Much was made of Alex Tanguay's return to the Colorado Avalanche last summer. He played his first six NHL seasons with the Avalanche and was a part of the 2001 Stanley Cup Championship team. After spending some time on other teams, predominantly the Calgary Flames, Tanguay came back to Colorado as a free agent about a year ago. Coincidentally, he came back just as Milan Hejduk was retiring, so the Avalanche still have a holdover from the last Cup winning team.
Tanguay's second stint with the Avalanche did not begin as planned, unfortunately. Due to various injury problems, mostly involving a hip issue, he only played in 16 games this past season. For what it's worth, Colorado was 15-1-0 with Tanguay in the lineup. But for most of the season, the team had to make do without him, and they still had one of the best seasons in franchise history. And of course there's the fact that the Avalanche were minutes away from a playoff series victory before everything fell apart in the final minutes of a brutal Game 7. Had Tanguay been available for that series, his combination of experience and skill may have been enough to get Colorado to the second round.
As it was, the return of Alex Tanguay helped get fans excited for the season. Most of the headlines belonged to new head coach Patrick Roy and first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, but Tanguay's return did not go unnoticed. But there's an empty feeling left for Avalanche fans regarding Tanguay. It doesn't really feel like he was back last year, since he missed over 80% of the season. But he should be ready to get things going proper come this fall.
Tanguay's ability and value are unquestioned. When healthy, he is a top six forward, and he will certainly return to that role next season. Whether he plays mostly on the second line or top line will probably depend on the injury status of other players, assuming that Tanguay himself is able to stay on the ice. He will be 35 early next season, and considering his age, a logical guess is that he will be relied on to provide consistency and stability on the left wing of the second line.
In a way, next season could be considered Tanguay's proper return to the Avalanche, since he was barely able to participate in his actual first season back with his original team. His presence on a young squad coming into its own is invaluable. Ultimately, he represents yet one more reason for fans to continue being excited about this team.
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