Thursday, January 14, 2021

Avs Preview: Milan Hejduk Dual Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

The biggest change the Colorado Avalanche (team links lead to Amazon sponsored pages, player links to relevant pages on my blog, and news links to their source) made this off-season is completing the switch to new uniforms from navy blue to baby blue by removing the black helmets, gloves and pants and making them blue as well. It's both gorgeous and extremely bizarre. Apart from that, GM Joe Sakic didn't overhaul his Stanley Cup-contending roster, with depth players departing (Nikita Zadorov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson, Mark Barberio, Kevin Connaughton and Matt Nieto), and depth players coming in (Brandon Saad, Devon Toews, Dennis Gilbert and Mikka Salomaki). After a career year at the age of 36, I also expect Sakic to obtain value for Ian Cole via trade, possibly for a high draft pick. I see him going back to a former team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues or Toronto Maple Leafs.

What makes their odds look good:
They have the most valuable NHL forward in Nathan MacKinnon, who is one of the three best forwards in the game yet only makes half of Connor McDavid's salary, leaving plenty of room under the cap for Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Saad, Samuel Girard, goalies Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer and eventually star defensemen Cale Makar and Bowen Byram when they get off their ELCs. We'll see ten years from now if the Edmonton Oilers end up having as many Cups as the Avs, but my gut tells me "no" (unless they each have zero or one).

Question marks:
The Avalanche do not have question marks anywhere on their roster. Not many things stand in their way of a championship, save for Covid-19, the Vegas Golden Knights in their own division, and the Tampa Bay Lightning being the reigning champs and still the best hockey team of the past 20 years on paper, with or without MVP Nikita Kucherov.

Sakic has one job: to not mess around with the roster. I think he knows it. This is a contender for the next five years as is.

First in the West Division.

This is the second time in the team's 25-year history that they have the make-up of a dynasty; unlike the 1995-2002 team, however, they do not need to have a Patrick Roy-level legend in net to get there, partly because there is currently no one like that in the league, and also because the game itself has changed and is more methodical and chess-like at nearly every position save for a few elite game-changers. The Avalanche have MacKinnon and Makar that fit the bill, and Rantanen is just a notch below.

If the "original" Avs had two MacKinnons in the form of Hall of Famers Sakic and Peter Forsberg (there was no salary cap at the time), and their Rantanen was Milan Hejduk, no slouch himself, as The Hockey Writers have aptly shown here. In addition to matching or surpassing Sakic and Forsberg on many an occasion, he did win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the lone 50-goal scorer of the 2002-03 season and stil only got a Second Team All-Star nod at his position at the end of the year, behind Todd Bertuzzi. Talk about a clash in style and personalities...

375 goals and 805 points in the Dead Puck Era (including 98 points in the worst of it in the early 00s) is equivalent to 1200 points in the 1980s. Never forget Hejduk, he was a heck of a player.

Here he is wearing the Avs' Reebok Edge burgundy (home) uniform with the awful vertical piping on cad #AF-MH from Upper Deck's 2008-09 SP Game-Used Edition collection and Authentic Fabrics/Dual Jerseys sub-sets:
It features not one but two matching game-worn jersey swatches. These types of cards were much thinner back then, they feel thinner than many modern base cards.

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