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Puck Daddy's Summer of Disappointment: Colorado Avalanche Edition

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(Ed. Note: There’s entirely too much sunshine in the summer. So your friends at Puck Daddy are offering a month of thrown shade and perpetual gloom. Behold, our Summer of Disappointment series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to recall the biggest bummer moments, teams and players in franchise history! Please wade into their misery like a freezing resort pool, and add your own choices in the comments!)

Written by Cory Caouette

Most Disappointing Team: 2010-2011 Colorado Avalanche

To this fan, there is no more disappointing season than 2010-2011.

After a surprising but impressive '09-'10 season that exhibited the promise of Joe Sacco's young team, the Avalanche continued their ascension through the first 46 games of the 2010-11 campaign. On January 18, 2011, they stood fifth in the West (24-16-6), having just defeated the hated Canucks in an overtime thriller.

Serviceable on D, they had given up 3.17 goals against, while riding the 20 year old Matt Duchene (27G, 40A) to 3.30 goals for. They were beginning to raise eyebrows across the league... and then the wheels fell off.

The final 36 games of the 2010-2011 season is possibly one of the worst stretches of hockey played by any team in NHL history. From January 18th, over nearly three months of the season, they won two of 36(!) games in regulation. They gave up four goals a game on the way to a league-worst goals against tally, and, perhaps most embarrassingly, they scored 75 goals in those final 36 games, barely over two a game.

To make matters worse, four weeks later, Craig Anderson was gone, as were two budding stars, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. Brian Elliott was poor, Erik Johnson worse, and it seemed like Milan Hejduk was headed the way of Peter Forsberg, whose two game comeback that season added insult to injury.

Some of those things would change, but not until a summer had passed -- a summer of disappointment the likes of which Avalanche fans had not experienced previously.

Most Disappointing Avalanche: Scott Parker

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Alright, Avs fans, bear with me on this one.

First of all, consider yourself lucky that we have had few, if any, glaring mistakes on the personnel side of the ledger -- sure the odd free agent folly (Kariya, Parenteau), draft picks who have underwhelmed (Nederost, Kuleshov), and trade returns gone by the boards (Mueller, Elliott), but there are no Bryzgalov, Leino, or Gomez signings in the team's history.

So, with that in mind, I submit to you that no other than one Scott Parker as the biggest disappointment in team history.

The 20th overall pick in 1998 (but amazingly, the fourth of four Avs picks in that first round), Parker had just come off of a WHL season where he scored 30 goals plus six in a single postseason round. Sure, he was still an enforcer, but with a nose for goal, and the skill set of one of those tough guys who could finish (think Owen Nolan). Not so in the NHL.

In 237 career games with Colorado, Parker scored five goals and accumulated 16 total points, numbers hardly befitting of a marksman in junior hockey. While Parker won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2001, he also had his contract terminated in 2008 for "insubordination."

Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly to me, he took the opportunity in a 2012 interview to bash teammate Steve Moore, the victim of the infamous Todd Bertuzzi hit, saying "you know what... blow me, college grad. I'll hit you four times right in the skull."

For what he gave the team, he seemed to cost them quite a bit more.

Most Disappointing Moment in Avalanche History: 2002 Game Seven 7-0 Lost to Detroit

From 1996 onwards, it was clear that the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche were a rivalry for the ages. In that playoff run, resulting in the team's first Stanley Cup, Claude Lemieux hit Kris Draper and Dino Ciccarelli begrudgingly shook Claude's "friggin' hand." The following season, Darren McCarty avenged Draper in a March brawl and the Red Wings knocked Colorado out of the playoffs on their way to the first of back to back Cups.

Then, in 2001, the pendulum swung back to Colorado as they won their second Stanley Cup. It seemed firmly in their control following a Game 5 win in the 2002 Western Conference Final at Joe Louis Arena, with the Avalanche riding a red hot Patrick Roy to a three games to two lead. Then, in Game 6, the Wings got a 2-0 win in Colorado, including the infamous "Statue of Liberty" goal knocked in by Brendan Shanahan while Roy arrogantly held his catching glove high in the air.



The scene had shifted back to Motown and what would happen in Game Seven will never be forgotten. Seven goals, all by the enemy in red, and the rivalry was over. Many rivalries end slowly, as one team fades from a sport's top echelon, but this one was over in a single game. Game Seven in 2002 was the last real shot the Avalanche seemingly had at the Cup and we all kind of knew it.

Twelve years later, having not returned to a Conference Final, the disappointment is still there.

Most Disappointing Avalanche Transaction: O'Reilly RFA Fiasco 2012/2013 Off-season

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NHL Awards Media Day

NHL Awards Media Day

At the risk of slightly redefining the category, I feel compelled to go with the gift that keeps on giving, andthat is the Avalanche's shoddy handling of Ryan O'Reilly in his first and, eventually, second go-round as a Restricted Free Agent. Following 107 points in his first three seasons, the 20 year old O'Reilly was clearly, along with draft classmate Matt Duchene and reigning Calder Trophy holder Gabriel Landeskog, the collective face of the Avalanche team.

Yet as "Factor" headed off to the KHL during the NHL lockout, it appeared as if GM Greg Sherman had simply given up on signing the budding star -- media reports had the teams not talking, and not surprisingly, the possibility of a trade loomed large.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an offer sheet came in from the Calgary Flames.

While matching made personnel sense (unless you think a first and third for a clearly disgruntled player was preferred), the failure to work something out before that has left an awkward dressing room, a player who may never be happy (see this past off-season), and a highly paid player who quite clearly will seek greener pastures the minute he reaches UFA status.

In fact, the redux of the stalemate, and eventual deal on the brink of arbitration this past off-season leads, us all to wonder who the Avalanche will get for O'Reilly at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. It's simply inevitable isn't it -- and I cannot help to think it could've been avoided. Hopefully, it still can.

Most Disappointing Avalanche Coach/Executive: Francois Giguere

In the world of a general manager, irrelevance is, in and of itself, a failure. How irrelevant was Francois Giguere? He made 17 trades in his three years on the job and, five years later, only Stefan Elliot remains of the 28 players acquired -- this despite the fact that the vast majority of those players were "prospects" under the age of 23 and presumably still in their athletic prime.

His free agent signings also leave one scratching one's head. Ryan Smyth for $6.25M in a $50M cap season? How about Scott Hannan for $4.5M in the same offseason, only to watch him go a combined -23 over the course of playing out the contract in Colorado? Or Tyler Arnason, who he not only signed to a contract that would net five goals in the final season, but also "demanded" of the coaches that he be made alternate Captain!

Yet, even with an easily forgotten personnel history, it's the ego of Giguere that eventually cost the team the most. After an '07-'08 season which saw the team go as far in the playoffs as it had since 2002, Giguere fired head coach Joel Quenneville, who had gone 39 games over .500 in his three year stint. Worse than losing a Hall of Fame coach was not having a plan to replace him.

Eventually, Giguere brought back Tony Granato, easily his worst free agent signing. A coach neither respected by his players nor up for the challenge tactically, he "led" the Avs back to the basement of the Western Conference while Quenneville quickly hoisted the Cup in Chicago. Sigh.

Most Disappointing Avalanche Fashion Choice: Bernie the St. Bernard

For the first 14 years in Colorado, the Avalanche had a mascot worthy of its brilliant run atop the NHL.

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The abominable snowman, who I think was named Sasquatch, had his footprint on the jersey, could be confused as anything from a grandfather to a polar bear to Yukon Cornelius, and was downright scary for anyone foolish enough to bring a toddler to an NHL game. Despite the smile artistically crafted into his face, Sasquatch was just that little bit nasty and Avalanche fans loved it.

So why change to a St. Bernard? That's right, in October 2009, the team unveiled Bernie, the "lovable" St. Bernard.

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This was one of Greg Sherman's first moves (okay, that's not fair), and, 6,000 tweets of Bernie later, we still haven't warmed to a dog that replaced a Colorado icon. Yes, we understand the connection between St. Bernards and actual avalanches, but this is hockey and the mascot needs to be able to deliver a hit, no?

Follow Cory on Twitter at @BSISCaouette

   

Other disappointments (in order of appearance): New York RangersCalgary FlamesSt. Louis Blues • New York IslandersDallas StarsBoston BruinsWashington CapitalsOttawa SenatorsArizona Coyotes Minnesota WildEdmonton OilersSan Jose SharksWinnipeg JetsNew Jersey DevilsLos Angeles KingsFlorida PanthersCarolina HurricanesBuffalo SabresMontreal CanadiensTampa Bay LightningChicago BlackhawksColumbus Blue JacketsNashville PredatorsDetroit Red Wings Anaheim DucksPhiladelphia FlyersPittsburgh PenguinsVancouver CanucksToronto Maple Leafs

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