Sebastian Hedley-Noble The Hockey Writers
Avalanche Stay Focused on Future
With the NHL trade deadline behind us, Colorado Avalanche fans and (certain)players alike can breathe a collective sigh of relief — for now. They’ve had an atrocious year in almost every category, so there were obviously going to be some trade rumors that come along with this type of season.
The Avalanche weren’t nearly as active as many had anticipated. However they did get rid of some older, slower players to begin making room for the new era. General Manager Joe Sakic has stated he wants his team to get younger and faster, which should’ve been the game-plan last off-season and prior, but hindsight is indeed 20/20.
Sakic Stands Firm
You’ve all heard the rumors concerning Matt Duchene and Captain Gabe Landeskog. For months Duchene and Landeskog had to deal with constant talk that they were not only being shopped, but also certain to be traded by the Mar. 1 trade deadline.
However, at no point did Sakic say he was shopping Duchene or Landeskog — people see a team which is struggling, and immediately jump to the conclusion that the Avs wanted to blow up the core all-together.
Don’t get me wrong now, I’m not saying Duchene shouldn’t be traded in the future, because if a move does come along which improves the team, then you do trade him and that’s that. But the amount of distorting quotes and misleading information is staggering in today’s age. Believe it or not, it does affect the players and the team as a whole.
I understand it’s a business and fan-favorites are traded every year, but this season, in particular, there seemed to be too much negative noise around the Avalanche organization.
Despite all the negativity and pressure that surrounded Sakic, he chose to stand firm with his core and not make a drastic change. They could be waiting for the expansion draft to make any major deals, if at all…we just don’t know yet.
What we do know is that you have to give in order to get, and the Avs really need some defensive help. Should that help come at the expense of Duchene or Landeskog though? No. They are identified as part of the team’s core for a reason, and both are signed to very nice contracts.
The problem is not with the core, it lies with the over-age signings to big contracts which have severely handicapped the Avalanche over the past few years, most notably on the defensive end.
Even though it’s been a season out of your worst nightmare, there are quite a few areas to get excited about when talking about the future of the Avalanche.
Just look at the potential offensive depth for next year, which is much younger, faster, and more skilled — exactly what Sakic wants and what Avalanche hockey is all about. Without any major surgery, Colorado could have a forward group which consists of Duchene, Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Jost, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher, AJ Greer, Carl Soderberg and Matt Nieto — plus the possibility of their first draft pick being the highly skilled Nolan Patrick.
Realistically, you take one of those guys out in a trade for help on the defensive end, while still leaving a great deal of talent up front. Youngsters such as Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras will be joining Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin, and the surprisingly impressive Mark Barberio on defense. With cap space they did not have last off-season, they could add a solid free agent or two to that group, making it a much more balanced defense than fans in Denver have seen in a decade plus.
Goaltending Is the Key
The tricky part when it comes to the future of this team has to be goaltending. Semyon Varlamov, when on his game, is a top-tier NHL goalie. However, when he goes through these injury funks, it creates the argument that he cannot be counted on to be consistently healthy. Then we have Calvin Pickard, who is just 24, and has put up very strong numbers that you’d only expect to improve with time, especially in goaltenders’ cases.
Ideally, you’d want to keep both guys if Varlamov is healthy and on his game, of course. But you also have to look at his $6 million cap hit and Colorado’s need for defensive help. Plus the expansion draft for the new Las Vegas Golden Knights weighs in on each of these very hard decisions.
Sakic realizes changes must be made. Whether that be a blockbuster trade in the summer, or little moves and signings to keep improving the team, it will be interesting to see just how fast they can turn this ship around, if at all.
The best way to be rid of distracting rumors is to win hockey games. A happy team is a good team.
Happy MacK is our favorite MacK!#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/9pT4pVz1KM
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 10, 2017
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