I know the feeling around here, and truth be told, I've been heavily engaging in it. Our team sucks, players are under-performing, the coaching isn't fixed, and the prospect pool isn't great. Now feel free to mock me for jumping the gun a few years ago during the luck season, but I'm still optimistic that this can be turned around.
The first sign of good news is the cap situation. We don't really have any truly terrible long term truly terrible, or atrocious contracts. Sure we have some players who are over paid, and some that just aren't good hockey players but there isn't anything stopping the team from being able to make a lot of changes relatively quickly. And that's if they're even needed.
Luck is a part of hockey, I think we've all had that drilled into our heads by this point. But that applies off the ice even more than on. How many times do we see a really good player come out of no where? Or how often does it become obvious that a can't miss prospect is completely terrible? This stuff happens all the time. Sure the Pierre McGuires of the world will give endless credit to scouting when a player like Byfuglien goes in the eighth round, but the truth is that that stuff just happens. And it can easily happen to us. We may even already have that player in the system and he's just not become a surprise Norris candidate yet. It's players like that who end up making the difference. We have some high end talent up front, but with a forward's prime being right around 25, trying to rebuild through the draft using only the first round does not leave teams with much time to compete before the proverbial window closes. I specified only the first round because scouting has pretty diminishing returns after then. Point being, luck happens and bad play can never take that away.
Last time I looked, trades aren't against the rules in the NHL, despite rarely occurring these days. I think trades are wonderful from both a hockey fan's, and a specific team fan's perspective. Trades aren't zero-sum despite us all wanting to point out a winner and loser. This may just be my economic background talking, but a trade can't exist unless each side feels that they are giving up less than they're getting back. And most of the time, this holds true for deals at present value. Most people have a basic understanding of that, it's why pending UFA players are always assumed to be moved at the deadline for picks, or why it's rare to see players of the same position being traded for each other. Save for Subban and Weber. This team does not have a surplus of skill, make no mistake about that, and that definitely hurts our ability to make a move. Take the O'Reilly trade, the Avs' traded O'Reilly and McGinn for Grigorenko, Zadorov and J.T. Compher, It's pretty straight forward.... Except that's not exactly what happened. The Avs' actually only leveraged one year of O'Reilly's and McGinn's services in exchange for some prospects that could replace the value. Given that McGinn and O'Reilly are now both on new contracts, the Avs' are still seeing returns from the original O'Reilly and McGinn contracts. Where as Buffalo Traded players for the opportunity to give O'Reilly a lockout-inducing, buyout-proof contract. The Avalanche had zero interest in doing that so regardless of how well or bad ROR does going forward, it has nothing to do with the actual trade. The trade was a net gain for each team. Although, I'm probably not the only one who feels it wasn't enough of a win, but that's a topic for another day. The point is, as long as the front office is constantly exploring trades, this team can improve quite easily.
So there you have it, My assessment on why this doesn't have to be the end of the world. Luck, trade potential and a good salary cap. It doesn't sound like much, but it is better than situations some other teams are in. Also, I have no evidence to support the idea that the front office is capable of turning it around, but all the tools necessary are available. So before we start yelling 'blow it up' and 'tank', lets agree that those aren't sure paths to success and that sometimes success is a lot more laissez faire than anything else.
You know what? Nevermind, we're hooped.