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Twitter Tuesday: Trade deadline targets, the Colorado Eagles and development

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Only four days left until the Avs return

COLORADO EAGLES AHL HOCKEY
Players watch on as Eagles head coach Greg Cronin draws up plays at practice
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Day 8 without Colorado Avalanche hockey...everyone hanging in there?

We’re 27 days away from the NHL trade deadline and the question(s) now become what will the Colorado Avalanche do and who might Joe Sakic covet to help his team make the final push.

If the Avs will be anything at the deadline, they are buyers. Teams in a position such as the Avs’ will always be buyers. This team isn’t selling its assets to build toward the future anymore. The future is here and now, and the work Joe has put in up to his point is finally blossoming and bearing its fruit as the calendar turns to spring.

Colorado boasts the NHL’s youngest roster and one of its most talented, as evidenced by the team’s position in the NHL standings. They’re set for the future and they’re doing pretty well in the here and now. Still, however, every team reveals some chinks in its armor by this point in the season. Yes, even the Avs.

For Colorado, the triage report includes power-play woes and penalty-kill issues, some defensive unreliability and a bit of a lack of depth scoring. And whoever, if anyone, Joe brings in needs to be a veteran with playoff experience — something the team really lacks above all else.

I’ve been among the small contingent that the Avalanche needs defense help more than anything. I’ve gone on record saying Jeff Petry could be a solid veteran addition to help clear the front of the net for the otherwise smallish defensive presence that’s currently in front of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz. I’m very much of the mindset that “defense wins championships” and there’s only so much Nathan MacKinnon can do for this team.

The issue I’m starting to see, as others have pointed out, is where might a Petry — or whoever it might be — fit in with the Avs’ current defense. Who do you take out of the lineup? Obviously not Cale Makar or Sam Girard or Erik Johnson. Ian Cole is the most experienced in the NHL playoffs and it’d be silly to take him out. Ryan Graves has proven to be a solid pairing with Makar and it wouldn’t make much sense to shake that up. That leaves Nikita Zadorov as the odd man out, and he would likely need to be moved in a potential trade. But is there a market for Z? I’m not so sure.

Most people seem to want to see Chris Krieder in the Burgundy and Blue, and honestly I’ve come around to the idea. He could help Colorado’s stagnant power play and would bring in nearly 80 games of playoff experience, more than the Avs entire top line combined. Kreider would turn 29 years old in the middle of the second round of the playoffs and would be a nice veteran presence to help guide the Avalanche to where they need to be. But at what cost becomes the question? Does Joe part with his first-round pick? Or Shane Bowers?

The AHL schedule almost entirely consists of back-to-back games, and that’s tough on even the world’s most talented athletes.

Indeed, the Colorado Eagles struggle on the second night of back to backs. Let’s take for example the Friday-Saturday night sets, the most common games in the American League. Since joining the AHL last season, the Eagles are 24-6-3 all-time on Fridays. On Saturday, Colorado is 18-19-5 all-time in the AHL. This season, in back-to-back games, the Eagles are 6-9-2 in the second game of the double-header.

It could be any number of reason as to why it’s such a struggle. For most teams, it’s a conditioning thing and tired legs are often to blame — or at least that’s the easiest excuse. Or perhaps, the other team figures out Colorado’s strategies and are better able to exploit them after having seen them the night before. I really couldn’t tell you.

As for Eagles head coach Greg Cronin, I’m actually in the process of writing a story about that. I asked Cronin to evaluate himself as a coach and ask Eagles GM and Avs assistant GM Craig Billington how he or the Avs evaluate a coach and I got some pretty good content from them.

For me personally, I’ve always enjoyed talking to the guy. He has an incredible understanding of the game and the little details about a player’s development and how to mold them into NHL players. He’s a very, very honest guy and I’m sure he’s the same way toward his players. He has a firm grasp on players’ individual strong suits, what they’re good at and what they aren’t.

I think when you evaluate a coach in the AHL in particular, you can’t look at the team’s record. The AHL really isn’t about how well a team does, rather, it’s a developmental league and the success of the program is more so evaluated by the number of players that AHL team graduates to its NHL franchise. In the team’s first year in the American League, Cronin led the team to the playoffs when maybe the expectations were a little lower. In his second season, he was really challenged when the Avs were going through that tough stretch of injuries that sent nearly half the Eagles roster to the NHL to help the cause. The Eagles he developed were able to make a big impact for the Avs while he was also able to coach the ones that stayed to a respectable winning record.

Cronin is in a contract year and it’ll be interesting to see what the organization does in terms or re-signing him or finding a new bench boss. My money’s on his staying in Loveland.

I don’t think we can realistically and fairly evaluate that question in just the second season of the partnership with the Eagles. The answer will come when players like Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers, Conor Timmins, etc. eventually make the jump, and we’ll see how well they do when they get that call.

There really hasn’t been an opportunity to see how these players have developed just yet. As far as the Avs go, until recently, they haven’t really drafted all that well. And you’re right, when you look at the Avs’ current roster, really none of the players spent much time in the AHL, at least not with Colorado’s farm system. Ryan Graves is really the only “home-grown” prospect and he only spent 32 games with the Eagles last season before getting called up and subsequently finding a permanent home in Denver.

I’m not sure there’s anything the Avs can really do any different. It’s really just a wait-and-see situation.

Head coaches may get fired during the season, but assistants and special teams coaches almost never do. I do think it might be something they explore in the offseason if there’s no real improvement by season’s end.

Assistant coach Ray Bennett is the guy that runs the power play in Denver. This year is really just an anomaly. When he came on board at the start of the 2017-18 season, he coached Colorado to back-to-back top-10 power-play seasons for the first time in 13 years. I’m not sure what’s changed or what’s different about this season, but when you look at the bigger picture, Bennett doesn’t deserve a whole lot of criticism. He’s done well in the past and we just have to hope this fixes itself at some point soon.


Anymore questions, comments or concerns? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter anytime @0ffScottFree.