The latest here for “The Soapbox”, an open forum for Avs fans to get something off their chest about the team. Interested in writing for the Soapbox? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions do not guarantee publication
By “Bob in Boulder”
Hunter S. Thompson. I had just submitted my first journalistic offering in decades, remnants of which will be scattered here and there in whatever this ends up being. Unrealistically hoping for complete acceptance right out of the gate. But no, AD is looking for less convention, more Hunter S. Thompson. I’m not Hunter S. Thompson, of course. One, he was brilliant. I’m just Bob. Two, he consumed chemicals until he launched himself into other dimensions. I have a stiff drink here and there. But convention? Kiss that goodbye. I tend to rant. A lot. About sports. About hockey. About the Avs. About other stuff too, but I’ll keep this on topic, I promise.
This offseason has been anything but boring for our beloved Avalanche. From drafting the top defenseman prospect, to trading away Carl Soderberg for a proverbial bag of pucks, and climaxing with the flurry of activity around free agency day, Joe Sakic made many bold moves. Sakic earned a ton of trust and goodwill with his big haul in the Duchene trade. However, I see too many people already planning parade routes and think we should heed the wise words of Larry David and curb our enthusiasm.
My initial, completely rational, reaction to the Tyson Barrie trade was, and I quote (censored, AD’s fine new site is PG) “WHAT IN THE HOLY BLEEPING BLEEP IS THIS BLEEP?” You didn’t just trade Barrie for Kadri. You threw in Kerfoot???? And you’re bailing out the Leafs by paying half of Tyson’s salary in the coming year? A team lacking secondary scoring behind their top 3 forwards traded away a big chunk of their secondary scoring.
Barrie, Soderberg, and Kerfoot were 4, 5, and 6 in scoring for the Avs last season, respectively, with 52 combined goals and 150 points. And the gap between them and everyone else not named LandMackTanen was significant. Eventually, I removed myself from the ledge, had a few more beers, and decided to join the more rational crew for a while.
So what did the Avs get in return for all of their moves, and what is Super Joe counting on in the coming year?
First and foremost, he’s banking on Nazem Kadri becoming the rock-solid and productive 2nd line center the team has lacked in recent years since various clustbleepery led to the departures of Stastny, O’Reilly, and Duchene.
Kadri was one of Toronto’s top scorers until last season, when the big UFA signing of John Tavares reduced his role for the Leafs. The inclusion of Kerfoot in the Barrie trade makes Kadri’s return to prominence even more vital. Unfortunately, last year Kadri had exactly one more goal and two more points than Kerfoot. He had 7 bleeping fewer goals and 5 fewer points than big ol’ Carl. My rationality started waning again.
Sakic is putting a lot of stock in one of the dirtiest words in sports, the dreaded p-word. I am talking about, of course, potential. He’s making a bold statement about his belief in young phenom Cale Makar. Evidently, he’s buying into the hype provided by Jeremy Roenick, who has already proclaimed that Makar will be better than Erik Karlsson, win multiple Norris Trophies, and even called him “the Connor McDavid of defensemen” during an interview on Altitude radio a few months back.
Hunter S. Thompson would like some of whatever JR is smoking. Barrie was a polarizing figure on defense but his offensive production will be hard to replace. Can Makar replace it right away? It’s way too early to tell. Just look at another talented young blueliner on the roster, Samuel Girard. The other young Av defenseman loaded with potential only has 8 goals in 155 career NHL games so far. That’s not a lot of production per spinarama. Speaking of, I might spin myself off of that ledge.
Finally, Sakic is hoping the trade acquisition of Andre Burakovsky and the UFA signing of Joonas Donskoi will add scoring depth. However, both Burakovsky and Donskoi are pure gambles on talented young forwards who have yet to live up to their potential, as neither has garnered 40 points in a season. In both cases, a change of scenery and increased roles may be just what doctor Sakic ordered, but until we see it … that ledge is still looking mighty inviting. Acquiring multiple Wojtek Wolskis, a poster boy for potential, can’t be a recipe for success?
This is not all doom and gloom. Sakic is smartly building a talented young roster and is avoiding overpaying some players who will either be in very high demand or are near the end of their career. The Avs have the best value superstar contract in the history of sports with Nathan MacKinnon’s, in stark contrast to a bitter rival who has the anchor twins (11 and 20, combine their numbers, subtract it from 31, and you have their combined Cups) signed to huge contracts until they both qualify for AARP (gratuitous shots at the Wild will always be taken).
Even after they sign their key RFAs, the Avs will have cap flexibility moving forward. Kadri’s contract is extremely reasonable, and he also will add an element of nasty (now that he’s an Av we’ll stick with “nasty,” as a non-Av he was “dirty”) that the team mostly lacks. I’m cautiously optimistic about the coming season, but there could be growing and adjustment pains. Cue up the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song and enjoy the ride, wherever it takes us. Without chemicals, unfortunately, and hopefully away from that ledge.