In the long history of a sports franchise, there are usually only a few sharp turns and building is a slow, slow process. I think you have to be a real fan to endure years and years of hardship or stupidity before someone arrives with clarity, direction and a big pot of blind, dumb luck.
Early in their existence the Quebec Nordiques were a good team, a championship calibre team. I used to collect WHA cards and watch the TV games and the Nords quickly became a recognizable brand. The Vancouver Blazers and the Ottawa Nationals might come and go, but the Nordiques had people everyone recognized on their team and they won hockey games too.
The second stanza would be the early NHL years, and for Quebec it was a time of smart drafts, the Stastny’s and trying to beat the Habs to the top of the division. The third (and final Quebec) stanza involved being bad enough to draft high and being lucky in that the Lindros trade went Philly’s way.
The most successful movement in the piece came in Denver, the Sakic era. Led by Burnaby Joe and one of the most unique players in the game’s history (Forsberg), the Avalanche won two Stanley’s (1996 and 2001) and were also noteworthy in that if they got to the dance they won it.
The fifth change is the one we’re in now. Sakic can’t do the chores and Forsberg’s achilles has been found, the Avalanche have good players but they’re hurt or struggling and the club is wasting some very good seasons by veterans (including a very nice season by Ryan Smyth).
If I’m an Avalanche fan, my bet is that the Denver side is pushing for a division title before the Oildrop. Clarity and direction are powerful things.