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Examining the pros and cons of the Avalanche making a play for Taylor Hall



In the entire history of the Avalanche’s stay in Denver, there has been exactly one rental acquisition at the trade deadline that won a Stanley Cup – and that is one more than most teams and anytime a Stanley Cup was won over a rental trade, it was ALL worth it.

That trade came in 2001, the Adam Deadmarsh-Rob Blake (plus others) trade. I’m not sure I even count that as a real rental trade, though, because the Avs, very importantly, re-signed Blake to an extension after that. They didn’t win another Cup with Rob Blake, but the Avs remained an excellent team for as long as Blake was here. Even though it was terrible to see Deadmarsh go – (I still get fans telling me he was their favorite Av from the old days) – the fact is Pierre Lacroix won that trade because…it won a Stanley Cup.

Otherwise, the landscape of failed rental trades is absolutely a panoramic, cluttered one, and the Avs have their fair share. The Theo Fleury trade was fun and the Avs went to the Western finals after getting him, but otherwise Calgary won that trade. Anyone remember how Darius Kasparaitis was the missing piece, in 2002? Remember the Avs getting Chris Gratton and Matthew Barnaby in 2004? Hey, Ray Bourque was a deadline deal, too, although he didn’t help win a Cup that first year with the Avs. Lacroix had to add a Blake to the mix to really put the team over the top.

Anyone want to bring up the name Derick Brassard? No? OK then. The point is – deadline rental deals have a long and mostly miserably failed history in the NHL. I could go down the list, with other teams, but honestly, I don’t have all night.

That’s why I would only recommend the Avalanche making a play for a guy like Taylor Hall – the former Hart Trophy winner who clearly wants to leave the New Jersey Devils after this season at the latest – IF they can sign him to an extension. And, potential-UFA-guys like Hall, guys who can go to the highest bidder on July 1st, almost never sign extensions prior to that with the team that traded for them.

Don’t get me wrong – I think Taylor Hall would be one hell of a nice acquisition by the Avs. But at what cost? Tyson Jost/J.T. Compher/Nikita Zadorov/all of the above, plus a first-round-pick and maybe another pick? I don’t think so. I don’t think the Avs are a “one step away from a Cup” team just yet, and trading off a bunch of young guys – even if they aren’t performing the way we all want right now – just goes against all the odds of common sense.

The Avalanche are losing a lot of hockey games right now, because they have had two of their best players – and, this is important, two of their best locker-room leaders – ripped out of the lineup. Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen not only add a ton of talent to the lineup, they keep other guys loose in the dressing room with their leadership qualities.

One thing the injuries to these two guys has glaringly exposed on this Avs roster is the lack of a real locker-room leader without them. My impression of the Avs’ room without Landy and Rants is of a group that doesn’t really know who to turn to. Some of the new guys who might fill good leadership roles (Nazem Kadri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) just haven’t been here long enough yet to really have that kind of influence.

They’re both still just trying to adjust to a new city and trying not to overstep their bounds within the organization, so when adversity is hitting like it is now, they probably feel like they have too much of a mute button to say much. Younger guys like Jost and Compher and Big Z – they’re all struggling with their own individual games too much to step up and give other guys a verbal kick in the ass.

Erik Johnson? Nathan MacKinnon? Those should be two of the main guys leading the Avs out of this current mess, and EJ, at least, is talking like he’s pissed off about it. I think everybody respects EJ and admires his work ethic. But he can only do so much. MacKinnon, at least from my observations, isn’t a guy who everybody can relate to in the room. He’s so talented and moves in more rarefied circles (commercials with Sidney Crosby, appearances on Spittin’ Chiclets, etc.) to the point where the call-up from the end of the bench just can’t really relate to him, and vice-versa. MacKinnon isn’t a guy who wants to deal with too many other issues other than his own game, I don’t think, so when times are tough like they are right now, I don’t think he can be that locker-room leader kind of guy. And, I am keeping the accent on “locker room leader” here. MacK is a warrior on the ice and leads more by example, and that’s OK. But he’s just not the kind of person who is going to go over to a rookie’s locker and put a hand on his shoulder and talk over his troubles.

If the answers aren’t going to come from within, without Landeskog and Rantanen for who knows how long, then the other potential solution is for Joe Sakic to go out and bring in some new bodies. There is plenty of speculation by my respected national media peers that Sakic may, in fact, be pondering that action.

This is not a season in which Sakic wanted to have the ‘wait-til-next-year” philosophy of the last few years. Not that Sakic was/is betting his entire hand on the team winning a Stanley Cup this season, but Sakic knows that this team, as presently constructed, would at least have a shot at a Cup. With an addition like a Taylor Hall, the odds would be better at winning one, at least on paper.

The dilemma Sakic faces: Keep hoping that the guys on hand can maintain a playoff position until Rants and Landy return, or realize that this might be the time to act before things keep going south without them? After all, folks, this Avalanche team would NOT have made the playoffs had the season ended today. They are on the outside looking in at the top 8 in the West right now, and who would have predicted that just two and a half weeks ago?

If the Avs are to get Hall, they will have to part with younger established players/picks. Do we really want to go there just yet? On the other hand, is it time to start thinking thoughts like “We may need to get something for a Jost/Compher/Big Z while we still can. Otherwise, we have to keep hoping on a roster that is 1-5-1 in the last seven games without two guys who might still be a ways away from returning. We can’t keep saving for a rainy day forever; it’s time to make a real move.”

I think it’ll be a fascinating question as to what Sakic does, moving forward. I tend to doubt he’ll make any kind of blockbuster trade this early, especially knowing he has two all-star forwards who can act as de facto trade acquisitions when they return.

On the other hand, Sakic learned from a guy like Pierre Lacroix. He’s not averse to a big trade now and then (Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie).

What do you all think? The floor is yours.

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