The Avalanche looked absolutely terrible this year. Roy's probably laughing at the team, but he shouldn't; he helped make this disaster. Roy and Sakic were stuck between two dynamics: Roy wanted a bigger team that was hard to play against and Sakic... I don't know what Sakic wants to do. I don't think Sakic knows what Sakic wants to do.
I can look at the Avalanche like I surgically looked at the Oilers and pick apart each aspect of their game statistically, but when all facets of a team's game are down, it can only mean one thing: a complete morale failure.
Their organization top down is in trouble. This team has a weak identity and a weak culture right now, and there's no prettier way to say it unless you were poetically describing an eschatological text. Maybe in verses, this team would look like the Divine Comedy.
First level of hell: the San Antonio Rampage; second level of hell: the depth of the Avalanche; third level of hell: stars of the Avalanche... okay? It's this bad.
Colorado has a serious cultural and identity crisis right now, and when others are asking what they are doing in terms of Matt Duchene (because trades! Trades! Feed us with more trades! *evil laughter*), I'm asking what they're doing as an organization.
First off: I don't think Sakic should leave; I think Sakic needs another sidekick (or to be someone's sidekick), the same that Brad Pitt needed Jonah Hill in Moneyball (or Billy Bean needed the stats guy: you know what I mean). The one bright spot for the Avs under Sakic has been their first round drafting. MacKinnon was a hit, (Bleackley was a miss), Rantanen was a hit, and I feel that Jost and Makar are both going to be hits with this organization. Their later round drafting... too soon to tell I suppose, but it hasn't looked good so far.
What does Sakic want to do with this organization? How are going to win their games? By outskating the other team? Outsmarting them? Outworking them? Outplastering them against the boards? Does the coach even know what he's doing with this team or what his role is?
Sakic has made 19 trades since his tenure began. Most of them have been completely insignificant. Ryan O'Reilly was his most significant trade, and it had Patrick Roy's prints all over it; it was not very good. Grigorenko might not even be re-signed, Compher still has a chance to be a roster player, and Zadorov has a hard time making a case for himself to be an NHL defenseman (but at least he is big, so he's not hopeless). The draft pick hasn't turned into anything, yet.
Of course, it might not have been good because Colorado's further development of these players has been glacial hell, but even analyzing the trade at the time, you might have measured O'Reilly as a second line forward and a role player and a former 33rd overall pick, but they haven't yet gotten anybody that even remotely represents a 2nd line player or 2nd pairing d out of the deal. I agree with trading him because he wanted to be paid like a first line player, but I don't agree with the return. I'm not going to say it was TERRIBLE, but at this point, it was a lost trade... depending on what Compher eventually ends up doing in the NHL and whether Zadorov ever proves himself to be at least a #4 D.
His best trade was likely getting Andrighetto for Martinsen. That could turn into a steal in a couple of years. Andrighetto had a positive showing for the Avs at the end of the year.
When the Avalanche last succeeded, they were a speedy team. Then they let Paul Stastny go to free agency and lost him for nothing. They still have speedy players in Duchene and MacKinnon.
When the Avalanche were last a force to be reckoned with, they were outright talented and just outskilled the other guys. It's hard to use the Avs of 2001 as a model for success because their team was simply stacked. "Git good" is not a good strategy for GMs right now. The league is more competitive from a managerial standpoint than it ever was.
I could see Sakic going the way of Yzerman and using his model: draft good players, fill out your team through organizational depth. Yzerman likely has better people surrounding him, however, who have a grasp on how to put together a winning hockey team, even though he's taken a few risks that almost blew up in his face.
Sakic also wants to limit paying his players in a similar vein (though Yzerman's philosophy shifted with the Stamkos situation), which is likely why Stastny and O'Reilly left the organization in the first place. He wants to introduce a salary structure where the star players take a paycut so that he can get a more talented supporting cast. (It ultimately has to be the star player's choice, however).
Today's NHL may not facilitate that kind of a league environment.
Either way, Sakic needs a direction other than just sticking a bunch of talented guys together. Roy likely left the team because they overpaid Barrie and thought he was a first pairing defenseman when Roy knew full well this was never going to be the case. (At least that was the spark that blew the gasket). Other reported reasons are his dissatisfaction with Varlomov and not acquiring Radulov when given the chance (who would have been a good fit).
So Sakic is stuck in the rubble, and his coaching replacement hasn't been optimal, to say the least. Maybe he could start by picking up an experienced coach who can help guide the process along. With Tippett's availability, that might be a start. Sakic has given him his faith as far as I know, but this is another move that reeks of utter confusion.
So now the Matt Duchene situation:
It looks like the price is a top-four d, a blue chip prospect, and a pick.
I still want to know Sakic's direction for the team. And everyone knows that their expendable players are the following: Landeskog, Duchene, and Barrie.
Should he move Landeskog, Duchene, or Barrie? You might think: yes, tinker, but I don't know: If you have 75 points, you need to tinker, but fewer than 50 pts, you're in a film noir and talking to the audience about your existential crisis to some extremely sombre music.
Who'd I move the most? Barrie in a heartbeat, and then Duchene. I'd put out feelers for Landeskog, but I think I'd wait until the deadline.
Also note that people who say the deadline deals were better for Duchene: I don't believe this for a second. Deadline deals = first round pick (from a team likely drafting 21+), prospect, prospect, and an unwanted roster player. Draft day deals are likely almost always better (which is why more teams engage in them).
I have no idea, but I can mull on some possible offers that I heard:
- Islanders for Duchene and a roster guy: Pulock, Barzal, a 1st, Halak
: I'd take this if it was offered but I don't think it was offered. The fairer price would have been Pulock, Barzal, conditional 2nd. Would I take this? Still a yes.
- Nashville for Duchene: S. Girard, Fabbro, and picks that aren't 1sts.
: Wouldn't do this. Nashville needs to find a top 4 D from another team and vault some of these guys over to the Avs.
Colorado wants to get younger, but Sakic, if he's gotten these offers, has refused them because he wants NHL players who are younger. Teams don't want to move those guys because they'd be trading holes in their line-ups. Nashville isn't going to give them Ekholm because then they'd need another top 4 D.
So that leaves Carolina who can one-for-one Hanifin over to the Avs, but why do the Canes want Duchene? With Hanifin, they can get something a lot more to their liking.
I'm sure that Nashville will come up with something by Thursday. But last time I made a prediction involving Nashville, they made me look bad, so don't hold me to that.
Should the Avs stop there? No, they should trade Barrie. Sell right now, even if he's not worth as much as you think he is.
Given how much of a market there is for a top 4 D, and how the Avs are likely headed for another tank year, but at least a progress year, they should see what they can get for Barrie right now. This is a time for change. If Barrie has another year like he did last year, nobody will ever trade for him. If they can get a couple of 21 year old prospects without any NHL experience and a back-up goaltender, or fill out their d corps or what not with him? Do it. This, to me, is the more desperate move.