For a long time, Claude Lemieux wasn’t only the most despised member of the Colorado Avalanche, he also led the league in sheer tonnage of vitriol received.
With the Avs’ signing of Darcy Tucker Tuesday afternoon, the spirit of Lemieux will rise again in Denver.
Now, don’t go handing over the former Maple Leaf a Conn Smythe Trophy just yet. As new Leafs coach Ron Wilson astutely noted, Tucker has been worn down in recent years because of his rough-and-tumble style of play; and at age 33, he isn’t likely to morph into a picture of health between now and the conclusion of the two-year, $4.5 million contract he agreed to with Colorado.
However, those who believe Tucker’s tank is completely empty simply aren’t giving the Alberta native enough of his due.
A big part of Tucker’s problems in Toronto this season came because of the presence of Jason Blake, who was signed by the Leafs last summer as an unrestricted free agent. The two players basically were being asked to perform the same role (i.e., an agitating, goal-scoring winger who could be a big part of the power play) while they ate into each other’s minutes – and because of their high salaries, each player became open to accusations of under-performance.
Tucker will be utilized more effectively by Colorado’s coaches, who will likely limit his 5-on-5 minutes and ask him to help improve what was the league’s third-worst power play this season. But more than anything, his swagger and snarl was the reason Avalanche GM Francois Giguere outspent the winger’s other suitors.
You can debate what’s left of Tucker’s hockey skills, but you can’t say he’s turned into Mr. Humility. And the Avs, who still seem to be searching for a clear identity in the post-lockout NHL, need a guy like that.