#19 on the ice, #1 in our hearts, this is a by-the-numbers retrospective of the only #19 in Avalanche history: Joe Sakic.
The Burnaby, BC native modeled himself after his favorite player from childhood, Gretzky. He faced tragedy during his Jr. career with the Swift Current Broncos when a bus accident killed four of his teammates. Despite that, Sakic was named the WHL’s MVP and Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year the next season. He was tied for the scoring lead with Theo Fleury that year as well.
In an inexplicable show of stupidity, 13 teams passed on Sakic on draft day in 1987 (including the Nords at #9!!), with him falling to the Nordiques at #15. Such luminaries as Wayne McBean, Chris Joseph, Luke Richardson, Yves Racine, and Dean Chynoweth!!!! taken before him. Hell, he was only the second center taken to that point (Pierre Turgeon #1) and had 9 defenseman taken before him, 3 wings, and a goalie (Jimmy Waite to Chicago). Boston passed on him TWICE.
Sakic opted to finish his junior career the next year, amassing 160 points in 64 games and 24 points in 10 playoff games. The raging erections that must have plagued the Nords’ coaching and management must have been painful. He jumped to Quebec the following season and was wearing #88 as his preferred #19 was taken by Alain Côté. He’d persevere through the odd digits with a 62-point rookie season, despite missing 10 games with an ankle injury and the associated scoring slump.
After Côté retired in the off-season, Sakic claimed the familiar #19 in ’89-’90. He amased 102 points, good for 9th in the league. Truly, these were different times. He followed that up with 109 points the next season and being named co-captain with Steve Finn. ’91-’92 saw a downtick in production to 94 points after missing 11 games. Sakic was named captain before the ’92-’93 season and the Nordiques made the playoffs for the first time in 6 seasons. Sakic was a big part with his 105 points. He followed that up with 92 points the next season and 62 in 47 games in the lockout shortened ’94-’95 season which saw another first round playoff exit.
Then the Nords moved to Denver. I’m sure you know the rest of the story: Stanley Cup and 120 points by Joe, Conn Smythe (34 points in 22 games, including 6 game winners), heated rivalries, Presidents Trophy, free agency to the Rangers scare in 1997, 56th player to 1,000 points, 59th player to 400 goals, all-time franchise points leader, 54 goals and 118 points by Joe in 2001, 2nd Cup (26 points in 21 games), Hart Trophy, Lady Byng, Pearson Award, lots of playoff games, buckets of goals (crossed the 500 goal line in 2002) and points, the 11th player to record 1,000 assists, one-year deals, 100 points on 2006-2007, notching his 600th goal and 900th assist between 2006-2007, 11th player to hit 1,500 points, and then a bad back and defective snowblower in 2008-2009.
All-in-all, he finished with 625 goals and 1,016 assists in 1,378 regular season games. 84 goals and 104 assists in 172 playoff games. He’s one of four players to captain his team to a Cup and win the Hart. He holds franchise records for goals, points, assists, most goals in a season, most points in a season, most game-winning goals, most playoff goals in a season, most points in a playoff season, and most overtime playoff goals. That’s on top of a stellar international career that included gold medals at the 88 World Juniors, 1994 World Championships, 2002 Olympics, and the 2004 World Cup. He represented Canada seven times and won medals in six of them. He was the MVP of the 2002 Olympics. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and had his number retired by the Avalanche on Opening Night in 2009.
After a brief two-year break, Sakic rejoined the organization as an advisor. In 2013 he was named Executive VP of Hockey Operations. In 2015 he was named General Manager.
There’s no survey for this one because there’s only one choice and there will always ever be only one #19.