Every year at Mile High Hockey, we spend the early part of the offseason compiling Final Grades for everyone who played for the Colorado Avalanche the previous year, plus the GM and coach. We're kicking off the 2012 grading season right at the top: Greg Sherman and the front office. These will run every weekday until we run out of players - June 8th, barring any unexpected setbacks.
Summary: In his 3rd year as Avalanche GM, Greg Sherman continued to make bold moves to improve the Avalanche. In this salary cap era where blockbuster trades are as elusive as the mythical yeti, Sherman has been willing to take big swings with his roster-shaping hammer, mostly to positive effect. The biggest - and most controversial - move came on July 1st, when Sherman sent a 1st and 2nd round pick to the Capitals for goalie Semyon Varlamov. It was a huge gamble, sending what could potentially be a lottery pick for a young goalie with some question marks (and one who could have been signed to an offer sheet). In the end, the Caps got the 11th pick and, while Varly had some struggles, he showed enough promise to make this trade at least a fair swap.
Where in the past Sherman moved key cogs like Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk, this season he did a nice job moving players who no longer seemed to factor in the Avs' future plans. Kyle Cumiskey was moved for a minor leaguer and a future 7th rounder. Kyle Quincey was traded for Steve Downie. T.J. Galiardi and Dan Winnik were moved for Jamie McGinn, Michael Sgarbossa and Mike Connolly. Oh, and John-Michael Liles was traded for a 2nd round pick. That one stung a bit both for the paltry return and the fact that Liles' 27 points with Toronto was still more than any Avalanche defenseman managed this year...but I have to reluctantly admit that the Avs' needed to move Liles to try a different blueline mix. Overall, I think this was Sherman's best year of trading by far, chock full of trades involving good additions and smart subtractions.
Of course, Sherman needs to make smart trades, because the Avalanche continue to operate near the cap floor. The reason for those financial shackles has been discussed frequently around here (and will be again, as early as this afternoon). Is Stan Kroenke focusing his money elsewhere? Are we really buying the "preserving cap space for the future" argument? Would the Avs spend more if they were bringing more revenue in? We simply don't know the answer (and it may be a combination of all three). Regardless, Sherman deserves credit for making smart moves with his money - the signings of Jan Hejda, J.S. Giguere and Shane O'Brien were all excellent bang-for-the-buck moves. Chuck Kobasew and Joaqim Lindstrom didn't pan out as well, but neither addition was a bank-breaker.
Solid drafting has also been a hallmark during Sherman's tenure, with Rich Pracey heading up the team's amateur scouting. This year, the Avs drafted Calder finalist Gabriel Landeskog...and I think we can pretty much stop there. Seriously, it can take a few years to really evaluate a draft. It is worth pointing out, though, that Landeskog is the 3rd player drafted during Sherman's tenure to immediately jump to the NHL
2012 Outlook: They don't have a Capgeek for GMs and coaches, but I believe Sherman's contract is up this summer. Not that it matters; Sherman will be the Avalanche GM next season. And Stan Kroenke still has 2 1/2 years before he has to give up majority stake in the team, so don't expect a change to the front office structure or environment soon.
DDC's Take: The bad news is that this is a tough one to grade, especially because of the provocative addition of the Avs' front office. The good news is, I don't actually have to assign a letter grade as we are leaving that solely to the highly scientific poll you see below. But, I'm doing it anyway: Sherman gets a solid B, front office gets a D for not spending...for an overall grade of C.