There has been a ton of talk around these parts regarding the Colorado Avalanche's rebuilding plan and what should or should not be done. We've talked about the plan in the context of this offseason, next season, next offseason and even out beyond the extents of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Contributors and members alike have speculated (sometimes wildly) on what does and doesn't need to happen in both the short and the long term. We've talked about drafts, free agents, trades, competition in the West, teams that seem to be getting better due to management, etc. We've done a lot of talking. Recently most of that talk has centered around a handful of free agents and one Russian winger in particular. Then MHH member Bringbackboone made this statement in a FanPost:
Maybe our team is centered around 2012, not only in regards to our Restricted Free Agents and free agency but creating significant trades with our amazing young defensive prospects. Just a long thought.
And that got me thinking...
What if the plan really is about positioning assets for a future date and not about building from within. What am I talking about? I'll tell you what I'm talking about. About two or three years from now assuming a CBA is in place that isn't radically different than the current one in its form or function (i.e. "cost certainty", revenue sharing, moving cap, etc.), the Avalanche organization will have a bevy of coveted puck-moving defensemen. More importantly, these defensemen will still be on the cheaper end of the contracts. After not selling off anything for two years, the Avs should have a good grasp on what they do and do not have in the system. Now the wheeling and dealing begins. They start moving these assets and seeing real returns as I'm 100% sure that there will be other Blackhawks, Rangers, Capitols, etc. who have pressed themselves to the top of whatever cap is in place. Even if there wasn't, there are always middle-tier teams looking for depth as well that might be willing to move a Timonen etc. due to cost concerns. Now you've turned a stable of young talent into a viable contender by actually managing and not just shopping.
That's why I see Liles and possibly Hannan moved during this upcoming lack-luster season. I think management will use a non-playoff year to cull the rest of the chaff as far as "bad" contracts go and acquire prospects and picks with an eye toward 2012. Why would they do that? Because I think they'll be in a better position than they are now.
Wilson and Quincey will have "matured" for two more seasons but still be in the window of improvement for younger defensemen. Even if they never attain top pairing status, they are two pretty good lower pair guys, in my opinion. Hopefully the forward corp of SoS, Dutchie, Stewart, Radar, Mueller, and Jones will be intact and performing as we all hope they can. Hishon should be ready for his coming out party. Maybe Yip and Stoa will have made progress and are legit NHL top 6 guys, but even if they aren't, we already know that most of the other guys I listed are. If he proves he wasn't a one-off, Anderson could be in a position to be the first legit franchise goalie since Roy. Not to mention that the two goalies taken in this year's draft will likely be better than the depth the organization currently has in net.
I guess what I'm saying is I think the Avalanche are positioning themselves for something along these lines. I don't think they really believe that they can do it all through just in-house development. I don't think Sherman and Pierre are as stupid as some MHH members seem to think they are. I think they've proven they are pretty shrewd with the contracts that they've given out of late and are likely still negotiating with Stewie and Mueller. It was why they moved Smyth when they did. He didn't fit with what the team was doing. I think that's why they moved Wolski when he was in arguably his highest selling point since his rookie season. I think that's why they didn't go wading into the Kovolchuk sweepstakes. Why pay that guy for two years of service if all it will do is cause you to hit the reset button in two years when everybody's contact comes due? How do you trade prospects and picks for high-priced talent if that cap space is already eaten up by one player? The only way that Kovi would have been an Av (operating under the somewhat dubious presumption that he even considered Colorado as a destination) is with an extremely cap-friendly deal that somehow met his exhortation length and $$ demands. Mighty Lou took a swing and now the league and PA will likely be paying lawyers fees for the next few months AT LEAST. Or the contract will be reworked to be less palatable for the Devils. Either way, that isn't the criteria the Avs were looking for.
Poorly executed rebuilds litter the NHL landscape. Florida has done one every year for the last 10 years. Columbus and LA use the Nuke Disk every three or so seasons as well. Tampa rebuilds every season as well, only they do it one position at a time. The Rangers have been rebuilding since Jagr showed up and Phoenix tried to rebuild through coaching only during the last decade. The signature to all of those is that at some point somebody gets impatient and deviates from the plan. We're in year two of the plan and even though the team exceeded everybody's expectations last year, they stuck to the plan (the Wolski deal is proof of this, IMO). The draft this year was another step on the ladder. The quiet offseason is indicative of this long-term view as well. I'm just as upset that the Avs haven't appeared to do anything, but I gotta believe that it's because there's a good reason.