Wednesday, April 14

The great blows of Pierre Lacroix


Died Sunday, the former general manager Pierre Lacroix is ​​considered by many to be the mastermind who allowed the Colorado Avalanche to accumulate successes upon his arrival in Denver, some of his transactions having marked the spirits among supporters of the old Nordics.

• Read also: Former Nordiques DG Pierre Lacroix died of COVID-19

The “Avs” won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001, and for that, they owe a debt of gratitude to Lacroix, who accepted the GM seat in Quebec City during the 1994 offseason. From his first year in office, fans de la Vieille Capitale were treated to a glimpse of his know-how which quickly had an effect on the ice, the Nordiques finishing atop the Eastern Conference during the shortened campaign of 1994-1995.

The following years were the years of dedication for the former players’ agent, winning two Stanley Cups with the franchise moving to the American West in May 1995. But to get to the top and stay there, he had to make pacts. to say the least daring and spectacular. Here are a few.

The departure of Mats Sundin

In the 1994 amateur draft, Lacroix did not go unnoticed. He parted with Mats Sundin, who had had his share of troubles with his predecessor, Pierre Pagé. The Swede takes the path to the Toronto Maple Leafs with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a first-round pick against Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre and Landon Wilson.


Mats Sundin

REUTERS / Fred Thornhill © Thomson Reuters 2012

Mats Sundin

By appearances, the Ontario team seems to have had the upper hand, as Sundin remained in their fold until 2007-08, scoring nine campaigns of at least 30 goals. However, Toronto never won the cup with the number 13 in its ranks. In addition, Colorado used Clark to obtain Claude Lemieux in October 1995, an important element in its success.

The “cowboy” is also leaving

At the start of the club’s first season in Denver, another player identified with the Nordics years was traded. Forward Owen Nolan ends up with the San Jose Sharks, while offensive defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh hits town. He was part of the Avalanche champion lineup in 1996 and stayed until 2000, scoring at least 50 points in three of his four seasons.

Nolan has his share of success in California, amassing more than 20 goals six times, but like Sundin, he never relished victory in the Stanley Cup final.

The transaction

What more to say about the exchange of Patrick Roy? He is the one who marked the career of Lacroix, who quickly seized the opportunity to acquire his former client. A little more than 25 years ago, the Avalanche convinced the GM of the Montreal Canadiens, Réjean Houle, to pass him “Casseau” who was at daggers drawn with his head coach Mario Tremblay. In addition, Mike Keane accompanied the goalie to Denver.


The great blows of Pierre Lacroix

Photo Journal de Montreal

While the Canadian was unable to win a playoff round with Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko and Jocelyn Thibault in the springs of 1996 and 1997, Colorado clinched two championships. Roy added a Conn-Smythe to his collection of trophies in 2001.

The chance of a lifetime

This time it was Boston Bruins fans who shed a tear when they saw one of their legends take to the Rocky Mountains. Having little chance of winning the cup, Raymond Bourque saw them increase substantially on March 6, 2000 when Lacroix compromised for his services and those of Dave Andreychuk. In Colorado, no one regretted the departure of Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier and Samuel Pahlsson, even if the team had to wait until the spring of 2001 before reaching the ultimate goal.

For many, the scene showing Bourque with the cup at the end of his arms – received from the hands of captain Joe Sakic – at the end of the seventh game of the final against the New Jersey Devils remains memorable.

Big names

During his time in Colorado, Lacroix often bet on or near the trade deadline in order to improve his club on the eve of the playoffs. Sometimes the strategy has paid dividends, but not always. On February 28, 1999, he notably obtained Theoren Fleury from the Calgary Flames, notably ceding René Corbet and Wade Belak. His new player wasn’t bad, but the team packed up in the third playoff round and Fleury signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers the following summer.

Among the blows that allowed the Avalanche to take away the top honors, note the one involving Rob Blake, obtained from the Los Angeles Kings against among others Adam Deadmarsh on February 21, 2001. The experienced defender helped his team to win the cut a few months later and remained with the organization until the end of the 2005-2006 campaign before reconnecting with his old loves.

In 2003-2004, the season in which Lacroix bet on veteran Teemu Selanne as a free agent, Colorado was quite active. Steve Konowalchuk, Matthew Barnaby, Tommy Salo and Chris Gratton had all arrived in Denver, but the results were not favorable. The “Avs” lost in the second round of the playoffs.


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