David Jones has made a remarkable recovery since suffering what appeared to be a career-threatening knee injury three seasons ago, when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament after getting off to the best start of his fledgling NHL career.
Hard work and perseverance have paid off in more ways than one for the former Dartmouth College star, who has totaled 47 goals and 35 assists for the Avalanche over the last two seasons, and on June 10 he was rewarded with a four-year, $16 million contract.
Jones, who turns 28 in August, would have been a valuable commodity on the free agent market July 1 if he had chosen to go that route, but he wanted to remain with the Avalanche, which made him a ninth-round pick (288th overall) in the 2003 draft.
The fact that the Avalanche probably overpaid for Jones, who made $2.5 million last season, was another factor.
"I really wanted to come back and I felt that (the Avalanche) wanted me back, so it's just great to get a deal done this early in the summer and just know that I'll be back with the Avs and be there for the next four years," said Jones, who had 20 goals -- five game-winners -- and 17 assists in 72 games last season.
Jones, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward, can play either wing and owns deceptive speed for a big man. He scored 11 goals in the Avalanche's final 28 games to reach the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive year after sharing the team goal-scoring lead with 27 goals in 2010-11.
"I had a little bit of tough luck in the first couple of years," said Jones, who was limited to 40 games in 2008-09 because of a shoulder injury and to 23 games the following season, when he had to recover from the knee injury after scoring 10 goals in the first 23 games. "It's tough to battle through that, but I've pretty much had two full healthy years -- the last two years -- and I think I've shown that I can be a player in this league and I hope to do that moving forward."
The Avalanche missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year but improved by 20 points in the standings to finish 41-35-6 and give hope that better things are in store in the immediate future.
"We've made small steps the last few seasons," Jones said. "This year, down the stretch, we were real close. It was a real tight race."
The Avalanche had a 14-17-1 record on Dec. 15 after turning a 4-2 third period lead in San Jose into a disheartening 5-4 loss. But the Avalanche rebounded to climb back into playoff contention by winning nine of the next 10 games, with four of the victories coming on the road.
As well as the Avalanche played against Eastern Conference teams, posting a 13-4-1 record, the club went 28-31-5 against the West and was a dismal 8-14-1 against Northwest Division opponents, only one of which -- Vancouver -- made the playoffs. The Avalanche went 0-4-2 against the Canucks, twice blowing third-period leads on home ice and settling for shootout and overtime defeats that cost it two valuable points. Colorado lost four of six games to Calgary, all in regulation, and had to win the final two meetings against both Minnesota and Edmonton just to finish 3-3 against each of those sub-.500 teams.
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