Tonight, the Colorado Avalanche will retire Adam Foote's jersey, in Columbus, not so much. In Columbus, Foote left behind a legacy of 'me first', a Captain forcing his way out of town because that meany Hitchcock was actually forcing him to take responsibility for the room. The wife didn't like Columbus, Hitch was making them work for their money, and a budding playoff run is snuffed out in a cloud of kerosene fumes from the waiting private jet that whisked Foote back to Colorado (via Minnesota I believe).
Foote's betrayal still reverberates through the organization today. The current organization is in no hurry to name a Captain, because Foote, and his successor Nash, both forced their way out of town. The organization recognizes that this cannot be allowed to happen again, so a captain must be found who can lead over the long term. The organization has been purged of all those who were there on that fateful day, with the exception of Boll and MacKenzie, who you will note were on one of our more effective lines last night.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. By bringing in Foote and Fedorov, Doug MacLean had vaulted the team towards respectability. But it turns out that during that pesky lockout, they got serious about holding, hooking, and obstruction, all mainstays of Foote's game in the pre-lockout period. I'm not implying he was a dirty player, that's how the game was played before the 05-06 lockout. But it contributed to Foote having difficulty recreating the success he had in Colorado, and instead of a physical force, he was old and slow.
But Foote played the role of the stalwart. Hitchcock came in as coach, and began forging the team that would ultimately make the playoffs. In his second year, Hitch was squeezing all the hockey they had out of them, battling the locker room the whole way. Finally, in a rare Eastern conference swing through Eastern Canada, the CBJ turned in a stinker against a really bad Toronto team. The following day, Hitch pulled the coaches off the ice in practice, forcing the players to assume responsibility for their preparation. Indeed, it seemed to work, as they turned in a great performance against the Habs in the next game, beating them in Pascal LeClaire's return home. The team was poising itself for a run at the playoffs, hovering around .500.
Within two weeks, Foote was gone, leveraging a massive contract demand, and Colorado's offer of a first round pick into his exit. The young GM Howson made the right choice, and Foote was gone. The stories of a jet waiting on the runway, and the gear that was already prepared for him for the Avs game in Minnesota surfaced later.
In the jet wash vacuum, the young CBJ went into a tailspin, and fell out of the playoff hunt. By the year's end, Nash had forced his way into the Captaincy, foreshadowing a spirited run to the playoffs, followed by a multi-year collapse. Foote's legacy of abandonment has lived on, and it has taken extreme measures to try to stamp it out. Perhaps this year we will finally exorcise this ghost, while Colorado hangs his jersey in the rafters. That could have happened here. But it won't.