Look To The Rafters: Colorado Avalanche (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Colorado Avalanche might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of Pepsi Center someday.

Colorado Avalanche Current Retired Numbers

19 Joe Sakic

21 Peter Forsberg

23 Milan Hejduk

33 Patrick Roy

52 Adam Foote

77 Ray Bourque

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Milan Hejduk’s No. 23 was rightfully retired on Jan. 6, 2018. He had 375 goals and 430 assists (805 points) in 1,020 career NHL games (all with the Avalanche), won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2002-03 with 50 goals and won a Cup with Colorado in 2001. Much like Colorado’s first line these days, you can’t forget the forward trio that preceded them in an Avalanche sweater of Sakic, Forsberg and Hejduk. 

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

6 Erik Johnson

Johnson’s been around in Denver for parts of ten seasons and counting these days after being traded to the Avalanche from the St. Louis Blues during the 2010-11 season. He was drafted by St. Louis 1st overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, but made his league debut with the Blues in the 2007-08 season to the tune of five goals and 28 assists (33 points) in 69 games. 

In his 2009-10 sophomore campaign, Johnson’s totals increased to 10-29–39 in 79 games before splitting the 2010-11 season with St. Louis and Colorado and amassing eight goals and 21 assists (29 points) in 77 games with the two teams.

He didn’t shake the Earth when he broke into the league, but he’s managed to have the staying power and a dressing room presence for the Avs over the years.

Johnson has put up 60 goals and 152 assists (212 points) in 573 games for Colorado– or roughingly .370 points per game as an Av.

Meanwhile, former captain and current retired jersey number recipient in Avalanche franchise history, Adam Foote, had 259 points in 967 games for the Québec Nordiques/Avalanche franchise. That’s .268 points per game in Foote’s time with Québec/Colorado.

If Foote can have his number retired for almost reaching 1,000 games with the team, then Johnson can surely have the same honor for producing more in almost half the time– except by the time he hangs up the skates, he’ll likely play in almost 1,000 games for Colorado and have even more points by then, so yeah, the logic is still sound here.

You don’t always have to be a superstar in the league to be honored by a team for putting in the work and dedication to an organization.

29 Nathan MacKinnon

The 1st overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, MacKinnon won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year in 2013-14, with 24 goals and 39 assists (63 points) in 82 games with the Avalanche.

The following season, MacKinnon’s production dropped to 14 goals and 24 assists (38 points) in 64 games in 2014-15. He then had back-to-back seasons of at least 50 points in 2015-16 and 2016-17 as the Avs floundered through the beginning of the second half of the 2010s.

Just as most experts began to rule out MacKinnon’s ability to be a franchise changing impact player, Colorado General Manager, Joe Sakic, helped create the foundation for a better roster for years to come and MacKinnon broke out of his shell with 39 goals and 58 assists (97 points) in 74 games in 2017-18.

Last season, MacKinnon almost reached the century mark with 99 points in 82 games, while setting a career-high in goals (41) and tying his career-high in assists (58).

This season, he had 35 goals and 58 assists (93 points) in 69 games and was on pace for about 111 points had the regular season not come to an abrupt end due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With 495 points in 525 career games so far, MacKinnon is destined to be an Avalanche player for life and rise in all-time franchise glory. As it is, he currently sits 7th in the most points in Nordiques/Avalanche franchise history, with Anton Stastny sitting ahead of him in 6th by 141 points.

92 Gabriel Landeskog

Landeskog was drafted by Colorado 2nd overall in 2011, and had 22 goals and 30 assists (52 points) in 82 games in his rookie season (2011-12). Despite 9-8–17 totals in 36 games in his sophomore season– don’t let the numbers fool you, that was only a result of the lockout shortened 2012-13 season– the 2011-12 Calder Memorial Trophy winner has long been an underrated mark of consistency even as players like MacKinnon came to the team and emerged as one of the game’s superstars.

The following year, Landeskog scored 26 goals and notched 39 assists for 65 points in 81 games under head coach, Patrick Roy, en route to Colorado’s 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance that collapsed in seven games to the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 First Round.

He followed suit with back-to-back 50-point seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16, then dropped to 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 72 games in 2016-17– a season that, until the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings happened, was the worst performance by a team in the salary cap era.

In 2017-18, Landeskog had 62 points. Last season he set career-highs in goals (34), assists (41) and points (75) in 73 games played.

This season, he had 21 goals and 23 assists (44 points) through 54 games until the ongoing pandemic put an early end to the regular season. He was on pace for about 67 points despite being injured for part of the 2019-20 season.

The current captain of the Avalanche, Landeskog fits Colorado’s image well as the quintessential power forward in franchise history. He has 198 goals and 262 assists (460 points) in 633 career NHL games thus far and, like MacKinnon, will probably never play anywhere else in the league before he retires.

It’s safe to assume both Nos. 29 and 92 are not only the inverse of each other, but will be going to the rafters of Pepsi Center together.

96 Mikko Rantanen

Rantanen was drafted by the Avs 10th overall in 2015, then made a brief NHL debut in nine games in the ensuing 2015-16 season. He was a minus-seven and recorded no points in that span.

Then came the 2016-17 season, in which Rantanen was the only bright spot for an otherwise horrendous season for the club. In his rookie season (first full season, anyway), Rantanen had 20 goals and 18 assists (38 points) in 75 games, despite having a career-low, minus-25 rating.

His sophomore campaign only got better with 29 goals and 55 assists (84 points) in 81 games in 2017-18, followed by career-highs in goals (31), assists (56) and points (87) in 74 games last season while battling injury.

This year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic cutting the regular season short, Rantanen’s regular season action was almost completely derailed by long term injuries. Nevertheless, he managed to put up 19-22–41 totals in 42 games and was on pace for 80 points had he managed to avoid injury.

Regardless, Rantanen’s quickly amassed 250 points (99 goals, 151 assists) in 281 career NHL games thus far and is sure to be a member of the Avalanche for a long time– if not his entire career– as he gets healthy and things continue to be on the up and up for one of the most dominant teams in the Western Conference these days.

Final Thoughts

It might just be that since the Avalanche have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for three consecutive seasons after only making the postseason twice in a span of nine seasons from 2008-09 through 2016-17, but it feels like Colorado’s in a renaissance these days and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

Yes, especially more so when you consider the team friendly contracts that Sakic has been able to convince his players to sign. Even in the salary cap age, the Avs have found a way to compile a roster full of talent and depth. Now if only they could convince Roy to come out of retirement and play goaltender (I’m sure he’d still be fine and settle, once and for all, the Patrick Roy vs. Martin Brodeur “Best Goaltender of All Time” argument).

Anyway, there’s at least two or three players that’ll see their legacy take permanent residency in the rafters of Pepsi Center some day, but that’s not even counting what Cale Makar could be capable of in his career.

Makar is one of this year’s finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year and could make a claim to having his No. 8 retired one day by the Avs.

Likewise, since the Avs retired Foote’s No. 52 and acknowledged Hejduk’s contributions to the team by retiring his No. 23 in 2018, there’s a chance someone with 167 goals and 321 assists (488 points) in 598 games with Colorado could also see his number rise to the rafters– but which one would Alex Tanguay rather see hanging from the ceiling, No. 18 or No. 40?