Sunday, February 6, 2011

Peter Forsberg Returns to Avalanche; Does He Have Anything Left?

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports that Forsberg will sign a contract with the Colorado Avalanche today before the team begins a four-game road trip. Forsberg is supposed to be on the trip, but will not play in tomorrow’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes.  The deal is a one year contract for 1 million dollars, which pro-rated means Forsberg will make approximately one-third of that amount given the time remaining in the season.  The question now is: Does Forsberg have anything left at the NHL to help the Avalanche in their quest to make the playoffs?
Over the past number of years, Forsberg has suffered through foot injuries that forced him out of the NHL despite multiple comeback attempts.  He last played in the NHL in 2008, for the Avalanche.  During that short stint, Forsberg scored one goal and had 13 assists in nine games.
Forsberg has been debating this comeback for some time and over the past few weeks he has been practicing to see if those foot issues would allow him to play an NHL level again.  Apparently he and the Avalanche think he can or one would hope they would not be making this move.  
So will Forsberg be the great Foppa of the pass with his tremendous strength on the puck and unbelievable passing ability or will we see a player who is a shell of their former self who just could not let the game go?
I think what we will find is that as long as the foot allows him to play, the skill will be there for Forsberg to compete at the NHL level.  There will likely be an adjustment period to the speed of the NHL as he experienced just in the course of practicing during this comeback attempt.
"The first couple of practices were tough. It seemed like guys were flying around me. It seemed like I was 47, not 37," Forsberg said. "It might be that case when I get out there playing too, but I've been feeling better and better."
Having said that, there is no debating that the rules right now favor the offensive players and expect Peter to take full advantage of that and be dynamite on the power play. What might be the most interesting to watch is see who coach Joe Sacco puts with Forsberg when he breaks into the lineup.  Whether Forsberg can play at his former level or not, he will provide leadership and experience which is invaluable for younger stars like Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart.
The Avalanche obviously need a spark as they sit 12th in the crowded Western Conference, but the good news is that with as close as the West is this year, 12th is only four points out of the final spot.  To further that point, the Avs are only seven points out the number four seed in the Western Conference.  Can adding another offensive player be enough to overcome the defensive deficiencies that leave the Avalanche where they currently stand?  It can if Forsberg is anything like the Foppa of old because the team will just have to start outscoring their opponents.
"When he's available to us it will be a big boost for us emotionally and a big boost in our lineup," coach Joe Sacco said. "He has a strong history in our organization, but we're not doing it just for that reason. We're doing it because we really believe that he can help us here down the stretch in the last 30 games. We all know how tight the conference is and the importance of these games."
There are a lot of questions still to be answered on the ice, but for now the Avalanche look to have improved their team heading into the stretch drive.