This post is a part of Avalanche day at PHT…
Much has been made about teams needing to strike gold with high draft picks to successfully complete a rebuild, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise.
Even so, some of the smarter teams also expedited their healing processes by smartly moving guys who simply weren’t part of the future, saving money and/or receiving assets in the process. For example: the Toronto Maple Leafs executed a “pump-and-dump” to rid themselves of Dion Phaneuf in a masterful way, as Jonathan Willis once discussed for Bleacher Report.
It’s quite possible that Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic missed the best possible window in trading Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog this summer, when NHL teams were seemingly best situation to take on their cap hits, which are at $6 million (Duchene) or almost $6 million* in Gabriel Landeskog.
Now, it’s plausible that the Avalanche would just be better off keeping both forwards, period. After all, Duchene is 26 and Landeskog is 24. Even if you have some issues with each guy, their cap hits and contracts aren’t going to make Sakic & Co. lose sleep.
Let’s say that the Avalanche still want to trade one or both, though. What are some simple but realistic ways to inflate their value, making them seem more desirable to potential trade suitors? Let’s break it down.
Coin flips going their way
For one thing, it’s easy to imagine each player being more productive in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17.
This past season was, essentially, the first full campaign where Duchene failed to score at least 20 goals, and he’s been reliable for 55 points when playing in the high 70’s. Whether you look at a faultier stat like plus minus (-34) or a bad luck indicator like on-ice shooting percentage (7 percent), last season was absolutely the worst of Duchene’s career, and Landeskog suffered in similar ways.
By merely playing things out, they’re highly likely to improve their standing in the league. Of course, the Avalanche would be foolish not to massage those numbers, anyway.
Easing the burden
It’s almost stupidly simple, but Sakic should emphasize to head coach Jared Bednar that Duchene and Landeskog should get easier shifts.
Duchene started just 47.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone last season, a career-low. He’s also been under 50 percent for three of the last four seasons, with only 2015-16 (58.3, easily his highest rate) being what the doctor ordered.
After being well below 50 percent himself from 2012-13 to 2014-15, Landeskog’s been getting more favorable zone starts, but that Avalanche should lean even heavier in that regard next season if they want to move these players.
Bednar may also want to reduce Landeskog’s penalty kill duties, as he averaged 1:47 per game last season.
(That’s not awful, but hey, you want to massage those numbers, right?)
Maybe the most disturbing trend is that neither forward is shooting the puck particularly often.
After three straight seasons with at least 200 shots on goal, Duchene only had 160 last season. Landeskog saw a similar drop from 2013-14 and 2014-15 and the past two seasons, where he only fired 169 in each campaign.
Percentage-wise, they seemed more or less on average last season. Volume was the biggest problem.
While you don’t want to micromanage your players to too much of an extreme, Duchene and Landeskog should be shooting more than ever, if anything, on such a bad team. Right?
Split them up at even-strength?
As an esoteric parting thought, TSN’s Travis Yost makes a compelling argument that Duchene and Landeskog simply don’t click together on the same line.
The Avalanche would be wise to give them both a ton of power-play time to drive up their scoring numbers, which means they’d probably be together there. But, perhaps it would be best if they manned their own lines at 5-on-5?
Such a balancing act might be trickier if you wanted to get them a lot of offensive-zone starts. Still, if Bednar wants to impress his bosses, engineering things to get the most out of Duchene and Landeskog couldn’t hurt.
Again, it’s a serious question as to whether the Avalanche would even be better off trading Duchene and/or Landeskog. It’s rare to see a team move a prominent player and receive something equivalent back; in many cases, the best returns come in the future via picks.
Still, if the Avalanche want to do it, they might as well go all-in. In the process, they might find better ways to deploy those two even if they never trade them.
* – To be exact, his AAV is about $5.57M.