OK, so I hit our beloved MHH this morning to see what's what. Unsurprisingly, we're all still talking about the general suck-tastic nature of the Colorado Avalanche, with a little Cutler-bashing thrown in for local garnish. When, at the bottom of this comment thread, I saw the following from relatively new member Hopfenkopf:
We brought in quite a number of those Leafs with lots of experience in suckitude!
I had a double "AH-HA!!" moment:
- Hopfenkopf needs to get an avatar quick-fast-and-in-a-hurry if for no other reason than to explain the name, and
- What if the Avalanche front office and players are the GREATEST MINDS IN MODERN HOCKEY!
Wait, wait, I know what you're thinking, "When did Mike get his hands on some Pineapple Express?" or "That's it, he's now actively trying to get Jibbles to kill himself." But you'd be incorrect on both counts. Hear me out...
What if, after the disastrous end to last season, the Avs' "braintrust" got together in some smokey lodge somewhere in the Rocky Mountains (or some backroom at a Wal-mart if you think Stan the Man may have been in attendance). They looked at the talent they'd assembled, the lifespan of the current contracts, the salary cap, the players in the system, and most importantly the upcoming draft and they came up with a genius plan. We now know that plan as Tank It For Taveres or Ti4T for you acronym junkies.
The plan was likely laid out as follows:
- Fire the competent NHL-coach who was a bad fit, yet managed to get some results. In my mind, I think Coach Q was at this meeting and he opined that he couldn't be anything but consistently mediocre, even with a crap team. They showed him the door.
- Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the team with an eye toward elevating the weaknesses and down-playing or hindering the strengths.
- Based on the previous step, they looked at the slaughter of kittens caused by the horrible, 29th-ranked power play last season and said "Whoever's in charge of that unit should be PERFECT for what we have in mind!" The fact that Tony G. was responsible for one of the biggest underachieving teams in franchise history was all it took to give management a warm-and-fuzzy about their choice.
- They next looked at goaltending. The 2007-2008 tandem showed they could go either way, but Theo was threatening to be much too good for a team that needed the tanking that the Avs needed. The solution was to start pinching pennies. And sign Andrew Raycroft.
- Next, they looked at Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk. How do you hold those guys down? The answer: surround them with nothing. Enter Darcy Tucker. Exit Andrew Brunette.
- Implement a defensive system that didn't actually defend. It relied solely on blocked shots and an inability to clear the puck from the Avs' zone. This system had two inherent advantages: 1) Blocked shots lead to more injuries (and if they were lucky, they would be to guys like those in the list above), and 2) it would seriously hamper any chance of Budaj deciding to screw the pooch on the Ti4T scheme. But the real stroke of genius was to label this new defensive system as an up-tempo offense!!! Think about that for a minute, it's sublime.
- A quick look at the system revealed a couple of guys (Jones, Hensick) who'd shown flashes and might be ready for the jump, but could just as likely do with another season in the AHL. Tony had the solution for that: never let them play with the good players. Management decided that they had the perfect man in Tony to help hold back the development of those players. They were pleased.
- If, at the trade deadline, there was still some hope that a miracle could happen and the Avalanche would finish with a lottery pick, threaten to trade one of the fan favorites (Lappy). If that won't put the locker room in a tailspin down the stretch, nothing will.
Now, I know that such a plan would require real diligence and a complete buy-in by all those involved. What they had going for them was the fact that they'd started down this road with the Foote trade the previous season. I mean, if over-valuing a veteran and mortgaging the future at the same time isn't pages 1 and 2 out of the Toronto Maple Leafs Incompetent Management Employee Manual, I don't know what is. The fact that they went out and got two guys who were such a huge part of the Maple Leafs march to nowhere is just icing on the cake.
I'm sure at some point they expected Super Joe to start voicing his displeasure about where the season was heading, so he would "stick his hand in a snow blower while on the IR for back problems." Yeah, right.
The coup de grace was Tyler Fuckin' Arnason. Not only would he be retained, he'd be given the important duty of installing a non-work ethic in every linemate all season. And I have to say, he rose to the challenge. Hell, he even got time as a #1 center!!
Now I challenge you, the faithful Mile High Hockey reader, to look at the above scheme and tell me that it isn't only brilliant, but possibly genius. For my money, the above is much easier to swallow than nepotistic management practices, poor salary cap decisions, lack of scouting ability, drafting blunders, over-reliance on veterans, fan stupidity, and general hockey incompetence as the reasons our beloved Avalanche are so mind-numbingly, horrifically bad this year. Right?