‘Free’ Stastny Excels for Avs
With 3 goals and 7 points, Paul Stastny leads the NHL play-off scoring race.
Well, sort of – he’s tied with team mates Nathan MacKinnon for points and Gabriel Landeskog for goals, as Colorado leads Minnesota 2-1 in their first round match up.
A far cry from struggles Stastny has had for the last few seasons, as declining numbers a $6.6m cap hit put him under the microscope.
He was oft criticised, dubbed ‘over paid’ by many. But then, he never had the quality support he has now.
Drafted 44th overall in 2005, Stastny had three 70+ point seasons in his first four years – and probably would have been four for four had injuries (including a broken arm) not limited him to 45 games in 2008/09.
He was the natural successor to Joe Sakic as the Avs #1 centre. Good offensively whilst being defensively conscious, a great all rounder.
The addition of Matt Duchene at the 2009 draft looked to give the Avs another formidable 1-2 punch down the middle, as they’d had with Sakic and Forsberg in years past, and Stastny formed great chemistry with break out power forward Chris Stewart as the Avs rebounded in 2009/10.
Then the wheels ‘fell off’.
Stastny scored just 57 points the next season, Stewart was traded and dark clouds gathered over Denver as the franchise seemed to lurch from one problem to the next.
Another ‘sub par’ year followed in 2011/12, with Ryan O’Reilly emerging as the Avalanche’s new darling.
With 9 goals and 24 points in the lockout shortened 2012/13 season, many assumed Stastny would be traded as the sinking Avs looked to kick off (another) rebuild.
Patrick Roy took the helm, Nathan MacKinnon was selected 1st overall and Stastny…remained.
Would he be moved ‘in season’? At the deadline perhaps? His pending unrestricted free agent status making him a potentially useful pick up for a contender.
But the Avs kept winning. Valramov stayed hot, their clubs defence defied conventional wisdom and their fire cracker offence kept lighting it up.
Stastny had his best season since recording 79 points in 2010 – and that was in a slightly diminished role as Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog took over.
And there in lies Paul Stastny’s salvation.
Stastny was ‘the heir’. The next Avalanche star. His father and uncle already franchise legends dating back to its days in Quebec. He could learn from Sakic, then take the reigns and the C.
And for all intensive purposes, he did that. Whilst Colorado had no Sakic for the first time, well, ever in 2009, but Stastny’s partnership with Stewart ensured quality support to keep the train rolling.
When Stewart lost his way, Stastny lost his wing man. He still passed the 20 goal mark (he’s never missed it in a full season), but his overall numbers did drop. But then, when you have no support it’s tough to put up the big numbers.
Despite adding young stars like Duchene and Landeskog, Stastny was at the front line for a club trying to bring young talent through; carrying his share of the load against opposing teams top players.
Now Landeskog et al have (seemingly) matured, we’re seeing the best of Paul Stastny again.
With a more offensive style and quality support, the Team USA forward has showed his scoring touch and, rather than being trade bait, looks a key cog in the Avs machine.
It’s amazing what adding a little quality around a player can do for his career.
After a few seasons in the wilderness, don’t be surprised if Stastny now stays in Denver, and excels. Because he is a star, it’s just hard to shine when you’re stuck in the basement.