|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2008||[Print without images]|
|Joe Sakic had 13 goals and 40 points in an injury-shortened 44-game season.|
In the interim between the end of the regular season and the opening of Colorado's first-round series against Minnesota, I sat down with Sakic and talked at length about the possibility that he might retire, and what would go into the decision. He made it clear he wouldn't address the issue again once the playoffs started and parried all questions about retirement from the waves of reporters covering the Avalanche's two series. Even after the Avalanche's elimination, he made it clear the emotional moments immediately after an ignominious, but predictable, loss weren't an appropriate setting to go through the possibilities at any length.Sakic was the Avalanche's leading scorer in the postseason with two goals and 10 points in Colorado's 10 games. The point-a-game pace wasn't a glittery total for the Conn Smythe Trophy winner of 12 years ago, but it might be advanced as part of the argument for a return. After the Avalanche's season ended Thursday, there were reminders of the twilight stage of Sakic's career. Chase Sakic, 7, one of Debbie and Joe's three children, tried to navigate the traffic in the crowded Pepsi Center hallway to reach the Colorado dressing room to see his father. A kind Red Wings official, noting the Sakic jersey and figuring out who this kid was, helped direct him. It was before Chase was born that this official, Scotty Bowman, was on the bench for the most acrimonious days of the Avalanche-Red Wings rivalry -- enmity that didn't diminish the respect the fans in both cities had for the opposing No. 19s. Near the Pepsi Center's loading dock, Debbie was introducing Chase's twin, a very shy Kamryn, to Sakic's former teammate, Mike Ricci, now a San Jose scout. When Ricci left the franchise, the Sakics hadn't yet started their family. And then there is the fact that when Sakic does retire, he likely will pass the torch to center Paul Stastny -- whose father, Peter, was a young Joe Sakic's teammate with Quebec. It's difficult to imagine Sakic ever living a significantly diminished on-ice profile with the Avalanche. There will be no third-line or spot duty for him, if he can help it. He won't let it come to quibbling with a coach's difficult decision, or having to suggest that he'd go along with diminished ice time. If Sakic sees that coming in a next season, whenever that is, he will quit. Yes, he has his eye on a possible fourth Olympic appearance for Team Canada in his hometown of Vancouver in 2010. But even then, the possibility of becoming a "mercy" or "honorary" choice to any degree horrifies him. He won't let it come to that, either. "You have to make sure you're still playing at a certain level," he said. "You still have to earn your spot on the team." Finally, the outlook for the Avalanche undoubtedly will come into play, even if it's a peripheral consideration. Colorado's bizarre injury sieges during the regular season and playoffs shouldn't be allowed to obscure the reality that the Avalanche are a step or two (and big steps) below the Red Wings, and perhaps others in the Western Conference. If one of the dreams is of pulling off a Bourque, or in this case raising the Stanley Cup as a captain for a third time to retire on top, Colorado's future and maybe even early offseason decisions and moves could affect Sakic's thinking. Whenever he goes out, it will be on his terms. More power to him.
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of the just-released "'77" and "Third Down and a War to Go."