The impact that Joe Sakic had on the Colorado Avalanche franchise as a player is very well known. He amassed 625 goals and 1016 assists for a career point total of 1641, all with the Quebec/Colorado franchise. He captained the Avalanche to eight consecutive division titles and two Stanley Cups. Aptly nicknamed “Super Joe”, Sakic was the undeniable leader of the Avs throughout their dominant years. After his playing career ended in 2009, he had his number 19 hung in the rafters or the Pepsi Center, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer, and it only seemed fitting that he would still be a part of this team in some capacity. Joe is a life-long Ave - both on and off the ice.
After taking two years off, Sakic rejoined the Avalanche as an Executive Advisor in 2011 and was promoted two years later to Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. The next season he was given the General Manager title with the demotion of Greg Sherman. Taking the reins of a team in the midst of a rebuild, Sakic had a rough few years to begin his tenure as GM.
The Avalanche finished the 2014-15 season with 90 points and a 39-31-12 record. Unfortunately, that record put them in last place in the competitive Central Division. They were the only team above .500 to finish last in any division that season. That summer though, Sakic started putting some future pieces into place, drafting Mikko Rantanen in the first round with the 10th overall pick.
The next season saw Colorado decline a little bit further, finishing with only 82 points despite winning 39 games for the second straight year. Their 39-39-4 record put them in sixth place in the Central Division with Winnipeg finishing right behind them with 78 points. Another disappointing season saw another 10th overall pick in the draft, which Sakic used to select another integral part of the Avalanche rebuild, Tyson Jost.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, as the old saying goes. Never was that more true than during the 2016-17 season for the Colorado Avalanche. Finishing dead last in the entire NHL, Colorado had a record of 22-56-4 for only 48 points. The record on the ice wasn’t the only issue that season, as Sakic also had to deal with star center Matt Duchene asking for a trade out of Colorado. In a year that seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong, the General Manager had his work cut out for him that summer.
After stating that he was going to make this roster younger and faster, Joe Sakic did just that and the Avalanche said goodbye to Mikhail Grigorenko, Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla, Francois Beauchemin, Fedor Tyutin, Andreas Martinsen, John Mitchell and Cody McLeod. In addition to Jost and Rantanen, the Avalanche also added Sven Andrighetto, Mark Barberio, J.T. Compher, Matt Neito, Dominic Toninato, David Warsofsky, Colin Wilson and Nail Yakupov. Last summer they also signed Alexander Kerfoot, a rookie out of Harvard University and goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Then came the Matt Duchene trade on November 5th, 2017. In return for Duchene, Sakic got a young puck moving defenseman in Samuel Girard, two highly touted prospects in Vladislav Kamenev and Shane Bowers, a goaltender with NHL experience in Andrew Hammond, and three draft picks. After struggling to find an identity for this team in his first couple of years, Joe Sakic now had the young, fast roster that he was looking for. He was also able to acquire some nice pieces for the future to keep the pipeline stocked.
Although Sakic’s focus the past year has been building this team for the future, the Colorado Avalanche have been a nice surprise by making the playoffs and showing that this rebuild is coming to fruition faster than anybody anticipated. With the youngest roster in the NHL this season, and with a game plan for the future finally in place, Joe Sakic is starting to show that he is not only going to be remembered by his success as a player, but also for leading this team from a front office position as well.