With the rumors of Peter Forsberg considering a return to the NHL becoming more and more likely with each passing day, it's time to consider what a move like this truly means for the Colorado Avalanche franchise. Is this just a publicity act by a desperate front office, a selfish move by a formerly great player, or a genuine reunion that benefits both sides?
Why would the team consider signing Forsberg?
Peter Forsberg is the enigmatic member of the Hockey Triumvirate in Colorado. Captain Joe Sakic was the quiet leader, the man who used his natural ability lead his team. Goalie Patrick Roy was the voice of the team, the outspoken powder keg who wore his emotions on his sleeve. But Peter Forsberg was unique, special. He was blessed with a rare blend of pure talent and aggression, a dominant physical presence trapped within a fragile body. Even to the untrained eye, it was obvious that No. 21 was the player to watch. His talent shone that bright. Forsberg was the game changer as long as he stayed healthy.
He rarely stayed healthy.
Yet it's no surprise that GM Greg Sherman and the Colorado front office is willing to take this chance on Forsberg. Ticket sales -- though on the upswing -- have not been as robust as expected. Fans are still following the team as fervently as ever, but find it difficult to justify purchasing tickets for the live product. For the first time in team history, the budget is limited by attendance. The name "Peter Forsberg" changes all of that. Whenever he makes his home debut, it will be a guaranteed sellout no matter the opponent. He would pay for his salary in a matter of days, and give the team a financial boon they would feel for the rest of the season, playoffs or no.
So signing Forsberg makes financial sense. Can he still contribute?
Early reports are promising. Take this report from the first morning skate, from Jeremy at The Avalanche Guild.
I was able to...get a much closer look at Forsberg’s weight transfers and work on his inside edges. Fairly impressive, all things considered. The balance was good, he was much more flexible in the final 10 minutes and even his accuracy and shot release was getting more consistent.
Or how about this report, from Adrian Dater at the Denver Post.
First impressions: He looks great to me. Fast, cutting hard on his skates, no hitch to his stride at all.
Throughout his career, Peter Forsberg has been at least a point a game player when on the ice. Even while playing through injury-plagued years with the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers, he was as productive as ever. If Peter Forsberg feels he is healthy enough to skate in an NHL game, he is going to produce at a high level. The man is simply too talented to be average.
Where would he play? He's been practicing at both center and winger and may see time at both in games. But once Ryan O'Reilly returns from his shoulder injury in the week following the All-Star Game, the real need for Colorado is at winger. The loss of Tomas Fleischmann and the slow progress (if you can call it that) of Peter Mueller from his preseason concussion leaves a gaping hole on the sides of the ice. Not to mention that winger duties are far easier physically, not a small concern for a player with Forsberg's injury history.
Colorado depends on it's offense to win games -- a major concern during this past month's slump -- and Peter Forsberg could improve any of the four Colorado lines as currently constructed.
Okay, so hopefully he can stay healthy. Should we be excited about this?
I'm talking about Peter Forsberg.
Let me say that again. Peter Forsberg is skating with the Colorado Avalanche.
I can use numbers to illustrate how productive a player can be, I can cite sources to back up my claims. In the end, I'm just an Avalanche fan. And I can't help but be irrationally excited at the thought of the player whose pure talent and athleticism made me fall in love with this game in the first place returning to the ice, wearing an "A" on his sweater. I was there when he returned at the end of 2008, and gave the Avalanche a boost through the first round of the playoffs. Everyone knew he was playing injured; he was slower to the puck, he had to use his experience more than his overwhelming talent. But it was still Peter Forsberg.
It's a natural reaction. Yes, he is 37 years old. Yes, he has undergone countless surgeries on his ankles and feet.
It doesn't matter. Peter Forsberg is likely to play for Colorado again, and I guarantee that I will be there.
I don't have a choice. It's Peter Forsberg.