By Avaholics Unanimous
In the spirit of “remembering some guys”, we bring you a fun (hopefully) little mini series regarding jersey numbers. As the title suggests, we put together our latest and greatest starting lineups with a twist: The players are grouped by the last number of a jersey they wore for the Avs. For example, Joe Sakic would be in the #9 category as 19 ends in 9. Per Ledin would fall under category #7 because 97 ends in 7. Do we use Chris Stewart’s #42 or his #25? Does he even make any of those starting lineups? You get the picture. So without further adue…What is the best starting lineup in Avalanche history using players who’s jersey numbers end with the number 1?
There are a few ground rules: The same player can’t be used twice. For example, Tyson Barrie wore #41 in his first season with the Avs, but if he is used for #1 then he cannot be used for #4. So Is there enough players under the #4 category to be able to use Tyson Barrie and ice a better lineup?
Also, The player doesn’t necessarily need to be a star when he played for the Avs. Kevin Shattenkirk, Brian Rolston, and Johnny Boychuck barely played for the Avs, but is their overall career enough to get them a spot on their respective lists?
For goalies, obviously some numbers won’t have a representative. Nordiques goalies will be used in this case. No other “Nordiques only” players will be used.
Let’s get started:
There are quite a few good goaltenders in this category, and not just because the lonely #1 is mostly popular amongst netminders. Many other numbers were home to great Avs keepers. At #31 we have the recently departed Philip Grubauer and fan-favorite Peter Budaj. At #41 we have Craig Anderson, who still has an NHL job somehow, and old school Jocelyn Thibault. At #1 we have David Aebischer. But recency bias and an overall goalie graveyard since Roy’s retirement has left us no choice but to select Semyon Varlamov as the representative for this starting lineup.
Goalie: Semyon Varlamov – #1
Aside from Roy and maybe Anderson, Varlamov has been the most steady and successful Avs goaltender. Avs fans were hoping Grubauer would be the next long-tenured, hopefully, Cup-winning goalie, but Salary Cap numbers and the Seattle Kraken but a damper on that.
This category wasn’t as rich as some might think. The aforementioned Tyson Barrie doesn’t make the list because (spoiler alert) he might be needed for another category. Options were a little slim after that. We could have gone with such Avs legends as Pascal Trepanier or Darius Kasparitius at #11, or Mike Vernace and Andrew Bodnarchuk at #41. Andre Benoit came to mind at #61 and Fedor Tyutin gave us flashbacks at #61 but none could beat out the eventual representatives:
Defense: Martin Skoula – #41
Defense: Patrice Brisbois – #71
Skoula played a big role in that 2001 Cup-winning squad. The bottom 3 defensemen (Skoula, De Vries, Klemm) weren’t the most thought of players, but they were the depth the Avs needed to get over the hump.
Brisbois was never the best in the Burgundy and Blue but he beats out the rest of the #1 gang. Known as Patrice Breeze-by in Montreal due to his knack for letting opposing players whiz by him, Brisbois was supposed to be a good grab by Avs management. He wasn’t terrible and anchors the last spot on defense.
This is where things get interesting and the “remembering some guys” nostalgia trip really takes off. We could go the traumatic route with #11 and take Jeff Shantz (Drury trade flashback) or Andrei Nikolishin (Steve Moore incident flashback). We could go with a tough guy and Take Chris Dingman, Matt Calvert or Cody McCormick. We could salute the Roy trade and take Kovalenko at #51 or o recent with P.E. Bellemare (41), Martin Kaut (61), or Vladislav Kamenev (71 or 81). But this isn’t about has-beens or Never Was. On forwards we have:
RW: Owen Nolan – #11
C: Peter Forsberg – #21
LW: Nazem Kadri – #91
Forsberg is self-explanatory. No explanation needed. Insert “Kadri being suspended if this line ever goes to the playoffs” joke here. Owen Nolan is a fun pick because he had a great career, and only suited up for 9 games with the Avs before he was traded. He scored just 8 points in those 9 games. Thanks for Sandis Ozolinsh. His contributions before with the Nordiques, and after with the Sharks and other teams, round out this starting lineup perfectly.
So there we have it. The best representatives for #1. The line has a shaky back end, but they can be carried by the competent netminder and a forward group that has endless grit and impressive skill.
G – Semyon Varlamov – #1
D- Martin Skoula – #41
D- Patrice Brisbois #71
RW- Owen Nolan – #11
C- Peter Forsberg – #21
LW- Nazem Kadri – #91
At the end of the series we will take a look at which lines are better than others in a bracket-style playoff. Will Sakic’s #9 line be better than #3 or this #1 quintet? Or will it be bogged down by lack of diversity and spotty defense?
Stay tuned for #2.