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Last Call: Last Straw

Sometimes I get fired up about something and stay up way too late writing about it. The 2017 trade deadline is one of those times.

Buffalo Sabres v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

So if you don’t read this by Wednesday morning, the day of the deadline, it might be out of date. Either way I would like to lay out a few things.

Avs Twitter has been a horrorshow of negativity. People demand to know why the worst players on the worst team haven’t been traded. Why Duchene hasn’t been traded. Why Sakic still has a job. In the final analysis, what happens at the deadline is mostly not consequential, and unless Sakic pulls off a real home run, his stewardship of this team will remain questionable at best. But as I write this now he’s managed nothing except wild rumors about Duchene and Landeskog and a brief mention of Fedor Tyutin by A-A-Ron Portzline.

Why aren’t the players being traded? Easy excuse: The state of the team goes without saying. They’re putrid. Every player on the team is associated with said putridness. It clings to them like tobacco smoke to a fleece jacket. In some ways that can absolve players. Give Matt Duchene a winger for Chrissakes, we cry. On the other hand, they are each 1/23rd of the roster of that bad team. Their contribution to the odor has to be determined before you decide whether you even want to trade for them.

Blake Comeau, as you will have heard on the MHH Podcast last week, is maybe the most tradeable forward, and his inability to give a damn this season may have cost him that title. He only has 14 points but he can be a strong forechecker, a presence in the neutral zone, a secondary threat on a team that actually possesses the puck and breaks out with it, and hey, a playoff veteran. This is the guy you can sell. Comeau is ultimately replaceable, and it would be easier if he weren’t signed next season, but retain salary and there you go, the cost is now reasonable. Judging by the rest of the deadline insanity Comeau could get a middle round pick. Lose him and you replace him probably with one of the kids, which you should want to do anyway. Keep him and there’s one less spot for Compher, Greer, Jost, and First Round Pick.

If the others aren’t traded, though, does it even matter?

Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Fedor Tyutin, Rene Bourque, all these are guys either in decline or never good whose (maybe bad) deals are about to expire. It is not reasonable to expect a significant return for any of them. Sure, you want more rolls at the entry draft, but having 5 picks after the 2nd round and having say 7 picks after the 2nd round are really not that much different. What Colorado need more than anything else is for their roster spots to open up, and yeah, I hope (I hope with the highest of hopes) that they can get a couple picks while they’re at it. Still, if they don’t, those roster spots still open up regardless. Ultimately, if they don’t go now, they disappear anyway.

(Sure, we would all love for the final year of Francois Beauchemin to be traded away, but for any sane scout that ship has sailed, and the most likely scenario is that he’s bought out or a 7th D next year.)

Where does that leave the Avs front office right now? They could deal Duchene, signalling that a new rebuild is on and Colorado will be bad until his return is good. They could deal Landeskog, which would say something similar and hamstring them with the Edmonton Problem, a whole bunch of forwards who do similar things in their core. Those guys, and Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, may net you a return you actually want. But boy, even though you’re selling low on anyone you sell on, don’t you dare get those trades wrong. Because if you do you’ve destroyed the team for years. Again.

So Joe Sakic can:

  • do nothing at all. The team improves by subtraction in the summer and we move forward.
  • Or he can get what are likely to be marginal assets and picks for a couple of guys we expect to lose anyway, if he can. Found money if he does, on top of the same benefit as doing nothing.
  • Or he can swing for the fences with extremely risky deals for Avs pieces entering their prime years.

At the end of the day even if the Pension Plan Potato were in charge of this deadline, the likely outcome is not much different from what we might realistically expect, and if it is a lot different, we’re in a scary new world that predicts a lot more pain ahead. Regardless the outcome, the damage has already been done.

Even if the Roykic front office partnership was 50-50 equal, that means Sakic must bear half the responsibility. He’s culpable for a team with nothing for depth forwards. For a team continuing to be hampered by old or replaceable players being signed for too much for too long. For an absolute failure to provide Duchene with a serviceable winger for years. For being unable to develop players. For being unable to shed whatever contracts they can’t get rid of as this year ends, resulting in wasted assets with nothing to show for it.

The Avalanche are a mess with no clear exit strategy other than wait and hope. This trade deadline cannot save their architect from the sword of Damocles. Doing absolutely nothing would be unacceptable, the last straw, and if no player is moved he deserves the sack on March 2. But even if he finds some draft picks for every impending UFA, Sakic has a lot of work to do to prove he deserves anyone’s confidence moving forward.

(hi, person who has made it to the end and is unclear why i would call portzline a-a-ron. hopefully this improves your day.)