Three Michigan Wolverines win Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche

Apologies and respect to all Detroit Red Wings fans reading this who still hold grudges against the most damning NHL rivalry known to man. I understand. Just skip the first two paragraphs if it keeps you sane.

The Colorado Avalanche have been on a steady climb since Jared Bednar’s appointment as head coach in 2016. And this year, after defeating Norris Trophy finalist Roman Yosi and the Nashville Predators by bulldozers in the first round; bringing down a resilient St. Louis Blues team in the dwindling seconds of a series-defining Game 6; defeated Connor McDavid and the prolific Edmonton Oilers in a streak averaging 8.75 goals per game; With defeats of the Evil Empire and the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Bednar and the Avalanche have reached the pinnacle and are the 2022 Stanley Cup Champions.

While the stars (Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri) were great, three Wolverines of varying degrees of use were shuffled among the winners.

Forward Andrew Cogliano (UM: 2005-07)

NHL Ironman Andrew Cogliano once played in 850 straight NHL games before being sidelined by suspension. This series is all the more impressive given Cogliano’s physical style of play and appealing to teams that need forward depth.

After Cogliano was made available by the tumbling San Jose Sharks for the March deadline, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic wasted no time in acquiring the accomplished veteran.

While Cogliano’s name won’t take up an entire stat list, his defensive backcheck efforts and intensity were an integral part of Colorado’s penalty shootouts, especially against the powerful Lightning. Despite being restricted in most of the playoffs with a hand injury, Cogliano prevailed and earned three of his six playoff points in the Stanley Cup Finals to secure a Colorado victory.

Cogliano will attract the interest of every potential cup contender for a short-term deal and another boost at another cup this off-season. To quote Tom Brady when asked about his favorite championship: “The next one.”

Forward JT Compher (UM: 2013-16)

Despite being drafted by the Buffalo Sabers, JT Compher has played his entire career with the Avalanche. During his tenure, Compher has experienced some ups and downs with the organization due to injuries or disruptions due to Covid-19.

However, in 2021 Compher recorded career highs in goals (18) and points (33). And in the postseason – although he mostly hopped between third and fourth rows – Compher recorded eight points and five goals en route to the Cup.

Compher has one year left on his contract and with his key reserve production, an extension could be in his future. But if Sakic decides to go ahead, at least Compher has his name engraved beforehand.

Defense Attorney Jack Johnson (UM: 2005-07)

Jack Johnson has been in the NHL since the George W. Bush administration and has constantly been on the brink of greatness. Johnson was drafted third overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005 and despite his high selection, Johnson moved to Cogliano and visited Michigan to further develop his skills for the professional level.

A wise decision, apart from the fact that the Hurricanes had a crazy run and won the Stanley Cup that same year.

Later in his career – now with the Los Angeles Kings – Johnson was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in February 2012. Despite finishing No. 8 in the NHL playoffs that followed, the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Johnson joined the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers later in his career, only making it to the Avalanche after successfully completing a professional tryout (PTO) with the team in September.

Despite meeting the league minimum and being the oldest player on the roster, 2021 was a stellar year for Johnson for a number of reasons. Not only did he play 74 games (including his 1,000th NHL game of his career) and lift his first trophy, he also eventually earned his general studies degree in Michigan.

Retirement seems imminent and there’s no better place for Johnson to go out.

A Trade Deadline Acquisition, Avalanche Lifer and a veteran all have one thing in common: Michigan. Now they have two: Stanley Cup Champions.

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