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In-Depth Look at Season Openers

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche and seven other teams will kick off their 2008-09 regular season schedules on North American soil tomorrow.

Here are some impressive feats from past season openers and additional storylines to keep an eye on during Colorado’s 2008-09 opener and beyond.

First Out of the Gate
Through the franchise’s first 28 seasons, the Avalanche/Nordiques have posted a 16-5-7 record during season openers, topping all NHL teams with a .696 winning percentage. The Colorado/Quebec franchise actually trailed the Ottawa Senators (8-2-5; .700) heading into the 2008-09 season, but the Senators lost their season opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm by a 4-3 count in overtime, dropping the club’s winning percentage to .688.

Good at Home Too
In 13 openers held at home, the Avs/Nordiques franchise has the league’s fourth-best winning percentage (8-2-3; .731%). If you discount teams that have played less than 10 season openers at home – Minnesota (4) and Florida (7) – that leaves the Colorado/Quebec franchise trailing only New Jersey (11-0-5; .844) in terms of winning percentage.

The franchise is 20-4-4 all-time in home openers – including an 8-1-3 mark since moving to Denver and a 6-0-2 record at Pepsi Center.

Perfect So Far
Thursday’s game will mark Tony Granato’s second season opener as the Avalanche’s head coach. Granato won his previous opener – an Oct. 10, 2003 matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks – by a 5-0 count at Pepsi Center.

Paul Stastny is one of only two active players to have notched a hat trick on opening night
Hat trick highlights
Make it Three…
Avalanche center Paul Stastny is one of only two active players to have recorded three or more goals in a season opener. Stastny achieved the feat on Oct. 3, 2007 when he kicked off his sophomore campaign with a hat trick against the Dallas Stars.

Current Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne also accomplished the feat as a member of the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 6, 1993 against the Washington Capitals.

..or Four
Offseason acquisition Darcy Tucker is one of three active players to record four assists in a season opener. Tucker notched four helpers in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 10, 2002. Mark Recchi (Montreal, 10/10/98) and Steve Reinprecht (Phoenix, 10/5/06) are the two other active players to accomplish the feat.

Lighting the Lamp
No active player has more career goals in season openers than Avalanche captain Joe Sakic. Entering his 20th season, Sakic has lit the lamp 11 times to start the season. Washington’s Victor Kozlov, who has accomplished the feat 10 times, is Sakic’s closest competitor.

Climbing the Ranks
Sakic also ranks first among current NHL players with 26 points (11g/15a) in season openers. Looking at the historical ranks, Sakic trails only Ray Bourque (30), Jaromir Jagr (30) and Wayne Gretzky (27) in that department.

Within Reach
Sakic and a couple of his teammates are within striking distance of hitting some impressive milestones. The captain needs 28 assists to pass Mario Lemieux (1,033) for 10th place on the all-time list, 35 helpers to pass Marcel Dionne (1,040) for ninth place and 44 assists to surpass Gordie Howe (1,049) for eighth.

In addition, Sakic’s 623 career goals ranks 14th all-time. Sakic could move even further up the ranks this season, as he currently sits behind players such as Dave Andreychuk (640) and Jagr (646).

Meanwhile, Adam Foote is on the verge of appearing in his 1,000th career NHL game. The defenseman currently sits two games shy at 998 and could reach the milestone as soon as Sunday, Oct. 12 at Edmonton.

Ian Laperriere (927 career games) could also hit the 1,000-game mark if he skates in 73 contests this season.

Home Sweet Home
It’s no secret that Sakic will be entering his 20th season having played his entire career with a single franchise. Dallas Stars center Mike Modano also enters his 20th year with the Dallas/Minnesota organization. Modano didn’t play during the 1988-89 regular season with the Minnesota North Stars (Sakic’s rookie year), but did appear in two postseason contests that season.

Only Hall of Fame centers Alex Delvecchio (Detroit, 24 seasons), Steve Yzerman (Detroit, 22 seasons) and Stan Mikita (Chicago, 22 seasons) enjoyed longer NHL careers with only one club in terms of games played.

Sakic, who has skated in 1,363 career games with the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise, currently ranks fourth on the list of most career games for players having skated with just one club.

The Burnaby, B.C., native needs to appear in 32 games to pass Mikita for third on the all-time list, while Modano could also leapfrog the Blackhawks legend if he skates in 75 contests.


1. Alex Delvecchio, Det.     1,549
2. Steve Yzerman, Det.      1,514
3. Stan Mikita, Chi.             1,394
4. Joe Sakic, Col.              1,363*
5. Mike Modano, Dal.         1,320*



Player                              Seasons               Team                           Years                       
Alex Delvecchio             24 seasons          Detroit                        1950-51 to 1973-74
Stan Mikita                      22 seasons          Chicago                     1958-59 to 1979-80
Steve Yzerman               22 seasons          Detroit                        1983-84 to 2005-06
George Armstrong        21 seasons          Toronto                      1949-50 to 1970-71
Jean Beliveau                20 seasons          Montreal                    1950-51 to 1970-71
Dit Clapper                     20 seasons          Boston                       1927-28 to 1946-47
Ken Daneyko                 20 seasons          New Jersey               1983-84 to 2002-03
Henri Richard                20 seasons          Montreal                     1955-56 to 1974-75
Joe Sakic                       20 seasons          Quebec/Colorado    1988-89 to present
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