The End of a Great Ride?
It was 11 years ago that the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver, and a year after that the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix.
Given what the NHL now knows about its business, specifically about the crucial importance of Canadian teams to its business model, you have to wonder if the league wouldn't have been better off keeping both teams where they were.
The Coyotes have struggled for years in the desert and are showing few signs of being a success in the very near future, even with Wayne Gretzky at the helm.
In Denver, meanwhile, the Avalanche have long been an enormous success, largely because they arrived in town with a fabulously talented lineup created by the futility of the Nords and then built on that roster.
With Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake and others, the Avs were a team to watch for every hockey fan, both inside Colorado and out.
For years, it was an easy sell, particularly when the club's rivalry with Detroit was white hot. It was also a source of frustration for many hockey fans in Canada, who watched for years as teams north of the border lost teams and stars and struggled to stay alive while a champion was essentially gift-wrapped and dropped on the doorstep of the city of Denver.
But only Sakic is left from that galaxy of stars, and the Avs are no longer a powerhouse. Five years removed from their last Stanley Cup, the team is regrouping as fast as it can under new GM Francois Giguere. Giguere took over from Pierre Lacroix after the playoffs last year, and you have to wonder if Lacroix got out while the going was good.
The Avs are off to a very slow start, but the critical event so far may have occurred Monday night when 17,681 fans showed up at the Pepsi Centre to watch Colorado lose to the improved Chicago Blackhawks.
Good crowd, right? Sure, just 326 tickets below a sellout, but it also was the first time since Nov. 1, 1995, that the Avs didn't record an official sellout at home, a streak of 487 games.
This is a big deal in Denver, and its going to be very, very interesting to see how that market responds if the hockey team is mired in the middle of the NHL pack - or worse - for a few years.
The Avalanche are in town Wednesday night to face the Leafs, and then play the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.
The most interesting game of their road trip, however, will be Saturday when Jose Theodore, truly a lightning rod of controversy during his time as a Hab, makes his return to the city.
So far, Theodore has one win, a goals-against average of 3.26 and a save percentage of .888. The goalie that went the other way in the trade, David Aebischer, may be on the verge of stealing the No. 1 job in Montreal from last year's hero, Cristobal Huet.