Tonight: Cheer Like Hell for Hejduk
07 Apr 2012
We don’t know what Milan Hejduk’s future holds, so tonight I am going to cheer like hell for Milan Hejduk. In fact, I may cheer every time he touches the puck, just to give him the send off he deserves, lest he not return next season.
I also encourage everyone to check out this nice Adrian Dater feature on him in the Denver Post.
In my opinion, it’s probably ~75% chance that Hejduk doesn’t return next season. There’s probably a 50/50 chance he retires, and the Avs may be ready to move on without him. With the season he’s had, it’s hard to see where he might fit in if he does come back. He’s been (rightfully) demoted to the third line and PPs by coach Joe Sacco this season.
I’m not a fan of telling players when they “should” retire. Playing professional sports is one of the best jobs in the world and one of the most difficult to obtain. The window for playing them is incredibly short. If a once elite player wants to change his role and chip in on the 4th line, that’s all his business. He won’t get another chance at it. If Hejduk wants to play, and he can find a team to take him, I fully support it. Red Wings not withstanding of course
Yet, if he wants to, I think Hejduk is more valuable than a number of players the Avs have signed for next season, and hope the Avs would consider bringing him back in a role more akin to the one he was at the end of the season. Against much tougher competition and similar zone starts he still has much much better possession metrics than a guy like Kobasew. His days on the top six may be over (and they may not, In a 3rd/4th liner on the 2nd PP unit he’s still a valuable player. And he’d be a great mentor for a guy like Olver. In fact a thrid line of Hejduk-Olver-Mueller isn’t the worst third line in the world.
In true Hejdukian form, I’m not sure he gets the respect he deserves locally. I don’t think Ray Borque’s banner raising should be the bar for every Avalanche player, I do think Hejduk’s impact on the franchise measures up favorably to Adam Foote who will (likely) have his number raised to the rafters next season. His Avs franchise rank in vital stats are: GP (1st), Goals (2), Assists (3), Points (2), Shots (2) and GWG (1). Anywhere he isn’t 1 he’s trailing only Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg in assists. That’s pretty damn good company. And the lead he has over #4 in all those categories is substantial.
But we can discuss appropriate honors for Hejduk post career at a later date. He’s still active for maybe just one more game. For that game, at least, we can all chear like hell.