ColoradoAvalanche.com profiles the players named to the Avalanche's 20th Anniversary Team.
Just three days before opening night of the Colorado Avalanche’s inaugural season, former Avs general manager Pierre Lacroix
brought in reigning Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Claude Lemieux
on a three-team deal.
Lemieux was coming off his second Stanley Cup-winning campaign and knew a thing or two about how to win.
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round (26th overall) of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux skated in only 19 regular-season games during his first three professional seasons (1983-1986). However, the Buckingham, Quebec, native began making a reputation for himself in the 1986 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Appearing in 20 postseason contests, Lemieux tallied 15 points (10 goals, five assists) and 68 penalty minutes to help the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
He joined the New Jersey Devils in 1990 and helped that franchise win its first title in 1995 after registering 16 points (13 goals and three assists) in 20 games, earning MVP honors.
When he joined the Avalanche the following season, the right wing picked up where he left off. He skated in 79 contests in 1995-96 and registered 71 points (39 goals, 32 assists), 117 penalty minutes and finished third in the league with 10 game-winning goals.
During the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lemieux tallied 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and 55 penalty minutes in 19 games, helping the Avs to their first title.
“We all realized that we had everything that it took to win,” Lemieux recalled of the 1996 championship team to ColoradoAvalanche.com in 2010. “We had a great run and history will tell that. For me, it was the most talented hockey team I’ve ever played with.”
In 1996-97, the forward suffered an abdominal-muscle tear early in the season and appeared in only 45 games that year. Nonetheless, Lemieux once again did not miss a beat when playoffs rolled around. He set a personal best for playoff points with 23 (13 goals, 10 assists) in only 17 games.
Lemieux skated in 297 career games over the course of five seasons in Colorado, finding the back of the net 106 times and assisting on 106 others for 212 career points with the Avalanche.
He later went on to win his fourth Stanley Cup after he was traded to the New Jersey Devils during the 1999-00 season.
At the end of his career, Lemieux had skated in 1,215 regular-season contests and registered 786 points (379 goals, 407 assists), 58 game-winning goals and totaled 1,777 penalty minutes. He reached the 20-goal mark nine times, posted a career-high 81 points (30 goals, 51 assists) in 1992-93 with New Jersey and topped the 100 penalty-minute mark 10 times.
“I want to thank my former teammates from my entire career for all of their support,” the then 44-year-old said in a statement after announcing his retirement in 2009. “I feel very fortunate that I was able to have a career like I had. There have been many great NHL players who did not get the opportunities to win that I had. I played for a long time, but it went by so very fast.”
The four-time Stanley Cup champion, alongside other members of the Avalanche 20th Anniversary Team, will be honored in a special on-ice ceremony at Pepsi Center on Dec. 7 before Colorado faces off against the Minnesota Wild.