Following an injury-plagued 2001-02 and a listless start to last season, Colorado left wing Alex Tanguay, a former first-round draft pick, was in coach Bob Hartley's doghouse. By late November 2002, when Tanguay was nearly traded to the Bruins ( Boston backed out at the last minute), it appeared he and the Avalanche had less of a future together than Liza and David.
Everything changed a few weeks later, however, when Hartley was fired and replaced by Tony Granato. After getting only three goals, 10 points and having a plus-minus rating of zero in 31 games under Hartley last season, Tanguay had 31 goals, 57 assists and was +44 in his 74 matches under Granato (from last December through Saturday). What's more, his 31 points this season is second in the NHL. "Last year I got caught up in the trade rumors," says the 24-year-old Tanguay, who scored the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against the Devils. "I wasn't focusing on hockey as much as I should have."
Tanguay was in a funk long before the trade talk started. During the '01-02 season, his third in the league, he suffered from a bruised ankle and migraines related to a sinus ailment. He played passively and was indecisive with the puck; his goal production dropped from 27 in '00-01 to 13. Hartley's gruff, confrontational style—not to mention a reduction in ice time last season—made it difficult for Tanguay to regain his confidence.
So it was no coincidence that his rejuvenation began with Hartley's departure. Granato brought a more relaxed presence to the dressing room, and he even told Tanguay to think of the coaching change as a chance for a fresh start. Perhaps most important, he shifted Tanguay to a line with All-Stars Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk, a move that would boost any player's production. Feeling better physically and mentally, Tanguay began playing with more verve and creativity, breaking a 16-game goal-scoring drought in Granato's first match behind the bench.
This season he has been Colorado's most consistent forward. "Alex is the kind of player who needs to feel comfortable," says Granato. "He's got great talent, and you want him to be able to do the things you know he can do."
Strong Canadian Dollar
Windfall for Teams Up North
As of Sunday the Canadian dollar was worth 77.07 cents U.S., its highest rate of exchange in 10 years. In fact, since January the value of the loonie has risen roughly 21%. That uptick is a huge bonus for the league's six Canadian teams, which get almost all their revenue in Canadian currency but have to pay players (by far a team's biggest expense) in U.S. dollars.
Take the Maple Leafs, for example: At November 2002 exchange rates the club's $54 million U.S. payroll last season was equivalent to $84 million Canadian. This season their U.S. payroll rose to $62 million, but at the current exchange rate it converts to about $81 million Canadian. As the March trading deadline gets closer, Canadian teams may find room in their budgets to acquire players for the stretch run.