Peter Forsberg’s Legacy of Delusion

Peter Forsberg
Photo by Mafue

Ultimately, Peter Forsberg’s legacy won’t be his place as one of the league’s great two-way players. He won’t be remembered for playing with the soul of a grinder and hands as good as any NHL finesse player.

In the end, Forsberg will be remembered as a player who refused to accept his physical limitations.

And in the end, that refusal will be remembered in both positive and negative lights.

Because it’s no coincidence the Colorado Avalanche’s eight-game losing streak coincides with Forsberg’s comeback attempt.

Even right to the end, coach Joe Sacco denied Forsberg’s eventually-aborted comeback attempt was a distraction: “We don’t want to have distractions right now, moving forward, and certainly Peter wasn’t anything [like] that…I don’t think [Forsberg’s retirement] should have any real implications as far as what we’re doing here.”

But of course if something really isn’t a distraction, you usually don’t have to explicitly say it isn’t.

Forsberg’s comeback was a distraction to a young, injury-rattled Avalanche team. And his retirement, right in the middle of a seven-game losing streak didn’t help things.

What if Forsberg had held on until the Avs put up a win or two? Why couldn’t he tough it out until the losing streak was over?

In the end Forsberg’s comeback and retirement were about selfish personal goals, unusual behavior for a player known for his on-ice selflessness.

In fact, watching Forsberg’s almost compulsive attempts to return to the NHL, it seems fairly safe to say he became consumed by the idea of returning to some kind of past physical form. He seemed to think this past form was achievable, even as his body aged and changed. And even with chronic foot problems.

Forsberg’s teammates seemed genuinely surprised he was calling off the comeback so soon. It’s because Forsberg really didn’t look so bad. And because it takes a while to get into NHL shape. While Forsberg quit after his second game back, he was comparing himself to guys who had been playing half a season. Obviously, there was going to be a conditioning curve.

But once he was back, Forsberg thought he wouldn’t be able to return to that magical performance level he carries around in his heart. So he just gave up, leaving a struggling team to deal with the wake of his retirement, refusing to play at what he considers to be a sub-par level, so that his team might snap a horrible losing streak.

The Forsberg retirement talk will die down in a few days. The Avalanche will be able to forget about his retirement and will be allowed to focus on putting together a win.

But in the future, when we think of Forsberg and his career, it’ll be hard not to think of the player who put his own compulsions to return to a past physical performance level in front of the hopes and dreams of an entire NHL franchise.

Forsberg refused to accept his physical limitations and the 2010-11 Colorado Avalanche paid the price.