The Colorado Avalanche rank among the biggest disappointments this season in the NHL. With a talented roster and a new coach hired to implement a system that plays to the team’s strengths, it was expected the Avalanche would at least contend as a dark horse in the playoff race. Instead they currently boast the league’s worst record and appear well on their way to a lottery pick next June.
The easy assumption is that Colorado’s core group of players is flawed and that drastic changes need to be made. But is that assumption accurate? Terry Frei of The Denver Post recently examined and dispelled three “off-target reactions” about the Avalanche at this point in the season.
It’s clear base on the moves made and not made this past summer that Joe Sakic believed his core group was good enough to contend. Instead of making a blockbuster trade, Sakic dabbled around the edges of the roster, adding some depth on the blue line in the form of Patrick Wiercioch and Fedor Tyutin and bringing in Joe Colborne up front. Roughly 30 games into the season and it’s obvious something more needed to be done.
However, as Frei opines, the problem isn’t just with the core or with the complementary pieces on the roster; in fact the whole roster is flawed.
Next Frei addresses ownership and notes that Stan Kroenke and Co. do two things all NHL owners should do: They stay out of the way allowing management run the team and they spend nearly to the salary cap ceiling. Whether the hands-off approach by ownership is intended or is a result of having other priorities is irrelevant as ownership is blameless in this case, argues Frei.
Finally, it’s been said that allowing Paul Stastny to leave as a free agent for nothing and then dealing Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo once Colorado concluded they couldn’t re-sign him were mistakes the team shouldn’t have made. However, Frei makes the case that each of those choices were made as part of a larger strategy to implement a salary structure a mid-market franchise can survive with in today’s NHL.
It’s an interesting read and provides terrific insight into the mess that is the Colorado Avalanche.
Elsewhere in the Central Division:
- Hockey Prospectus’ Matthew Coller pushes the argument that the Avalanche need to embrace a rebuild, even if that means trading away Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog. While acknowledging the high-end talents of Duchene and fellow pivot Nathan MacKinnon, Coller believes the team desperately needs a strong, two-way center to match up against the other team’s top lines. Of course they had a guy like that in O’Reilly, as Coller notes, but what’s done is done. If they do finish at the bottom of the league’s standings, the Avalanche would ensure themselves of one of the top overall players in the June entry draft which could fast forward a rebuild. And if Sakic can make a couple of good trades, it may not take as long as expected to build a contender.
- While the Minnesota Wild extended their winning streak to seven games with a victory over Arizona last night, the win didn’t come without a cost. Forward Erik Haula left the game early in the first period with what was termed as an upper-body injury and did not return, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. Haula has been a solid contributor this season for the Wild, posting five goals and ten points in 23 games while averaging a career-best 14:13 of ice time per game. Meanwhile, Zac Dalpe was cleared to return from injury and was assigned to Iowa of the AHL. Russo states that he is a good bet to be recalled for next Tuesday’s game should Haula not be able to go.