Thursday, August 28, 2008

Joe Sakic will play his 20th NHL season

Colorado Avalanche fans that have been hoping they haven't seen the last of their beloved captain Joe Sakic have gotten their wish.

"I am happy to announce the signing of Joe Sakic to a one-year contract," Avalanche vice president and general manager Francois Giguere said in the team's press release yesterday. "Our entire organization is very excited to have Joe back for another season. As the only captain of the Avalanche, his record of achievement speaks for itself. Having him return is great for our franchise and community, but also for the game of hockey."

With the Democratic National Convention packing up and leaving town, there won't be a press conference until Tuesday when the Pepsi Center will be back into normal operation.

According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, Sakic will be paid $6 million, a $750,000 pay cut from last season. Also included in the new contract is a no-trade clause.

Following the Avalanche's season-ending 8-2 loss on May 1st to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, Dater reported that Sakic's agent Don Baizley was told to tell other National Hockey League teams that were interested in the 39-year-old unrestricted free agent that Sakic didn't want to play anywhere else.

"Joe instructed me from the get-go to advise any team that inquired that he was either going to play for the Avs or retire," Baizley said. "That's what I did. Even in situations where the teams said, 'Is there even any point in us making an offer?' Joe said tell them no."

Before the decision was made on Tuesday night, Sakic's teammate Ian Laperriere admitted he was concerned about whether or not the team captain would be back for a 20th NHL season.

"When you don't hear any news for a while, you're kind of worried," Laperriere told Rick Sadowski of the Rocky Mountain News. "Everybody was kind of wondering what he was going to do."

But Laperriere was relieved that Sakic wants to play at least one more season.

"It's great news," he said. "We talked a little bit this summer, but you want to give the guy some room. You don't want to bug him every time you talk. I'm just glad he's back. You're a much better team with Joe Sakic on your team."

How about Sakic's age? Is there a concern that father time will affect his ability to still perform at a high level?

"I don't care if he's 39. He's such a special player," Laperriere added. "He's such a special human being. I'm pumped. I'm excited to see him coming on the ice. I can't emphasize enough what he brings to the team."

One of their other teammates in defenseman John-Michael Liles echoed the same sentiments.

"Anytime you get a player like Joe coming back for another year, it's great news," Liles said. "I was optimistic that he was coming back. At the same time, if he didn't come back, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Our job is to go out and play the best we can, whether that's with Joe or without him."

Sakic was limited to just 44 games last season where he scored 13 goals and 27 assists for 40 points. The Colorado forward spent 38 games on the injury list with a groin injury and later had surgery for a sports hernia. Sakic would return to the lineup in time to help get the Avalanche into playoffs where he lead the team with 10 points (2 goals and 8 assists) in 10 games.

Whether or not Sakic wanted to avoid leaving the game on a bad note where Colorado got swept in four straight games by Detroit in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals, we won't know. But now he has that chance to right the wrongs of last season with a 2008-2009 campaign.

"Ultimately it came down to the fact that I still enjoy playing and competing," Sakic said. "I'm comfortable with my conditioning and my overall health. I'm ready for the start of camp and am looking forward to the upcoming season."

The future Hockey Hall of Famer is currently ranked 8th on the NHL's all-time point scoring list with 1,629 regular season points in his 19-year career. After being selected 15th overall in the 1987 Entry Draft, he has spent his entire career with the franchise dating back to its days in Quebec City. Only four players in NHL history have recorded more points with one team than Sakic. They would be Gordie Howe (1,809) and Steve Yzerman (1,755) with Detroit, Mario Lemieux with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1,723) and Wayne Gretzky with the Edmonton Oilers (1,669). Sakic does hold the NHL record for most playoff overtime goals with eight.

Among the other notable achievements in his hockey career, nine times has Sakic scored 30 or more goals and six times put up at least 100 points. The 12-time All-Star also has a 1996 Conn Smythe Trophy award as playoff MVP on his resume when the Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup championship, the 2001 Hart Trophy award during Colorado's second successful title run and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2002. On top of that, he was chosen as the tournament's most valuable player.

Regardless of how the Avalanche fare, fans certainly will at the very least get to enjoy watching Joe Sakic play one more season.

No comments: