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Colorado Avalanche, National Hockey League of Nations

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)

By Clear The Crease

Clear the Crease gives you transports of delight while warping the history of the Colorado Avalanche. The jackasses seek out the team's boldest players and make claims no analyst has made before.

Chase the puck into the corners and set phasers to "scrum." It's the National Hockey League of Nations ... meets Star Trek.

Canada: Joe Sakic

The Debate

JeffCanuk: Joe Sakic is the Canadian. I wanted to argue against him, but who else.

Collision: The Canadian is Patrick Roy, and it's not close. The reason for this is that Roy is in the conversation for "best ever at his position," which the only other notable Canadian player the team ever had--Joey Sakic--frankly isn't. Also Roy and Mario Lemieux were born on the same day, which isn't particularly relevant, but which is a cool fact about probably the best day Canadian hockey ever had. Finally, I note for the record that the conversation for best-ever goalie goes--and this is not up for debate--in descending order: Tretiak, Plante, Hasek, Roy, and Mike Richter/Arturs Irbe (tie).

JeffCanuk: Dryden was better than all those goalies you mentioned. Parent was better than Richter.

Collision: Dryden's backups' numbers were consistently better than his, and Bernie Parent never made Pavel Bure cry.

Bogdan von Pylon: You're making that up.

Collision: Maybe.

JeffCanuk: You have to defer to me. I'm Canadian.

Collision: You live in America. I defer to no man!

Bogdan von Pylon: We are not talking about Avs of the world anymore, are we?

Collision: We are not.

Bogdan von Pylon: Do we want to talk about Avs-only contributions? Take out Roy's time in Montreal, and he's no longer in the conversation for Best Ever at His Position.

Collision: Crap. You're right.

Final Verdict

Joey Sakic. Who else?

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Who else? But Jean-Luc Picard! High spots! TV! Movies! Longevity! He had it all, while presiding over the most accomplished and least goofy stretch in his franchise's history. Like Sakic, known for a subtle but excellent sense of humor.

FIN

Finland: Ville Niemenen

The Debate

JeffCanuk: Gotta be Teemu Selanne. Everybody loves Teemu. Guaranteed HoFer, Teemu.

Collision: As an Av? His one season was 16-16-32. Which admittedly is twice as good as the 8-8-16 Darcy Tucker put up one year, but "twice as good as end-stage Darcy Tucker" doesn't come close to putting anybody near any "best" lists.

Bogdan von Pylon: Jari Kurri, there's a dude in the Hall already. Done.

Collision: Yeah, he was done when he came to the Avs, too. No way was he a Great Av. Great player? Sure. Great Av player? Can't see it.

JeffCanuk: I guess it's Ville Niemenen or Ossi Vaananen. I'd go Ville. Because Vaananen was a bollard.

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Collision: Bollard?

JeffCanuk: Look it up.

Final Verdict:

Ville Niemenen. At least he wasn't a bollard.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

...Bakula from those seasons of Enterprise. In that both Ville Niemenen and Scott Bakula were things in the world for a while. Things about which reasonable people have few opinions.

USA: Chris Drury

The Debate

Collision: This is a tricky one. Adam Deadmarsh was my first thought, as my first favorite Av, but it turns out he wasn't even born here. They say he was born of American mother, which would make him a citizen to everybody but Tim Thomas, but I saw what the birthers did to Obama, and to the country, and I don't want that to happen to Deadsy--or to Puck Daddy.

JeffCanuk: I note the same problem plagues Paul Stastny. I guess Tyler Arnason is available.

Bogdan von Pylon: Are you drunk? Insane? Drunk? Stupid? The answer is Chris Drury.

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Final Verdict:

The answer is Chris Drury.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Captain Hikaru Sulu. Easy to overlook, and never the star of his own show, but at first an incredibly solid contributor, and then completely embarrassing at the end, with Drury's Rangers debacle and Takei's humiliating domination of your un-hip aunt's Facebook feed.

Russia: Alexi Gusarov

JeffCanuk: Man, this is one Russian-hating franchise. What have we got, like...four guys to choose from?

Bogdan von Pylon: How about ol' Varlamov? You know, the 26th-best starter in the league?

Collision: I think people forget how good Alexi Gusarov was, and how good he was for the Avs.

JeffCanuk: Ring in '96...

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Bogdan von Pylon: Puts him over the top.

Final Verdict:

Alexi Gusarov was better than you think, for longer than you think, and won a Cup with the team. The best of a very thin crop of Russian Avs.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Paul Winfield--you remember him as the guy who got the horrifying squirming thing stuck in his ear at the beginning of Wrath of Khan. That makes him an indispensable part of his franchise's high-water mark. That makes him Alexi Gusarov.

Slovakia: Peter Budaj

The Debate

Bogdan von Pylon: You've been dogmatic weenies about only including Avs players, but come on. If you don't list Peter Stastny as the greatest Slovak, this entire list is a complete joke.

Collision: I think it's Peter Budaj.

JeffCanuk: If you're saying Budaj over Peter Stastny based on some kind of...argument about laundry, this entire list is a complete joke.

Collision: Hey, I never rooted for the Nordiques. And I've rooted for the Avs every year of their existence. And, honestly, I'm okay not nominating anybody I never saw play. I never saw Stastny.

Bogdan von Pylon: The dogmatic weenie strikes again.

Final Verdict:

This franchise is pretty hostile to European players, and the Avs have never bothered to acknowledge their Quebec legacy: the answer is Peter Budaj, and to the extent that this minimizes the Stastny contributions to the organization, this list is a complete joke. But

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Budaj stuck around a long time and was a good soldier.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Kirk, but from The Animated Series. Better than you think, at least if you keep your focus on how much worse it all could have been. Deserves a spot on your list, if you're a big enough fan, but probably only for completists. Bonus link: The Animated Series was a cartoon, and Budaj is best known for his love for the Simpsons' Ned Flanders, also a cartoon. Second bonus link: You probably haven't actually heard of either.

Czech Republic: Milan Hejduk

The Debate

JeffCanuk: No debate here. Milan Hejduk in a walk.

Collision: A walk into open ice and a quick wrister past an unsuspecting twineminder!

Bogdan von Pylon: You are a hack, Collision.

Final Verdict:

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The man got old in a hurry, but Milan Hejduk has been an infinitely classy player for fourteen seasons, and his reliable scoring and quiet leadership would have been welcome on any team in any era. A 50-goal season got him a Rocket Richard trophy for the league's top goal-scorer for the 2002-03 season. The only question left: Is he a borderline Hall of Fame player or just an instant retired number as one of the great wingers for his team? (We lean toward the latter.)

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Captain Benjamin Sisko. Indisputable excellence, with the only possible questions having to do with the quality of his surroundings. A record of achievement and dignity and total professionalism.

Sweden: Peter Forsberg

Collision: Any list with Peter Forsberg on it is worth taking kinda seriously. The best Swedish player the team ever had. Maybe the best Swede ever in the NHL: at least in the conversation.

JeffCanuk: Mats Sundin, in a walk.

Bogdan von Pylon: And Sundin was a Nordique...

Collision: Not this again.

Bogdan von Pylon: So he counts.

Collision: Even if we counted Sundin based on his Nordique history, (a) the franchise contributions he made aren't close to what Forsberg put up, so for the same reason we went with Sakic over Roy, we'd take Forsberg over Sundin. And (b) I'd take Foppa's total career over Sundin's.

JeffCanuk: Because you are a lunatic and a gross homer.

Collision: Peter Forsberg's points a game stand with anybody's: top 10 all time. Fourth all time in assists a game. Two Cups. An MVP. And before you mouth off and devalue assists, note how many 50-goal seasons Hejduk had without Foppa. None.

Final Verdict:

Foppa was far and away the greatest Swede to play for the Avs, far and away the greatest Swede to play for the Avs or Nordiques, and was maybe the best Swede ever to play in the NHL.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Charismatic, shorter-than-you-think career, endlessly divisive and possessed of a rabid, dogmatic fanbase: Peter Forsberg is Captain James T. Kirk from The Original Series. Plus, if you think of the TV series as the regular season and the movies as the playoffs, you'll see that Kirk, like Forsberg, saved his best for last.

REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY

England: Sandis Ozolinsh

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Collision: The nation is Latvia, the player is Sandis Ozolinsh. There won't be any debate.

Final Verdict:

The nation is Latvia, the player is Sandis Ozolinsh.

Relevant Star Trek Captain:

Janeway, from Voyager. An acquired taste, and easy to underrate, but like a fluid offensive D-man, an aggressive and not very personable Starship captain is just exactly the kind of thing that is easy for this blog to root for.

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Clear the Crease is the hockey rantings and ravings of three friends, two of whom still live in Portland, one of whom decamped for Oakland some years back. They are impolite and frequently grumpy. Star Trek is awesome.

Chris Collision writes about hockey and other sports, sometimes for The Classical, sometimes for other places.

JeffCanuk studies many things and pours many drinks.

Bogdan von Pylon doesn't care what you have to say.

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