Jan 302011
 
Authors: Joel Hafnor

Believe it or not, it’s been 10 years since the state of Colorado last captured a major sports championship.

I was only 12 years old when the Colorado Avalanche knocked off the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.

Since then, we’ve come painfully close on several occasions (2001-02 Avalanche, 2005 Broncos, 2007 Rockies, 2008-09 Nuggets), but have fallen short each time.

So, how much longer are we going to have to wait? And which team has the best chance to end the drought?

I set out to answer those questions in this week’s column. Here is a look at the four major Colorado sports teams, in reverse order of how close they are to winning it all:

Denver Nuggets (next championship: 2038)
Two seasons ago, I would’ve called you crazy if you tried telling me the Nuggets were the furthest team in Colorado from a championship; but now it’s a reality. Every indication is that Carmelo Anthony will walk away from the team after his seventh season in Denver.

If Melo walks at season’s end, I would suggest the Nuggets decline to pick up Chauncey Billups 2011-12 team option, and begin a complete rebuilding project. Ty Lawson would be practically our only returning piece, and we could sign a few high-end free agents with the cap space freed up by Anthony, Billups, J.R. Smith, and Kenyon “I don’t care about nothin’” Martin.

Unfortunately we have Al Harrington’s massive contract for the next few years, so look forward to more of his three-point launching!

This is a team that may make the playoffs this season, but don’t be fooled, they are nowhere near championship material.

Denver Broncos (next championship: 2025)
The Broncos are currently the worst team in the state, no question. They were an embarrassment this year, posting the worst record in the AFC at 4-12.

But there is hope for Broncos Nation. A lot of that hope has to do with the firing of Joshua McDaniels.

He not only drove premiere talent out of Denver (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Peyton Hillis), he drafted like a 15-year-old kid playing Madden. He routinely spent top picks on nothing but skill position players (Moreno, Thomas, Tebow) and pulled one of the more ingenious moves of all-time by trading a future first round pick for a second round pick in 2009. Nice work, Joshua.

Coach John Fox will bring a hard-nose style of football to Denver. With the 2nd overall pick in April, either Nick Fairley or Da’Quan Bowers will bring clout to a defensive line that has been in desperate need of a game changing presence for some time.

Still, building a Super Bowl-winning team is quite the task. Especially when you have to clean up a mess like the one McDaniels left in Denver. I hate you Joshua.

Colorado Avalanche (next championship: 2016)
The Avs have arguably the most talented group of youngsters in the NHL. It all starts with Matt Duchene, who was selected 3rd overall in the 2009 NHL draft. He is quickly maturing into one of the most electric players in the league.

But he isn’t alone. Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly, T.J. Galiardi and Kevin Shattenkirk are all key members of the team under the age of 25.

It’s scary to think what this unit will accomplish with a few more years of experience. In the parody-filled NHL, a team like the Avalanche could be Stanley Cup material as soon as next season. Stay tuned.

Colorado Rockies (next championship: 2012)
The Rockies have two of the top-5 offensive players in the National League, a Cy Young award contender and a nice blend of second-tier starters and role-playing fielders.

Maybe 2012 is a bit ambitious, but I’m sticking to it (mainly because I’m tired of waiting). In order for this forecast to become reality, the Rockies must find a way to support Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in the batting order. It was a two-man show from about August onward in 2010, as the team stumbled down the stretch.

And for goodness sakes, Jim Tracy, please be careful with Ubaldo Jimenez. Far too often Tracy opted to leave Jimenez in games with pitch counts surpassing 110. With how violent “The U” is with his release, I fear a major elbow injury in the very near future if Tracy doesn’t start being more careful.

And if “The U” goes down, go ahead and add 100 years to my prediction.

Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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