An Avalanche of Problems
A little back story on this piece you’re about to read…at least I hope you’re about to read it. It’s Christmas time, and all my kids need gifts. Ok, so I don’t have kids. But if I did, and I hope to someday, they will in fact need gifts so you may as well get started on helping that cause and donate to my charity “help Soups kids get Xbox’s or whatever gaming device will be out in 10 years”. I lacked creativity for the name of my charity.
Anyway, I was about to write this piece about three weeks ago or so. Then the Avs looked as though they had turned a bit of a corner after handling the Bruins with relative ease one night. Then…might have been the next game…they had that 10-1 loss which was a BIT of a red flag for their season. Though they did bounce back with a win the next night in Toronto, the Leafs vastly outplayed them.
It’s now up to a streak of only 2 wins, 5 points in their last 13 games. And as I said, one of those wins was the Toronto game where they got dominated. It is REALLY bad in Denver right now.
I feel bad for Joe Sakic. It was an awful hire by Avs owner Stan Kroenke who likely isn’t paying much attention at all to the Avs these days as owner of the NFL’s L.A. Rams who are in the process of building a new stadium and entertainment district at a cost of a measly 2.66 BILLION dollars. But Sakic was a PR hire. In no way was he ready to head up this team, and when he took the reigns, the team was in shambles.
One of the worst things that may have happened to this team was a fluke run right out the gate in 2014 that had a shockingly amount of hockey pundits fooled. In 2015, as many sharper hockey people expected, the Avs came crashing back down to earth. Nobody seemed to notice though. Last season was no better, yet hardly anyone outside of Denver put any heat on the organization. If they were a Canadian market they would be getting KILLED for how awful they’ve been run. They may have had more success than the Oilers in the last eight seasons, but they haven’t been any better. 2010 they made the playoffs, but all that happened is they rode an extremely flukey start and maybe the best season of Craig Anderson’s career to the 8th seed in the West. 2014 they finished 1st in the Central division, but again it was all smoke and mirrors. Semyon Varlamov was unreal and their PDO was off the charts. These aren’t successful seasons. They were the hockey equivalent to winning big money on a bet. Winning money on a bet doesn’t tell you much about a person, and fluke seasons don’t tell you much about a hockey team.
But now we are finding out what is on this team, and it isn’t pretty. The big problem the Avs have is their drafting (as it is with most bad teams). I go back to 2010 where their 1st round pick was used on Joey Hishon. Now, it’s a shame Hishon got railroaded by Brayden McNabb in the 2011 Memorial Cup because he was having a great season. But for me, I never liked the Hishon pick to begin with. I never felt like his game would translate to the NHL.
In 2011 they made that horrendous trade with the Blues that offloaded Kevin Shattenkirk and brought back Erik Johnson and the 11th pick in the draft which they used on Duncan Siemens. A Sherwood Park kid who has had a rough go of things on and off the ice, so I don’t want to be harsh, yet have to be honest in that it was a terrible pick by the Avs.
In 2012 they moved their 1st for Varlamov. That’s a great trade…right?! No. They gave the Caps their 1st and 2nd round picks on July 1st, 2011. I believe the day before Varlamov either signed with or was about to sign in the KHL. The Caps were losing him for nothing. The Avs then gave them their top two picks for that draft. WHY?!? He was gone!!! Just wait them out a bit and get him for a 2nd! That pick they gave up became….Filip Forsberg. OOPS!
Oh, there’s more. 2014, after everyone was singing their praises for such a wonderful season. They then step up and take Conner Bleackley. Had a lot of injury problems, not looking to crush him, but yet again it was a blown 1st round pick. You HAVE to draft well in this league and you just simply can’t afford to blow 1st rounders at this rate. You combine all these misses in the 1st round with nothing coming to the team in rounds 2-7, and it’s just a recipe for total disaster. There are a few teams in this league and around pro sports who have actually survived so many swings and misses in the first round of the draft, but no team survives if they can’t hit on one or two picks every year from the 2nd round on.
Man, you look back at the 09 draft when their rebuild really got going, and they had one of the best drafts in the last 10 years getting Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyson Barrie with 3 of their first 4 picks! Since then it’s just been awful outside of when they had top two picks to snag Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan McKinnon.
Of course it wasn’t JUST the drafting that messed up things for this organization. Essentially letting Patrick Roy run Ryan O’Reilly out of town was a death nail, and then allowing him to do the trade with Buffalo that netted the Avs next to nothing for him was even worse. He had Mikhail Grigorenko in junior, so he must be great. Sure. The kid couldn’t have had more red flags around him going into his draft, and then in Buffalo did absolutely nothing to suggest he would meet his potential. Yet Roy had to have him. Much like the Oilers with Griffin Reinhart on the same night, though Reinhart didn’t have many red flags entering his draft.
I had been thinking about finally finishing this piece on the Avs earlier in the day yesterday. Right before I was about to call it a night, I came across this tweet:
I just feel change might be good for both sides https://t.co/zgIQQ9fcw8
— Adrian Dater (@adater) December 21, 2016
If you’re too lazy to open it up, it’s in response to a follower of Dater’s blasting him for suggesting the Avs trade Duchene. I’ve been critical of some stuff Dater has put on Twitter in the past, but I will never rip on how plugged into the Avs organization the guy is. If he’s saying THIS, I would say reading between the lines that Duchene privately wants out and the Avs are willing to make that happen for him.
The worst part of all this is where do they go now? As we saw with the Oilers and their desperation for defencemen, the GM’s in this league would rather someone gets a player for dirt cheap rather than look to make a smart hockey move to improve their team. So that likely means the return on Duchene could be terrible. I could probably come up with 15 trade ideas that make sense in this scenario, not one of them will happen because of how the GM’s operate now days.
The unpopular move might be to show Sakic the door, but they have to show Sakic and others the door and get some true hockey people in there. I’ve always been a massive Joe Sakic fan, but did he ever really earn this gig? He has it because it was a good PR move at the time to hire him.
So should Joe be shown the door (hopefully in a very respectful way), Jay Feaster’s name would then come up, as Feaster cut his teeth as a GM in Hersey when they were the AHL affiliate for the Avs. I’m not a big Jay Feaster guy, but he is experienced and he has had his successes. Wouldn’t be my choice, but I would understand the hire.
If I were a Kroenke, I’d have a much better life than I do right now, but I also would look into Dale Tallon’s situation with the Panthers. It’s no secret that it’s a shit show down there, and perhaps after the season Tallon could be had. If not him, I’d look at one of the top assistant GM’s in the league like a Paul Fenton from the Preds, Julien BriseBois from the Bolts, or Joe Will from the Sharks. Someone who has been in an organization where they’ve done an exceptional job with the draft. From there, you allow that GM to bring in new amateur scouts, new coaches, etc.
As bleak as it’s been and still will be in the near future in Denver, it’s not a bad job at all. Denver has to be one of the top markets in the league when you’re winning. The Avs were a BIG deal in that town for a decade. You’re recognized but not heavily scrutinized, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in North America, it really is an ideal situation for a player.
And for an incoming GM, even needing to move Duchene you still have McKinnon, Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and the kid who I believe will be a breakout star for Canada at the World Juniors in Tyson Jost. And that’s just the talent up front. Semyon Varlamov is a star goaltender, Erik Johnson (Avs fans likely wish it was Kevin Shattenkirk) and Tyson Barrie aren’t stars on the blueline but are good guys to build around. But the depth of this organization has been completely gutted and will take a while to build back up.
I really thought entering this season that the culture was desperate for a change behind the bench and that Patrick Roy had poisoned things. Maybe he did, but it’s clear now he was far from the problem, and there is no way to tell how good of a coach Jared Bednar is which is a real shame for him. Likely, he’ll be gone before he gets a chance to prove his worth. But this team badly needs an overhaul on and off the ice, because the last overhaul simply hasn’t worked.
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