The Colorado Avalanche have a handful of young players that should serve as the core of the team for years to come. Those youngsters should do a fine job if they follow the lead of the club’s pair of grizzled veterans.
With the sun beginning to set on their fine NHL careers, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay remain solid contributors to the team. In fact, they proved to be much more last season.
Iginla led the Avalanche with 29 goals while finishing tied for the club lead with captain Gabriel Landeskog at 59 points. The 38-year-old also continued to be a threat on the power play, netting eight man-advantage tallies to sit even with Landeskog for first on the team.
The 2014-15 campaign was the first of a three-year, $16 million contract Iginla signed with Colorado. It also was the 15th consecutive full season in which he eclipsed the 20-goal plateau, falling one short of reaching 30 for the 13th straight 82-game campaign.
Iginla’s presence seemed to rejuvenate Tanguay, who had his best season since the two were teammates with the Calgary Flames in 2010-11. The 35-year-old scored 22 goals – his highest total since that campaign in Calgary – and set up 33 others for 55 points, tying him with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly for third on the club.
The veteran duo was amazingly durable, with Iginla playing the entire 82-game schedule and Tanguay missing just two contests. Quite an accomplishment for the native of Quebec, who was limited to 16 games the previous season – his first back in Colorado – due to injury.
Tanguay began his career with the Avalanche, reaching the 20-goal mark four times in six seasons while winning the Stanley Cup in 2001. He was traded to Calgary, where he spent two campaigns with Iginla and recorded the best offensive season of his career in 2006-07 with 59 assists and 81 points.
The left wing spent one season each with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning before returning to the Flames in 2010-11. He finished second to Iginla for the team lead in points with 69 but lasted just one more campaign in Calgary before being dealt to the Avalanche.
While Tanguay has had an admirable career, Iginla is on his way to the Hall of Fame. The right wing is a six-time All-Star who has won a pair of Maurice Richard Trophies, an Art Ross Trophy and a Lester B. Pearson Award.
Iginla has won nothing but gold while representing Canada in international play, taking home two Olympic medals, an IIHF World Championship and World Junior Championship and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The Edmonton native has yet to take home the top prize in the NHL, however, coming closest when the Flames fell to Tampa Bay in seven games in the 2004 Final.
The duo’s wealth of success and experience should go a long way in helping Colorado’s young stars, such as Landeskog, Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon. Newcomer Mikhail Grigorenko also should benefit under the tutelage of Iginla and Tanguay.
Landeskog already is on his way to becoming an elite player in the NHL. The 22-year-old Swede, who was drafted second overall in 2011, won the Calder Trophy the following year and has scored at least 22 goals in each of his three full seasons.
The 24-year-old Duchene was an All-Star in 2011 and won Olympic gold with Canada three years later. Selected with the third pick in the 2009 draft, he has eclipsed 20 goals four times in five 82-game campaigns while recording 43 points in 47 contests during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
The first overall pick in the 2013 draft, MacKinnon followed in Landeskog’s footsteps and captured the Calder Trophy after registering 24 goals and 39 assists at the age of 18. He battled the sophomore jinx last season, notching only 14 goals and 38 points while being limited to 64 games due to injury.
Grigorenko was drafted 12th overall by Buffalo in 2012 but has bounced back and forth between a bad Sabres team and the minors. The 21-year-old Russian recorded six goals and eight assists in 64 games over parts of three seasons before being included in the package Colorado received for O’Reilly in June.
Iginla and Tanguay already have had the chance to provide guidance to Landeskog, Duchene and MacKinnon. If they’re able to do the same for Grigorenko, the Avalanche could get Iginla that elusive silver trophy before his calls it a career.