The Colorado Avalanche, by pretty much any measure, are one of the worst teams in the NHL this season and on track to be one of the worst of in the NHL over the past 10 years. It has become increasingly clear that general manager Joe Sakic has quite a bit of work to do when it comes to fixing the mess the current team is in.
Given the team’s current spot in the standings and its consistent regression over the past three years, it is inevitable that some sort of trade is going to get made in the not-too-distant future, likely involving one of the team’s core players.
Before the Avalanche’s overtime win over the New York Islanders on Friday night, Sakic said (via Terry Frei of the Denver Post) that he will continue to explore trades that will help the team down the line and that the team has to get young.
Along with that, he also named three players that he does not plan on moving. The list includes Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mikko Rantanen, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2015, and Tyson Jost, their first-round pick from this past season.
Here is Sakic, via the Denver Post:
“Well, I don’t plan on moving a guy like MacKinnon, (Tyson) Jost, (Mikko) Rantanen, especially with their age,” Sakic said. “We have a lot of good pieces here. Will I be listening to different ideas on how to improve us and maybe get us younger and get more depth here? Yeah, we’re going to do that.”
Given the skill level, age, potential, and contract status of those three players it is a very good place to start.
It also means that he would at least consider trading any of captain Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene or Tyson Barrie. Any potential move involving one of those players would be a massive shift in the structure of the team because they are still three of the four or five best players on the roster.
Such a move would also carry a great deal of risk. Not only because it’s tough to get back fair value for a player like a Matt Duchene if you decide to follow that path and move him, but also because of who is making the trade. The latter point is not something that should be taken lightly.
When hockey teams like the Avalanche go bad, the focus tends to fall on the best players, and Colorado is no different. That core group has faced intense criticism for two solid years now for the team’s shortcomings, even though the biggest issue remainss an alarming lack of depth at both forward and defense (and especially on defense).
The problem spot has been off the ice, specifically when it comes to the construction of the roster. This is, for all intents and purposes, Joe Sakic’s team. Twenty-two of the 28 players that have appeared in a game this season for the Avalanche were acquired under Sakic’s watch, with most of them coming over the past two years. Whether it be draft picks, free agents, trades, this roster belongs to Sakic. And it is not very good.
He also already made one significant change to the team’s core when he sent Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo before the 2015-16 season and the return, to this point, has underwhelmed. You can not do that again with another core player.
The question you have to ask if you’re the Avalanche is — and really this is true of any team in this situation — do you trust the people that helped create the mess, to fix the mess?