Stuart a welcome addition on Avs’ blue line
By Mike Chambers
As a top-two defenseman at age 34, Brad Stuart might not immediately seem like the solution to the Colorado Avalanche’s inefficiencies last season on the blue line.
But his hometown speaks to Colorado fans as much as his hard-hitting résumé and respect from Avs players.
He’s from Rocky Mountain House, a small city in Alberta, and he’s been beating up on the Avs throughout his NHL career.
Like Avs players, Avs fans will soon appreciate having Stuart on their side. If nothing else, pay attention to Stuart’s skating; his smooth, seemingly-effortless stride gets him in position to make plays as well as anyone in the NHL.
“He’s a really steady influence,” said Erik Johnson, who’s playing with Stuart as the Avs’ top defensive pairing. “He won a Stanley Cup in Detroit (with the Red Wings) and has been on a lot of winning teams.
“He’s approaching his mid-30s, but he really skates well out there. If you can skate in the league, you’re going to be around for a long time, and he can definitely move. He gets up in the play and can get back quickly.”
Stuart and the Avs have a big partnership in place. He was recently given a two-year contract extension, paying him $3.6 million annually through the 2016-17 season. He entered training camp in the final year of a contract he signed with the San Jose Sharks, at $3.6 million as well.
“This is a really skilled team. The future is bright, and I want to contribute and help out with the younger guys,” Stuart said. “When you know what it feels like to win, you want it back. It’s the best, the ultimate. When you experience that you don’t want to go back to just playing, waiting for hope; you want to be playing when it counts, and I think this team has the ability to play deep into the playoffs, and I want to be a part of that.”
Stuart came to Colorado from San Jose at a large cost. The Avs sent the Sharks a second-round draft pick in 2016 and a sixth-rounder in 2017. Stuart waived his limited no-trade clause to come to Colorado after the Sharks self-imploded again in the 2014 playoffs after taking a 3-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
“Yeah, I think it was a good time,” Stuart said of getting out of San Jose, the team that chose him third overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Stuart is beginning his 15th NHL season, and all but one began with a Western Conference team. He’s been a thorn in the Avs’ side while playing for the Sharks (twice), Calgary Flames, Kings and Red Wings. He’s also played for the Boston Bruins.
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Stuart has the innate ability to make big hits without warning. Just ask Avs captain Gabe Landeskog, who suffered a concussion early in the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season from a huge neutral-zone check by Stuart in San Jose.
“He’s a threat,” Landeskog said. “As an opposing forward, you know he’s on the ice, and you have to be aware. He’s a very steady defenseman who’s very mobile. He can gap up or he step up and crush people. He keeps you guessing.”
Avs coach Patrick Roy is happy to have Stuart on his side, playing in all game situations, generally what he’s done throughout his career.
“He’s going to be able to share his past experience, and I’m sure our players will benefit from it,” Roy said.