The Colorado Avalanche have a problem. It's not the same defensive problem we've been hearing for years. No, it's a scoring problem. In all the years I've been watching Avalanche hockey, I can't recall seeing the Avs' core of players struggling to score like this. Even when the team's "core" meant the likes of Wojtek Wolski and David Jones, the Avs did not struggle this much offensively.
Many NHL analysts picked the Avs to be in a similar spot that they are in now based on the fact that their defense is poor, that they brought in too many old guys, or that their goaltending would decline, but all those reasons have stood relatively tall. The defense had its struggles at the beginning of the year, but it has recovered and the Avs have been pretty solid defensively. The Old guys have not only kept up, they have excelled (Tanguay and Iginla are one and two in points on the Avs). Despite Varlamov having a nagging injury, he has played well when in net and Calvin Pickard played extremely well in his absence. The reasons for the Avs' struggles are not the ones the analysts picked, but rather the team's core.
I've stated before my stance on the Avs letting Paul Stastny go and that's all history now. Stastny is gone and the Avs have to look forward. The Avs' core offensively is now Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon. These four players have not been living up to their talent this season. Older players like Tanguay and Iginla have been brought in to complement these talented young players, not to carry them. But carry them they have.
In only his second year in the NHL and being asked to play a much bigger role, I'll let MacKinnon slide. But Duchene, Landeskog and O'Reilly are all getting their big boy money now. They've earned their right to make that money, but now they have to earn their right to have that money justified. The Avs are no longer a low budget drama. They're a blockbuster, and a blockbuster without explosions is well...disappointing.
The lack of scoring is alright for a time, but with the half way point of the season just around the corner, a change needs to happen. Patrick Roy can't just juggle the lines around every five games for short term results for the rest of the season. The Avs need a major change, and it needs to happen to the source of the problem: the core.
In the NHL, the most effective and often used means of change is the trade. Now I'm not suggesting that the Avs need to trade away their core and start all over, but I'm saying the Avs need to make an announcement to the NHL that they are ready to listen to offers, and one of those core players needs to be on the table.
Now, there's one obvious candidate for trade bait in that core four. That candidate is Ryan O'Reilly. With Landeskog and Duchene both signed up for the long term and MacKinnon being just 19, O'Reilly becomes the most likely candidate. Add in the fact that O'Reilly has already had two contract disputes with the Avs and the fact that he is averaging about 440k per goal he's scored this season and about 123k per point, O'Reilly not only becomes an obvious candidate, but a blaring beacon for a trade.
Many people have used Stastny's departure as a reason for which the Avs must keep O'Reilly, but I think Stastny's departure should stand as a reminder to the Avs to make sure they get their worth for their players, whether that be in a trade or through their play for the team. The Avs are paying at or around six million a year for each of Duchene, Landeskog, and O'Reilly. Those players need to start really proving that they deserve that money. Obviously money wasn't enough motivation for them to play at their highest level before, so now, the Avs management needs to try a little psychological motivation.
Trade rumors are a nice tool for psychological motivation. Change is a scary thing. And a trade means change; change in location, lifestyle, teammates, and friendships. Once again, I'm not saying the Avs should execute a trade that sends away one of those core players, but they certainly should open themselves up to the idea of it. When they do that and they announce to the rest of the NHL that they are wiling to pull the trigger on a blockbuster, maybe then their young talented forwards will start pulling the trigger and start putting some pucks in the net.