There’s a thread running through several of the posts and comments in the last week that has me a tad perplexed. With the trade of Cody McLeod, many have pointed to it as the start to the domino train that will be a scrapping, or at least reboot, of the core. Others hope it’s just the first signpost on clearing out the junk on the bottom half of the roster for anything, including used bags of pucks. One additional benefit for either scenario seen by many is that roster spots will be opened up that could be used to bring up the likes of Greer, Compher, etc. The hope is that their arrival will herald an improved bottom/middle six that could help the Avalanche improve down the second half of the season.
That is a horrible fucking idea.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that I enjoy the Avalanche as they are currently built or as they are currently playing. I’m a goalie, but I’m not post-lobotomy.
After Sacco, Duchene, O’Reilly, and new captain Adam Foote carried the franchise to a surprise 8th seed in the 2009-1010 season, the Avs picked 17th. Joey Hishon. That didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. If they’d finished somewhere in the neighborhood of the basement of the Western Conference like they had the prior season, they’d likely have been picking in the top 5 of the draft. Names like Seguin, Johansen, Skinner, Fowler, and Tarasenko would have still been in play. The uptick toward competence in Sacco’s first season no doubt cost the Avs a potential developmental building block on the road to a rebuild. Then we got a 14th place finish in the West and Landeskog after the 2011-2012 season. We also picked up Duncan Siemens in that draft, but after more than two pro seasons under his belt, we still haven’t seen him really on the team.* Unfortunately, nothing the next season because of the Varly trade. That’s two-out-of-
four five first rounders that haven’t yet or flat didn’t make the team! During a rebuild!
Then the same thing happened again in 2013-2014. After a dead last finish in 2012-2013, shiny new head coach Patrick Roy sold his soul to the devil and he and shiny new Nathan MacKinnon (1st overall in 2013 draft) carried the team to another surprise 8th place finish. They drafted 23rd (Conner Bleakley) this time. Again, that didn’t work out so great. Heck, I’ll give the team the benefit of the doubt and expect a somewhat better finish than the the dead last that earned them MacK the previous year. So say they finished in the bottom 5 of the league in 2013-2014. We’d be talking about somebody like Draisaitl, Ehlers, Larkin, Fabrii, Fleury, or Bennett as possible Avs right now. Again, another potential building block missed.
I’d even go a step further and wonder if the Calgary zone effort in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 raises a similar issue, and I love me so Rantanen and Jost. But you go to wonder how our blueline would look if we’d DRAFTED Hanifin or Werenski. Or if we’d been in the conversation for Laine.
So, I posit all of that to say this: I support developing the players the right way and getting a look at guys and evaluating them for next season, don’t get me wrong. But it needs to be done in a controlled manner that doesn’t affect the standings. This is a thin draft and with Vegas getting a pick for existing, it throws off the percentages for everybody near the bottom of the barrel. Moving from last to even third-or fourth-worst could conceivably push us out of an entire tier of talent in the upcoming draft. Given the track record of the Avs in the first round, that’s not a variable I want to introduce if possible. This one-and-done pattern of first round picks before upper-tier mediocrity isn’t helping the team correct issues it has had for going on a decade. They need prospects. And when the future hinges on 2nd and 3rd rounders because you don’t even hit on 50% of your 1st rounders is a losing prospect.
So, bring up guys, but they should be careful that they should only bring up a fixed level of give-a-shits. Bringing up 3, 4 or 5 at a time and having them inject the team with some passion, fucks-to-give, and better understanding of the systems might not pay off in the long run. Of course, you only get that turnover if the core is shook up or if the Beauchemin’s, Iginla’s, Comeau’s, and Mitchell’s currently holding down roster spots find new homes. On the same token, we should be rooting against any uptick in historically unsustainable, low production from anybody rocking downturns in goals/assists on the team too; looking at you Gabe, Carl, Tyson, and MacK.
As painful as it is, given the way this team has gone this season, we need to be careful how we manage improvement in the second half of the season. I don’t think the team needs any help to play like shit. I mean, you’ve seen them play, they’ve mastered it. But I’m not sure sure they need any help to play better either. Not yet, anyway.
*Thanks to faydout for pointing out my mistake.