The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup only five years removed from recording an NHL-low 48 points.
General manager Joe Sakic — the architect of Colorado’s championship rebuild — beamed with pride in Tampa on Sunday night following a 2-1 victory over the Lightning to clinch the series in Game 6. His patience and roster decisions all paid off with a third title for the franchise.
Sakic lifted the Stanley Cup high into the air just as he did as an Avalanche player back in 1996 and 2001.
“This is something you dream of,” Sakic said. “I’m so proud for the players, especially the older guys that have been around. Our group, ever since last year, when we were coming into training camp, they were committed. Nothing fazed them this year.
“They were prepared every day to get better. The coaches got them prepared and every player bought in. It’s a great group. A close group. They competed and battled for each other all year.”
It’s a far cry from the 2016-17 season when the Avalanche went 22-56-4. Sakic never lost faith in his vision to build a contender.
“Yeah, we had the worst record (five years ago), but we had some really good young players that were just about to become stars. A great core. You just build around them,” Sakic said. “We got a little bit younger and faster. … They wanted to be a part of it. Like (Nathan) MacKinnon, (Gabe) Landeskog, Erik Johnson — they didn’t want to leave. They wanted to be a part of that. Great results. I’m happy for those guys.”
Sakic bolstered the team’s Cup chances with smart trade and free-agency decisions. More recent additions such as Valeri Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen, Devon Toews and Darcy Kuemper were critical to the team’s title push. Sakic has an especially soft spot for the team’s older players winning their first championship.
“You bring in a guy like Jack Johnson that hasn’t won. (Andrew) Cogliano comes in. These older guys have been around a long time and had an opportunity to win their first Cup,” he said. “Being a former player and all that, you know how happy they are and how relieved they are to finally have an opportunity to raise the Stanley Cup.”