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Reactions
CNNSI.com asked if Avalanche fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.

Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say. 

 
Sports fans love to reminisce over the days where it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.

It's tough to find fault with Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix, who has traded for Patrick Roy, Theo Fleury, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake and drafted Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay. But try hard enough and you can find fault with any franchise. Starting with the move from Quebec to Colorado, we also list the trade of tough guy Chris Simon, the youth movement in Quebec that led to the trades of Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny, the failed attempt to import Wendel Clark from Toronto, and the low-impact albeit heart-breaking trade of Lacroix's own son, Eric.


 
July 1,
1995 
COMSAT Entertainment Group announces purchase of the Quebec Nordiques and
immediate relocation to Denver
 

It's only fair that we let a fan tell this story.

Chad from Vancouver, British Columbia: Anybody east of the Province of Ontario can empathize with me on this one. The biggest heartbreak of all had to be when the Quebec Nordiques left for Colorado and promptly won the Stanley Cup.

You have to understand that hockey is the second-most recognized religion, behind Catholicism, in Quebec. The people live, breathe, eat, sleep hockey. The only way to fully explain the hardship is to recap the chain of events that began in the franchise's 11th season, 1989-90.

  Joe Sakic  
Before the end, Quebecois had a chance to see a young Joe Sakic (top) and Peter Forsberg form what would become the NHL's top duo. Robert Laberge /Allsport

 
Peter Forsberg
1989-90 -- 12-61-7, 31 points
1990-91 -- 16-50-14, 46 points
1991-92 -- 20-48-12, 52 points

That's a combined 48 wins. In 1999-2000, there were five teams with 45 wins or more.

1992 -- The Nordiques draft prized junior prospect Eric Lindros in the hopes that he will turn the franchise around. Lindros informs the team that he does not want to play in Quebec. Proud Nordique fans (all of Quebec, for that matter) take that as a slap in the face. So GM Pierre Lacroix cleverly trades Lindros and Quebec gets a busload of imported talent.

In 1992-93, the Nordiques go 47-27-10 for 104 points and the NHL record for best single-season turnaround.

In the lockout-shortened 1995 season, Quebec goes 30-13-5, Peter Forsberg wins the Calder Trophy and Marc Crawford wins the Adams Award.

Even after winning only 48 games in three years, the Nordique faithful still filled the Colisee every home game.

Then came the Lindros trade and instant respectability, which culminated in 1995. Quebec fans were now treated to a great style of hockey, which included stars like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Deadmarsh, Owen Nolan, Scott Young, Mike Ricci, Wendell Clark, Chris Simon and Uwe Krupp.

The team, however, is in financial turmoil and moves to Colorado. Where ...

Patrick Roy (that's Saint Patrick in Quebec, and as a Canadien, the arch nemesis of the former Nords) gets traded to the Avalanche in mid-season and leads the Avs to the Stanley Cup. Joe Sakic wins the 1996 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Avs begin a run of four conference finals appearances in five seasons.

After going through the worst of times, the Nordique faithful were rewarded in the middle of the decade with a team that continues to be dominant even to this day. Then the unthinkable happened.

What a crime.

  Denver has Hollow Victory
at the Expense of Quebec

The Denver Post -- May 25, 1995
By Mark Kizsla

Denver won a $ 70 million hockey team on a bluff.

The Nordiques are an NHL franchise the humble burg of Quebec desperately needs and sophisticated Denverites aren't quite sure they want. A sport that's religion in Canada is just another game in Colorado.

So why in God's name are the Nordiques skating across the border to relocate in our city?

The Nordiques are a hockey team a Quebec entrepreneur really never wanted to sell and an American corporation really never intended to buy.

But Marcel Aubut, who's flakier than a Canadian blizzard, agreed last night to sell the Nordiques to COMSAT Video Enterprises for 70 million bucks - the biggest business transaction in NHL history ever to happen by accident.

From the start, parties on both sides of the border had winked and agreed: This hockey deal never would happen.

From the moment COMSAT made its offer in February, the plan was for Aubut to use the Denver bid as nothing more than a scare tactic to get himself a new ice palace in Quebec. And COMSAT didn't mind being used. What the owner of the Denver Nuggets really desired was a chit from the NHL, an IOU to be cashed for an expansion franchise in 1997.

This elaborate bluff backfired in Quebec, where the government is going broke and leaders are in no mood to subsidize a rich man's toy. Aubut's miscalculation will make him filthy rich. As the most hated man in his hometown, however, Aubut might have to take his money and run.

The Nordiques are moving to Denver. There will be shiny, happy faces in Colorado this morning. But there will be more cheeks stained with tears in Quebec.  

  Calvin Chow, Seattle Wash.
It was the Nords leaving Quebec to go to Colorado ... Winning the Stanley Cup in their first year after a decade of last place finishes is like pouring salt in an open wound. Colorado may have great fans, but who had to deal with the Big E draft hassles? Who developed all that first-round talent? And Red Wings/Avalanche just isn't Habs/Nords. And never will be.  

 
November 2,
1996 
Colorado trades LW Chris Simon and D Curtis Leschyshyn to Washington for RW Keith Jones and two picks (Scott Parker and Yevegny Lazarev)
 

  Chris Simon Reluctant fighter? Washington hasn't found that to be the case with Simon. Doug Pensinger /Allsport
Nobody will ever confuse Chris Simon with Wayne Gretzky ... but then again, the
Edmonton Oilers won a Cup after trading Gretzky. The Avs haven't been back to the finals since dealing Simon.

Acquired in the Eric Lindros deal, Simon was the enforcer during Colorado's run to the 1996 Cup. It was a season in which "The Chief" would register career highs in goals (16), points (34) and penalty minutes (250). Seeking a deal upwards of $1.2 million a year, Simon was stunned find the Avs would offer only $625,000 a year, a mere $125,000 raise.

The Avs dealt the holdout Simon for a little more skill in Keith Jones at the start of the '96-97 season. Five months later, Darren McCarty pummeled Claude Lemieux at center ice and the balance of power in the West was instantly shifted from Colorado to Detroit. The Wings won two Cups, the Stars went the final the next two years, and Colorado has become a perennial bridesmaid in the West.

Jones had a series of knee injuries and played only 28 games for Colorado before being traded to Philly. He is now retired. Simon has been frequently injured as well, but did put up an astounding 29-goal season for the Caps in 1999-2000 and continues to be one of the most feared hitters in the league.

  'Enforcer' Business Just Keeps Dogging Avs
The Denver Post -- June 21, 1997
By Terry Frei

If the Avalanche had been as defensive against Detroit as Pierre Lacroix and Marc Crawford were in discussing the "enforcer" issue at their postseason news conference last week, Colorado still would be playing - and there would be 19 stories in this section on Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The impact of Chris Simon's absence makes for a fun debate because the answer can't be quantified. We'll never know what would have happened if Lacroix, offended by Simon's ridiculous initial salary demands (and perhaps not encouraged by Crawford to make much of a run to sign the big winger), hadn't traded Simon and Curtis Leschyshyn to the Capitals for Keith Jones and a No. 1 draft choice next year.

And consider this: After Claude Lemieux's hit on Kris Draper last year, Draper let it be known that at least one member of the Avs had told him it was a cheap shot. Draper wouldn't identify that player.Some of us guessed that because Simon was a junior hockey teammate of Draper's, the sympathizer might have been Simon. Maybe the Avs guessed that, too.

Whatever. To chalk up any they-missed-Simon viewpoint to hockey illiteracy, as Crawford seemed to do, seemed almost paranoid. (By the way, the Avs missed the reliable Leschyshyn in the playoffs - probably more than they missed Simon.)

At that same news conference, Lacroix acknowledged that he spent much of the season attempting to acquire a suitable "enforcer" replacement for Simon. If Simon was that irrelevant, why was Colorado so intent on trying to find another guy just like him? Lacroix was insistent: It was a business decision. Period. No, it was more about stubbornness, not dollars.

Moreover, it was no secret around the NHL all season that teams didn't have as much respect for the Avs' physical toughness as they did in 1995-96. Even Peter Forsberg's father, Kent, the coach of the Swedish national team, openly talked about the punishment his son was taking.  

 
 
 
A Puncher's Chance

The Washington Post -- December 6, 1996
By Michael Wilbon

The Washington Capitals acquired a fighter and, lo and behold, a hockey player broke out.

Chris Simon, for the most part, has been an enforcer. A hammer. A guy who pounds people for a living. He never was without skills; he even had some of the more subtle ones. But he kept growing, to 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, and junior coaches said the quickest way for him to get to the NHL was as a ruffian. So he obliged. He earned a team-high 250 penalty minutes last year in 64 games with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

But there was always a flip side. He also scored 16 goals in those games, 13 in the second half of the season. The Capitals had been keeping an eye on him for some time. They brought him in to help free up space on the ice for leading goal scorer Peter Bondra, and damned if they didn't get a bonus: 6 goals and 11 points in 12 games. He hasn't had a fight yet, even if he was penalized erroneously Wednesday night for being in one against Detroit.

But the thing he always wanted was the chance to be a complete player, to be depended upon to do more than hammer.

Talk about getting what you ask for. 


  Jeremy May, Denver, Colo.
Although GM Pierre Lacroix has worked wonders for the Colorado Avalanche over the past few years, a lot of people in Denver still wish Chris Simon was wearing an Avs jersey. Does anyone think that the March 26th, 1997 debacle in Detroit would have happened with Simon on the ice? I doubt it and it can be argued that it was that game that rallied the Wings to the Cup that year.  

 
March 5,
1990 
Quebec trades LW Michel Goulet and G Greg Millen to Chicago for LW Daniel Vincelette, LW Everett Sanipass and D Mario Doyon
March 6,
1990 
Quebec trades C Peter Stastny for D Craig Wolanin and future considerations (Randy Velischek)
 

Talk about a purging. Spiraling toward a last-place finish, Quebec GM Maurice Filion traded the franchise's two all-time leading scorers on consecutive days. Things were so miserable at Le Colisee that fans could barely muster a complaint and the subsequent move to Colorado has further diluted history, but it does seem a shame that Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny had to play the role of scapegoat.

"Considering we finished 19th overall three years ago, 21st last year and likely the same again this year, it would have been catastrophic to start next season with the same players," Filion said at the time. "If your house was on fire, you'd try to get some water to put it out. The fire has been raging for three years with the Nordiques. We're trying to put it out with young players, even if there's just the foundation left to save."

At one time, Goulet and Stastny were the foundation.

Goulet was the franchise's first NHL draft pick, going 20th overall in 1979 for the expansion Nordiques. He averaged 46 goals over his first nine NHL seasons, but dropped to 26 in 1998-89 and had just 16 in 57 games in 1989-90.

Upon being traded, Goulet said, ''at least now I've got a fighting chance to get my name on the Stanley Cup.'' First he had to fight his way out of Mike Keenan's doghouse, then he had to fight to keep his place in the lineup when the 'Hawks lost to the Penguins in the 1992 finals. A devastating head injury would force Goulet to retire ringless two years later.

Stastny was an imported treasure, a Czech star who signed as a free agent and played alongside his brothers Anton and Marian. He scored 380 goals in 10 seasons and helped forge the way for other Europeans in the NHL. He played three seasons in New Jersey and a handful of games for St. Louis before retiring.

  Stastny Says He Is Glad to Be Free Again
Newsday -- March 9, 1990
By Bob Glauber

Part of Peter Stastny was saddened by his trade Tuesday from the Nordiques to the Devils.

  Peter Stastny Peter Stastny scored 380 goals for Quebec. Topps Trading Cards
Yet another part felt nearly as liberated as the people of his native Czechoslovakia, whose recent push toward democracy has created a heightened sense of freedom.

"On the one hand, it's difficult to turn the page after 10 years," said Stastny, 33, a center whom the Devils acquired in exchange for defenseman Craig Wolanin and future considerations. "My whole family was strongly attached to the people, the community and the city."

Yet Stastny wasn't quite so attached. The incessant criticism he endured during the lean times - and there have been plenty in Quebec - made life difficult. Even though he had been the Nordiques' most gifted player since his arrival in 1980, he was often the first to be blamed for the team's failures.

"I felt a lot of pressure in Quebec," said Stastny, who made his debut with the Devils in last night's 4-2 win over the Islanders at Meadowlands Arena. "There is so much coverage in the media, and there was no escape from hockey up there. When you win, you get all the praise, but when you lose, the key guys usually get the blame." 

 
 
 
Goulet can pass torch with Nords

The Montreal Gazette -- March 17, 1995
By Jack Todd

If the Nordiques were into this torch-passing stuff, you'd have to figure that Michel Goulet has passed the torch into steady hands.

Before moving on to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990, Goulet scored 456 of his 548 career goals for the Nordiques, a team record that still stands, as does his single-season mark of 57 set in 1982-83. But on the Nordiques' team that took the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Goulet would be just one more ace in a deck of aces.

A year to the night after a scarifying crash at the Forum left him with a career-ending head injury, Goulet's jersey was retired by the Nordiques in a pre-game ceremony that featured a squad of riflemen in 18th-century uniforms and lasted roughly as long as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Goulet became only the third Nordique to have his jersey retired and the first who was not a former Canadien; Marc Tardif's number 8 and the late Jean-Claude Tremblay's No. 3 preceded Goulet's No. 16 to the rafters at the Colisee.

With the crowd chanting "Gou! Gou! Gou!" Goulet took a few dipsey- doodles around the ice, reminding us all that a head injury, not a leg injury, caused his retirement. The reaction of the crowd reminded you of what Goulet was -- a sniper. You don't get all those people standing and cheering because you stood around the league for eight or 10 years grabbing the sweaters of faster players so you could extend your career by another season or two. 


 
June 28,
1994 
Quebec trades C Mats Sundin, D Garth Butcher,
LW Todd Warriner and a 1st-round pick (later traded to Washington, who picked D Nolan Baumgartner) for LW Wendel Clark, D Sylvain Lefebvre, RW Landon Wilson and a 1st-round pick (Jeffrey Kealty)
 

Wendel Clark A Nordique for one season, Clark appeared to still be a Maple Leaf at heart. Robert Laberge/Allsport
 
Folks in Toronto had a big problem with this trade, too, but for entirely different reasons. Their emotional attachment to
Wendel Clark is not something that carried over to Quebec fans. And the mystique of Captain Wendel turned out to be more intertwined with Toronto than anybody would have suspected.

After just one season in Quebec, which included a first-round flameout in the playoffs, Clark became entangled in a contract dispute and was traded for Claude Lemieux. It was the end of the Nordiques, as well, as the franchise was moving to Colorado, where Lemieux would help the Avalanche win a Cup.

Sundin, a former No. 1 overall pick by Quebec, was finding himself overshadowed by the likes of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. But in a perfect world, Quebec might have been better off holding on to him now that Clark is retired and Lemieux is on the down slope of his career.

  Clark, Lacroix Exchange Barbs
The Denver Post -- September 27, 1995
By Adrian Dater

TORONTO - On their way through Canadian Customs yesterday in Toronto, a government official had only one question to ask a member of the Colorado Avalanche's traveling party: Where's Wendel?

The whereabouts of Avalanche holdout Wendel Clark is big news in Toronto. He's considered one of most beloved players in Maple Leafs history after playing there from 1985-94.

Ever since he was traded from Toronto to the Quebec Nordiques last year, fans here eagerly have awaited his first return game in Maple Leaf Gardens. But an injury in the preseason, then the NHL lockout prevented Clark from making a return last season.

Tonight, he won't play because of a bitter contract dispute with Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix.

Clark hasn't spoken publicly about the dispute, until yesterday that is. And it is clear the 10-year veteran is unhappy about the situation.

"I've played 10 years in this league and I've never had a contract squabble," Clark told the Toronto Star. "They said all those years in Toronto that we had bad management, but I never had trouble. Through (former general managers) Harold Ballard and Gerry McNamara and then Gord Stellick and Cliff Fletcher, I never had a problem. I've never been a person that caused problems."

Clark, who said he was given a handshake agreement by Lacroix to renegotiate his current contract that has one year left at $1.05 million (Canadian), blasted Lacroix's negotiating style.

"They didn't make an offer during the summer, then all of a sudden I didn't show up for the first few days of camp and they finally make an offer," Clark said. "That's not what I call being taken care of." 


  Ted Dahlman, Tulsa, Okla.
I got hooked on hockey when the Quebec Nordiques made Mats Sundin the first European player to be drafted #1 overall. I followed the team from the cellar to Colorado and the cup, but it wasn't the same for me after they sent Sundin to the Maple Leafs for Wendel Clark. I still can't fathom how they could give up that much talent to get that much age.  


 
October 29,
1998 
Colorado trades LW Eric Lacroix
to L.A. for C Roman Vopat and a 6th-round pick
 

  Eric Lacroix Eric Lacroix: For the last time, dude, no, I can't ask my dad to give you "Jagr-like coin." Nevin Reid/Allsport
At some point in life, every son must wonder just how much he means to his father. Well, Eric Lacroix found out ... a journeyman center and a sixth-round pick. And the journeyman was traded again two weeks later. Gee, thanks, dad. While this trade probably doesn't cause too many bar fights, it probably made for some good conversation around the Lacroix table at Thanksgiving.

Actually, it was Eric who requested the trade after teammates made it clear that they were uncomfortable sharing the locker room with the general manager's son. A poor start and some internal turmoil will do that.

"We have the same name," Eric Lacroix said. "We all knew the situation. You can't take away the fact that we're father and son. It's no mystery. I could sense the situation was becoming uncomfortable between my teammates and myself," he said. "I decided it was time to go."

"I could not be the dad,'' said Pierre Lacroix. ''I had to be the GM."

  One less Lacroix:
GM Heeds Son's Request, Sends Him to Kings

The Denver Post -- October 30. 1998
By Adrian Dater

When Eric Lacroix was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche shortly after it won the Stanley Cup in 1996, everything about the deal looked right.

In exchange for a disgruntled backup goalie, Stephane Fiset, and a No. 1 draft choice, the Avs got what looked like a top-10 draft pick, along with a promising young left wing in Lacroix, who would only further solidify the team's enormous depth.

It wasn't long before Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix was being lauded for the trade, just another in a line of skillful moves that had already propelled the Avs to the top of the hockey world.

But it also wasn't long before Eric Lacroix was asked for the first of what would be dozens of times: So, how does it feel to play for a team where your father is the boss? Eric Lacroix always seemed a bit awkward answering the question, but he won't have to answer it anymore. ...

... Every player on the Avs seemed to like Eric Lacroix as a person. But being the son of the G.M. is awkward, even under the best of circumstances. He came to a team that had just won a Stanley Cup, then was signed to a three-year contract the year after several other players were let go in trades or through free agency - sometimes because of financial considerations.

"It's clear -- Eric the person had no problem with anybody," Pierre Lacroix said. "He was a victim of the circumstance. Any player in this room will tell you that. When I made the trade for him, I was totally conscious that one day I would have to do something like this." 


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