Burakovsky were on the ice that usually meant more scoring chances and of course that’s exactly what we fans love.
With the Kraken expansion draft, our breaths were held waiting to see who GM Joe would protect. Once Gravy was traded it seemed inevitable that it would be Joonas, who would be one of a couple of players likely to go. And it happened. We lost him to the Kraken.

The one great thing was seeing him be happy about the fact that Gru was joining him over there on his new team. Have fun Joonas. We’ll miss you.

Brandon Saad (the Saadfather) #20. This was the guy that was still there, still there, still there and I was ever hopeful that GM Joe would pull out the checkbook for him. Sure, he’d only been with us for one season, but, hey, he quickly became a fan favorite. You knew when Brandon was on the ice. He would get in and get things done. I’ve loved watching him play in an Avs jersey and I’m sad he’s no longer part of the team that is fighting for the Cup. Bye Brandon, thanks for the memories.

Not only have we lost some of our favorite Avs, but also a bunch of guys that showed us how valuable they were by being there when the team needed them this season. I’m talking about the Colorado Eagles players that came into the team when injuries struck, or we needed a shift of pace.

Liam O’Brien (Big Tuna) He was that big strong player who threw his weight around, just when you needed it. By OB and thanks for being there when we needed you.

TJ Tynan (Tines) TJ didn’t play a lot of games up with the big guys this season, but the few that he did, he played his part. 

Dan Renouf (Roofer?) Dan got to play a few more games than TJ, up with the Avs and was a contributor. 

To each and every one of these players, we fans say “Thank You.” Thank you for being a part of our Avs family, thank you for contributing to the team in a year that was strange because of covid, and so close to achieving the team goal of winning that Cup. We appreciate each and every one of you.

Yesterday on Twitter the Carolina Hurricanes posted a graphic of Ian Cole, who has now joined their team in this off-season. Why am I mentioning this, because the graphic was of him in his Avs jersey? He didn’t play for us last season, yet he is an Av and will always be an Av because of wearing it. At least that’s my take on what it means to wear burgundy and blue.

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Joshua Canfield

Nice write-up. Going into the offseason, I knew we’d loose a few good guys. I’m a really big Graves Timmins fan. Those kids really gave it their all. We got to watch Graves grow into a solid top-4 defender. He will be missed.

ricoflashback

Bellemare, Graves, Donskoi and Saad didn’t have to leave. They could have dealt Girard and worked a deal with the Kraken to keep Donskoi. (Sakic ended up blowing a number one draft pick to acquire Kuemper and Donskoi would have been a lesser pick.) Saad’s contract isn’t a cap buster and they could have made it work. Dump Girard and Saad is paid for. He is a weak link that you cannot make up for in the playoffs – – even if you have Godzilla opposite him. These are all personnel decisions that Sakic made in his make or break… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Spencer Bradshaw

Girard has one of the best contracts on the team and of all defensemen in the league. Complain about his playoffs all you want, but the fact is that Graves can’t even hold a candle to Girard, and Saad’s contract will age very poorly.

ricoflashback

Saad is only 28, a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks and a solid pro. Great presence in front of the net. Can get the dirty goals. Good locker room presence. His contract will age like a fine wine.

Yan Girard

You have the right to not like Samuel Girard. However, when you talk, Samuel Girard doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team. You say that you wouldn’t protect Samuel Girard at expansion draft because that Seattle wouldn’t select him. Then, you protect Graves instead of Samuel Girard. In those circumstances, if you say true, the result would be that Donskoi is selected anyway by Seattle. Finally, you have always Makar, Toews, Girard and Graves as defensemen. You trade Samuel Girard thereafter at another team. But Samuel Girard, a defenseman that doesn’t bring nothing good at a hockey team with… Read more »

ricoflashback

The only way to salvage Girard’s career, IMHO, is to switch his position to a forward. Why not make him part of a checking line? Use his speed and skating ability to create in the offensive zone where his physical size won’t be a liability (as much.) Use him on the penalty kill. He won’t do much in front of the net but he can setup other players. As a defenseman, Girard is a major liability in the playoffs and he gets bum rushed every time. Stepped on like a bug in the parking lot on your way to lunch.… Read more »

Yan Girard

Make play Girard as forward? Why not play Darcy Kuemper 6.05 as defenseman to clean up ahead the net and not play Jared Bednar as goalie because his lack of speed?

ricoflashback

If you really look at it, objectively, it makes a lot of sense. It’s worth a try, IMHO. This is our fundamental difference of opinion. I do not believe that you can win a Stanley Cup with small defensemen – whether their name is Sam Girard, Yan Girard or Spunky Spunkster. Unless you have an All-Star Team or a goalie that’s absolutely lights out for four series – – you can’t overcome that side of the ice and it will be exposed in the playoffs where the ice shrinks and the physicality increases.

Yan Girard

Change an excellent defenseman for an average forward, that’isn’t good idea. I believe that you underestimate the impact of Girard in a game. The other teams make their game plan depending to Mackinnon, Makar and Girard. 

Nathan Edwards

Try to calm down at least a tiny bit , as it seems you bash Sakic and the Avs moves quite a bit. I will agree with you on Girard, as I am not a huge fan of his in the playoffs that is. But his regular season nets the Avalanche many points in the standings that get them to have a chance at Lord Stanley. You have to find a willing trade partner first for Girard remember. I think I would keep Saad and trade Girard for a 2nd round pick if possible. Other moves had to be made… Read more »

Yan Girard

Girard for a second round pick? That’s a joke? Do you know that the identity of Avs is based on speed and puck control? Girard is reliable, fast, excellent in the relaunch and his IQ hockey is excellent. He reduces time and space at the opponent, rarely taken out of position, endure the attack, plays as veteran, is just 23 years old, plays about 24 minutes per game and his contract is yet a boon for again 6 years. He makes Mackinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog better. It’s very difficult for the other teams to apply a pressure on Girard. Rarely, he releases… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Yan Girard
ricoflashback

Difficult to pressure Girard? For all your self proclaimed hockey knowledge, you apparently didn’t see the Vegas series. Pounded in the corners eventually shying away from any contact. Stepped on and bullied. Girard couldn’t get past his own blue line. The famous circles he does in the regular season weren’t available in the playoffs. No space, no room. Vegas couldn’t wait to lay the body on Girard as he wilted under the physical domination. Yan, repeat this ten times every night and maybe it will sink in – – “The only season that counts is the playoffs. The only season… Read more »

Yan Girard

You have already seen an opponent to take off the puck at Girard when he has it on its stick blade? We don’t watch the same games. When Girard controls the puck, he wins time and permits at his team to do changes for example. The opponent isn’t able to take off the puck at Girard. Otherwise, you proposed that the Avs signs Tomas Tatar. Do you know that Tatar played most of the time in the stands throughout the playoffs with Montreal and Vegas? That isn’t you complaining always that the Avs lacks of grit and physical? The grass is always greener… Read more »

ricoflashback

You’re blind, Yan. Simply blind.

Yan Girard

Me, Sakic and all hockey experts are blind. There is only RICOFLASHBACK that holds the truth.

ricoflashback

Stop with the hyperbole. So you and Sakic are of the same ilk? Again, what excuses will you have when the Avs flame out, again, in the playoffs? No luck? No changes needed? A rubber stamping, yes man agreement with ALL of Sakic’s moves? It will make for interesting reading. But the same result – denial, and that ain’t a river in Egypt.

Yan Girard

If you don’t understand the Sakic’s moves, probably that your understanding of the hockey is defective.

Last edited 2 months ago by Yan Girard
ricoflashback

What’s defective is this team as it’s constructed and the lack of physicality and grit. How many Stanley Cups have the Avs won under Joe’s GM tenure? The Avs can’t get past the 2nd round. If you do things the same way and expect different results, that’s the definition if insanity. I hope you’re not an Educator or Teacher because history has no influence on you.

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

A little history. You know Ryan O’Reilly? Ryan O’Reilly was a fantastic player for the Avs. He was a complete center that was very good in all dimensions of the game. He was a player that the Avs did not have the right to trade him. Unfortunately, Avs traded him anyway. O’Reilly demonstrated his value some years later by winning Stanley Cup. Now, Ryan O’Reilly is an obstacle for Avs in his objective to win Stanley Cup. He is very important for an organisation to properly identify the players that you cann’t trade. I know that you don’t understand now… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Yan Girard
ricoflashback

Again, I don’t care who you are pairing Girard with as it just doesn’t matter. In the playoffs and the only season that counts, you expose half the defensive zone with his inability to clear pucks and defend the front of the net. I’m bashing Sakic because the last two years, he has done nothing at the trade deadline to make the team stronger for a playoff run. In fact, last year, you could make a great argument that he hurt the team with the Nemeth and Soderberg acquisitions. I would have rolled with Renoulf over the slower and turnover… Read more »

Yan Girard

That isn’t at the trade deadline that a team is built. All the pieces were in place to have a reasonable chance to win Stanley Cup. Sakic had to add of the depth in cases of injuries and the work has been done. Don’t forget that the Avs isn’t a team that achieves the maturity. The impact players are very few old and must learn again to deal or manage the pressure. Find scapegoats and second guess the decisions are very easy. It appears that you have become a subject matter expert.

ricoflashback

Jesus Yan, same old baseless, clueless and convoluted arguments. The trade deadline can push you over the top or at least give you better odds. Look at the Islanders and their acquisition of Palmieri at the deadline and how well he played. The Islanders took the Stanley Cup Champions to a seventh game. You can’t handle the truth. But go ahead with your inaccurate and overvalued (man crush?) worshipping of Sammy Girard. You’ll roll out new excuses next year when the Avs get bounced from the playoffs – early.

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

Why do you follow the Avs? You know that the Avs won’t cross the second round the next year. You knew that Montreal would achieve the final and that Tampa Bay would win Stanley Cup. As Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in the last 2 years, you know that Tampa Bay will win again the next year. It appears that you are the kind of guy who goes to the bars even though you know that you won’t bring back none girl.  

ricoflashback

I’m with two girls right now, Yan. They’re wearing me out. They couldn’t fall asleep so I read them your hockey posts and voila – – out like a light.

Yan Girard

You have two girls and you have the time to bash the Avs like this? You are superhuman.

ricoflashback

Yeah – you inspire me to be my best. Reality is bashing in your mind.

Yan Girard

Islanders had important injury with Anders Lee. Result, more space below the salary cap. Not all the teams have the same space below the salary cap before the start of the season either.

DK

I came here for the Rico-Girard-Hater v Yan-Girard-Fanboy action. I’m not disappointed.

ricoflashback

Yeah, I’m kinda of surprised at it myself. I really don’t hate itty-bitty, dipsy-doosey, circling Sammy Girard. Good for him that he has a five year contract for $5M/year for the next five years. That will soothe any bumps he gets playing “D.” But I just don’t think you can win with that small of a defense. And I’d like to see him at the forward position – – a hybrid player if you will. That way, he wouldn’t have to have his back against teams all the time and try to withstand the punishment. Turn him into a shut-down… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
DK

Girard’s not really that awful. I can at least agree that he’s not $5m AAV good. The sad reality is…the game and the league is geared toward high scoring and fast skating Ds. Defensive play is becoming an afterthought. Now it’s not enough to have 12 highly productive forwards, now you need at least 2 Ds that can put up points. I played D my entire “career” and I easily spent 95% of my time in my own zone or the neutral. I’m a bit nostalgic for the days of heavier defensive play, and even enforcers. But I do really… Read more »

ricoflashback

I enjoy your perspective. Yes, there will always be entertaining, small, diminutive defensemen that can score or assist (more of Sammy’s game) in the wide open regular season. The days of enforcers and lots of penalties for fighting are long gone. But the physicality of the playoffs has never changed – especially as you advance in series. In the 1980’s, Gretzky and the Oilers skated up and down the ice with smaller “D” like Paul Coffey and most of the offensive scoring records were set. If you like scoring, that was the golden era of wide open games, the proliferation… Read more »

Yan Girard

In 2005, the NHL removed holding. From that time, the NHL is faster than ever. In a game, the permutations of position are much more frequent. The game is more collective. The defensemen must endure the attack to create chances of scoring. The forwards must come back in defensive zone to help the defensemen. In the NHL, there are increasingly small players because that they have the speed and the talent. In more, no holding. The evaluation of a player cann’t be done only on 2-3 games. This year and in the past years, excellent players didn’t know a good… Read more »

ricoflashback

Touché, DK.

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
bernieslugs

I like the idea for The Soapbox and will look forward to seeing more like this.

Wayne Dunlap

I hope “no brainer” Grooby loses every goddamn start the rest of his career.

As far as the rest of them, not a single one of them wound up being anything more than transients. Certainly not around long enough (or performed well enough) to become beloved.

avs-kate

Great addition, AD!

Well written and heartfelt, Karen. A pleasure to read and easy to identify with. Honest and raw. Lacking the bitterness that has sunken into sullen minds.

My only complaint is the accompaniment within the commentary, IMO not the right platform for such debates. (Not disputing their right to do so, just the location of. )

Thanks again, Karen! 👍🏼

[…] thought Kessel might have made for a nice one-year fill-in for Brandon Saad, but I had that quickly shot down by my sources. Another problem is he would still cost something […]

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