Following an injury-plagued 2001-02 and a listless start to last
season, Colorado left wing Alex Tanguay, a former first-round
draft pick, was in coach Bob Hartley's doghouse. By late November
2002, when Tanguay was nearly traded to the Bruins (Boston backed
out at the last minute), it appeared he and the Avalanche had
less of a future together than Liza and David.
Everything changed a few weeks later, however, when Hartley was
fired and replaced by Tony Granato. After getting only three
goals, 10 points and having a plus-minus rating of zero in 31
games under Hartley last season, Tanguay had 31 goals, 57 assists
and was +44 in his 74 matches under Granato (from last December
through Saturday). What's more, his 31 points this season is
second in the NHL. "Last year I got caught up in the trade
rumors," says the 24-year-old Tanguay, who scored the 2001
Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against the Devils. "I wasn't
focusing on hockey as much as I should have."
Tanguay was in a funk long before the trade talk started. During
the '01-02 season, his third in the league, he suffered from a
bruised ankle and migraines related to a sinus ailment. He played
passively and was indecisive with the puck; his goal production
dropped from 27 in '00-01 to 13. Hartley's gruff, confrontational
style--not to mention a reduction in ice time last season--made
it difficult for Tanguay to regain his confidence.
So it was no coincidence that his rejuvenation began with
Hartley's departure. Granato brought a more relaxed presence to
the dressing room, and he even told Tanguay to think of the
coaching change as a chance for a fresh start. Perhaps most
important, he shifted Tanguay to a line with All-Stars Peter
Forsberg and Milan Hejduk, a move that would boost any player's
production. Feeling better physically and mentally, Tanguay began
playing with more verve and creativity, breaking a 16-game
goal-scoring drought in Granato's first match behind the bench.
This season he has been Colorado's most consistent forward. "Alex
is the kind of player who needs to feel comfortable," says
Granato. "He's got great talent, and you want him to be able to
do the things you know he can do."
COLOR PHOTO: BILL WIPPERT (INSET) Since Hartley (inset) was fired last December, Tanguay has 88points in 74 games.
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN BAHR/GETTY IMAGES [See caption above]