Too old. Too slow. The game passed him by. Throw-in. Had to take him.

Those were some of the unflattering things said about Cory Sarich when a trade sending him from the Calgary Flames to the Avalanche was announced this summer right before the NHL draft. He was a 35-year-old defenseman who often was a healthy scratch with one of the worst teams in the league last season. Expectations were low for the native of Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Could he even stick with the Avs?

The answer: a resounding yes. Nobody is ready to hand him a Norris Trophy just yet but Sarich has been the Avs' best defenseman in their 3-0 start. After Tuesday's game at Toronto — where he scored his first goal in 65 games and only his 21st in 918 games overall — Sarich has a plus-5 rating.

He is averaging 18:44 of ice time for coach Patrick Roy paired with a fellow newcomer to the Avs Andre Benoit. He is sticking it to the Flames whom Sarich said didn't have faith in him.

"It was just the opinion of a coach. Or coaches" said Sarich whose Flames were coached last season and still are by former Avs bench boss Bob Hartley. "The last two years they didn't play me for a bit and then I come back and I was — not to toot my own horn or anything — but I was a really solid defenseman for our team. It just seems that the start of every season it gets overlooked a little bit. So it's nice to have some people putting some faith in me again."

Sarich has had a good NHL career since being drafted 27th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1996. He won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and was a favorite of the coach of that team John Tortorella. He was the NHL's reigning ironman at one time playing 419 consecutive games a streak that ended in 2007 because of an injury. He went on to sign a big free-agent contract with Calgary in 2007 and had some good years there including two trips to the playoffs.

But Sarich missed 40 games the past two seasons because of injuries or coach's decisions. He has quickly become a favorite of his new coach.