Paul Stastny knows what it’s like to be a miserable player with the Colorado Avalanche. He was part of some of those dismal teams that helped land lottery picks in the NHL draft, part of the post-Sakic-Forsberg-Roy player days that propelled a swift decline from the glory days.

But even Stastny has to admit it’s something of a shock when he looks at the standings and sees just how far the Avs have fallen again. After another dreadful effort in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues Sunday night, the Avs’ record dropped to 17-44-3.

It’s not that Stastny is chuckling about it, not like he’s eager to publicly proclaim, “Told you so”, after leaving the Avs as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He still has friends on the Avs, still keeps in touch with several of them. True, he’s a competitor now, a division rival.

If a word could best describe how Stastny feels toward the plight of the Avs, it might be: Empathetic.

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“You look at the standings, and you don’t think that a team…”

Can have that kind of record in this age of parity, Stastny seemed to want to say, before realizing that might come off as too haughty.

“On any given night, (Colorado) can beat the best team, but if you’re not ready, if you don’t play up to top standards. … I’ve been in a situation like (that). You’re a fragile team and you don’t have a lot of confidence. As an opposing team, you just try to get that first one and take the will of that team.”

Stastny was the Blues player who did just that Sunday, scoring three minutes, 56 seconds into the game to give St. Louis the only goal Jake Allen would need in the end. He tapped in a chance around the crease and punctuated the moment by jumping into the glass behind the net where his wife and 18-month-old daughter sat.

Yes, Stastny is a father now, no longer the peach-fuzzy kid who came out of the University of Denver as a sophomore in 2006, after winning back-to-back NCAA titles for George Gwozdecky, and posted 78 points in 82 games of a marvelous rookie season with the Avs.

He’s 31 now, in his third year of a four-year, $28 million contract he signed after a 60-point season for the Avs in 2013-14. It’s not like it’s been all champagne and roses for Stastny since going to his hometown of St. Louis, as the Blues entered Sunday out of the Western Conference playoff picture (the win got them back in, by a point).

He posted only 46 points in 74 games his first year with the Blues, not quite the production they hoped probably from a $7 million-per-year player. Yet, the Blues have been a playoff team the last two seasons, coming within two wins of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring in what was an improved second season personally.

His goal Sunday was his 17th, which would lead the Avs, and more already than he scored those first two years in St. Louis. It was his first goal against the Avs since leaving.

“I think every year is more and more comfortable for me,” Stastny said. “We’ve had some changes too though. There’s always so much change in this league.”

The Avs were caught between a rock and a hard place when it came to Stastny’s situation that final year in Denver. He was eligible to become a UFA when it was over, and the Avs almost certainly would have tried to trade him at the 2014 deadline instead of risking losing him for nothing. But no one counted on the Avs being a division-winning team to that point, and a trade would have made for very bad optics for Avs management with the fans.

So, the Avs kept him with the attitude of “We’re going for it” in the playoffs, but things ended after one round. It’s not like the Avs didn’t make a good-faith effort to re-sign him either. My sources at the time said the Avs offered $6.6 million per year on a new, multi-year contract for him to stay. But the Blues offered more, and off he went to the city where he spent much of his youth, as the son of former Blues and Quebec Nordiques Hall of Famer, Peter Stastny.

The Avs have gotten steadily worse since he left. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying life with a winning organization. But there is nothing he’ll gloat about.

“The whole situation that happened this summer, I think it kind of was tough on them,” said Stastny, alluding to Patrick Roy’s  sudden departure. “But things always keep changing. It’s always great to be back here in Denver, where I had a lot of great memories.”

It all seems like such a long time ago now.


Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling “Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era” and “100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, which was published in October, 2016.

  • Randy

    A Stastny trade may have made for bad optics with some fans, but I was upset that they didn’t trade him. After Denver lost Mutombo, it was obvious that you either sign a pending UFA before the deadline, or you get what you can in trade. If they really want to stay, they’ll sign early. Stamkos was a recent aberration, but in general, they leave once they are UFAs. It hurt the Avs far more to get nothing for Stastny than it benefitted them to have him around for two more wins in the playoffs. At the 2014 deadline, Detroit traded Patrick Eaves (23 goals this year), Calle Jarnkrok (13 goals) and a 3rd round pick for a 33-year-old David Legwand who was a pending UFA who had 10 goals. The Avs surely could have exceeded that haul for a 28-year-old who ended up with 25 goals that year.

  • Max Power

    wow…is this how its going to be Dater? interviewing past Av’s to serve as a platform so they can further your agenda of trashing the Avalanche? you’re despicable and clearly a jaded and miserable person to constantly find ways to show your dislike for this team. I understand the Avalanche arent in a good place and theres problems but harping back to perceived “mistakes” is atrocious “reporting”. since you dont care about this team you probably forgot Stastny was hinting at resigning with the team and was trotting out the “I’ll take a home discount” horse before he bailed on the team.

    • Adrian Dater

      Uh, thanks for reading Max. It’s a beautiful country when we can freely express opinions. I definitely ripped Stastny about 50 times when he played here, and for “bailing” on the team, as you put it too. Don’t think you comprehended the column too well, but oh well. In fact, I used to get ripped on all the time for being a Stastny critic.
      One more thing: when a team is 17-44-3, the coverage will tend to look a little negative to big fans like you. But that’s the job of a journalist: to tell it like it is.