Gabriel Landeskog has laid it all on the line for the Colorado Avalanche since being drafted second overall in 2011.
During the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Landeskog took it to another level, and with each passing day, his performance looks more and more remarkable.
The news Tuesday of Landeskog requiring cartilage transplant surgery on his right knee wasn’t a total surprise. Just a month earlier, the Captain had hinted that the injury could linger into next year, as they were going to explore all options to find a solution. That solution now means Landeskog will likely miss the 2023-24 season.
With this being an uncommon surgery for elite athletes, there’s no telling how it will work out. He’s confident he’ll be back, and the medical experts he’s spoken to have shared that confidence with him, but you just never know.
By the time Avalanche fans see Landeskog lace up the skates again, it will have been at least two years since he’s played a game.
That’s what makes his performance in the Spring of 2022 so astonishing.
Check out the most up to date Stanley Cup Odds if you’re looking to get in on anything at this point in the playoffs.
After electing to have knee surgery on March 21, 2022, his regular season came to a finish. There was belief that he may return before the end of the regular season, but he ultimately sat out until Game One against the Nashville Predators.
When he returned, he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. The Captain picked up a goal and an assist in Game One, and just a few days later, dropped a four point performance in Game Three. As the playoffs went on, head coach Jared Bednar moved him around the lineup to whatever line he felt like needed his presence. He was the ultimate fixer for his coach, spending some nights playing with Nathan MacKinnon and some nights playing with Nazem Kadri.
Everyone knew he was not 100%. Landeskog did not take part in a single morning skate during the playoffs. But in Game Four against Edmonton, it became clear he was playing through something big.
After getting tangled up with Zack Kassian along the boards, the two went down to the ice. Kassian got up right away. Landeskog did not. He laid on the ice for a few seconds, before struggling to get back up on his skates. He was fighting it, but at the time, we didn’t know how bad it was.
We do now.
Nothing was going to slow him down, though. That same night, he took a playoff high 31 shifts and picked up three points. Colorado won that evening, punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
When Nazem Kadri returned in Game Four, playing with essentially one hand, who did Bednar put on his wing? Landeskog, of course, although the Captain played more center than wing. Landeskog played nearly 27 minutes (only MacKinnon played more up front), won 65% of his face-offs, threw four hits, and blocked three shots. Whatever his team needed him to do, he did it.
Although Landeskog was on the ice when the final buzzer sounded in Game Six, the final memory Avalanche fans likely have of their Captain in that game is Nathan MacKinnon dragging him off the ice. After blocking a shot with his left foot, Landeskog lost his skate blade. MacKinnon recognized this, and carried him to the bench.
That hits a little different now, doesn’t it?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 27, 2022
Here are Landeskog’s final numbers from that playoff run, a run that he seemed to go through on just one leg.
22 points in 20 games
63 hits given, 62 hits taken
58.7% in face-off circle
“Gabe Landeskog is a really special player in the NHL,” Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland said on Tuesday. “For our team, his importance transcends the ice.”
Replacing Landeskog will not be easy. I’d argue it might be impossible, given everything he does for the team. He showed just how special and important he is during that 2022 Stanley Cup run.
A run for the ages.