John-Michael Liles is a beautiful man, a mildly controversial player, and a defenseman who is simultaneously the best and worst of the Avalanche defensive corps. Last season, the Male Model was famously in and out of Coach Sacco's doghouse like Ron Jeremy is in and out of.... nevermind. But around the tail end of last season, Liles finally seemed to figure it out and get back in the good graces of the coaching staff. He was arguably the Avs' best defensemen in the playoffs vs San Jose. That late season bloom seems to have carried over, and as of this writing, JML leads his team in scoring, plus/minus, the entire NHL in assists, and numerous women on.
JML has been nothing if not inconsistent since signing his inflated, bloated, stupid for everyone save he and his agent, contract in 2008. That lop-sided contract was part of the ill-advised how-do-we do-this-contract-thing-post-lockout period of over-payment by the Avs' front office that the fans are still paying for (by the Avs offering only short term bargain deals of late). Because of that BIG contract, people expected BIG things from Johnny Hot Pocket, and I believe he did as well. So, he decided to concentrate on his defensive game, for which he had always been suspect, but when he did, not only did his defensive play not really improve, but his offensive game vanished, and all of a sudden/ever since, he has been the well-deserving target of many trade rumors and jeers of critical fans.
But Sacco's doghouse turned out to be a good place for Liles to spend some quality time, and he truly seems like a different player. Yes, we're only 3 games into the new season, but Liles seems much more confident and consistent. And yes, consistency for Liles does mean he will be weak along the boards and turn the puck over, but his value on the power play and in other offensive situations makes up for his short comings, in my opinion. If Quincey does not regain offensive form, and Cumiskey does not evolve rapidly, then the Avs quickly have few options NOW on the powerplay and in getting the puck up to the forwards from the defensive zone.
This off-season many of you agreed that the the Avs were pretty solid on the top three lines - so long as no one got hurt. Well, Mueller has gone the way of the buffalo and now the Avs need help at forward. They need a top six player who can compliment Duchene and Stasnty. We need depth.
It doesn't take a genius to notice the bevy of offensively talented defensmen in Colorado's system, so the Avs really should make a trade for a top six forward NOW. They have the resources to trade a prospect and not even miss a beat amongst their Defense, while the same can not be said for the group of forwards. But I propse that John Michale Liles is not the guy they should trade. Now, I may be wrong as early as Friday if a rumored trade goes down, but I'll stand by my suggestion. Here's my reasoning:
- No one brings the offense to the Avs' blueline that Liles can bring. And none of the prospects will fill that hole this season - in a year or two, maybe.
- He has a no trade clause. He has a list of teams with which he'd even consider a trade.
- He's still fast. He's in his prime (this could also be a reason to trade him now - high value, most return).
- At the reunion of the 1996 cup team, Sakic mentioned that the addition of Ozilinsh was the biggest boon to the team for him because all of a sudden the Avs had an offensive presence on the back end that could move the puck up to the quick, young, forwards and allow the team to utilize their speed and skill - sound familiar? With Liles gone, the passing skill of the blueline diminishes greatly, and while Shattenkirk is the man to take Liles place soon, he's not quite NHL ready right now.
Do I think the Avs should keep Liles forever and ever and get married? No. He'd make better trade sense around the trade deadline when the Avs have a better idea of what they've got in Gaunce, Shattenkirk, Cohen and Holos. As much as I would like ot see an aggressive, thoughtful, move by the front office to bring in some offensive support right now, I think it would be a mistake (of minuscule proportions) to let Liles go at this juncture. I'd rather cut the fat and take a gamble on a prospect, or *gulp* even Roadrunner (I'm betting that last one is an unpopular sentiment, but I'm not sure Cumiskey's ceiling is much higher than what we've already seen).
I'm just glad - as I'm sure you all are - that the decision isn't mine. But the Avs should do something. So what do you think? What should the Avs do with Liles? What should the Avs do in general considering their depleted forward staff and excess of blueliners? Let's do like democracy and let the people decide!