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Guest Column: From my perch in Vancouver, things look just fine with the Avs

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Another in a series of guest columns written by you, one of my subscribers. Those interested in posting a guest column as well: email it to me at adater@comcast.net. I enjoy hearing others’ opinions on the team we’re all so passionate about.

Today’s column is by Nathaniel Torok.

By Nathaniel Torok

I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and have been a fan of the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche since I was five years old. It’s a bit of a funny story about how I originally became a Nordiques fan. I was surrounded by Vancouver Canucks fans growing up, with a few family members being Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres fans as we were originally from Ontario. I played my minor hockey at the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver. This is the same club where Joe Sakic played his minor hockey until he was about fourteen years old before moving on to the Burnaby Winter Club.

His sister Rosemary was my power-skating teacher and I still have a vivid memory of Joe coming onto the ice with us one day with a stick and puck (we weren’t allowed a stick and puck with power-skating) and getting yelled at by his sister – “JOE! GET OFF THE ICE JOE!” Her brother had just been drafted by the Quebec Nordiques from the Swift Current Broncos in the first round of the 1987 NHL entry draft. In my eyes, he immediately became a superhero. I must have talked about my close encounter with a real NHL player to my parents non-stop – and I still remember getting home from school on my birthday and there was a brand new Quebec Nordiques Joe Sakic jersey hanging on my closet door. From then on anytime the Nordiques were in town playing the Vancouver Canucks I was at the Pacific Coliseum with my dad in my Joe Sakic jersey. And when I got home at night I had posters like these on my bedroom wall.

And my birthday cakes always said something like ‘Quebec rules’ written out in icing.

 To make a long story short when the Nordiques relocated to Colorado in 1995 I immediately became a die-hard Colorado Avalanche fan. And not long after the relocation, there was an Avalanche jersey waiting for me on my closet door on my birthday. And soon after that this championship poster on my bedroom wall:


I guess what I am saying is that I love this hockey team and I have been there from the start. The two Stanley Cups. And the ups and downs ever since. 

I like to think that this new iteration of the Avalanche began with the 48-point season five years ago. The team has clearly come a long way since then. I believe this team’s first real chance at a Stanley Cup was two years ago when they were defeated in game 7 by the Dallas Stars. I was not completely convinced they were ready though and I also knew they were not going to win with Michael Hutchinson as the eventual starter. Last year’s President’s trophy-winning team was the first time I expected them to win a Stanley Cup. I really believed they were the best team in the NHL heading into the playoffs and I was shocked at how they fell apart against Vegas in the second round. 

There is one silver lining I took from last year’s disappointing end to the season. I truly believe in the notion that you have to have your heart broken before you can win a Stanley Cup. And I believe that the heartbreak that they experienced will make them a better and hungrier team moving forward. It’s part of the process. You have to be patient. How long did it take Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning to win a Cup? Take a look. Remember their Presidents Trophy a few years back and the first-round sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets? The sky was falling. Heartbreak. And now look at them.

And this leads me to the realities of where this team is at now and how I think they did this offseason. I think this is a better team than last year’s. The heartbreak they experienced is the first reason why. I also believe Joe Sakic has done a great job this offseason.

I’m not sure what fans were expecting from Joe this offseason. There was just no chance that they could afford to bring everyone back. And if you took a quick browse on Twitter these days you would think the sky is also falling within #avsnation. The general sentiment with most fans is that this team has taken a step back. They have subtracted rather than added. How could they possibly be better? Why hasn’t Sakic done more? And why did they trade so much for this Darcy Kuemper guy when they could have lost nothing and brought back Grubauer?

Here are the reasons I think this offseason was a big success:

Betting with the Barbers!

 

  1. The choice to let Graves and Donskoi move on. They were going to lose Ryan Graves to the Kraken, and they could also not afford to keep Joonas Donskoi. Sakic was able to kill two birds with one stone here. He was able to gain assets (a 2nd round pick and Mikhail Maltsev) for what should have been nothing. This left either Joonas Donskoi or JT Compher as the clear choices for the Kraken. Everyone knew they were taking Donskoi. And the Avs needed them to take Donskoi as well. It was all calculated. All of a sudden the Avs now have an extra $7 million to play with to make sure they can sign more important players.
  2. Gabriel Landeskog signing. I know there was some debate about this but most agreed that they should bring back Landeskog as long as it was the right price. I think Landeskog could have gotten $9 million on the open market if he chose to leave. He wants to be here though and wants to win a cup in Colorado. He took a discount and the Avs got him at exactly the $7 million AAV cap hit they wanted. This is a win all around.
  3. Cale Makar signing. No brainer obviously. This guy is phenomenal. And they signed him for less AAV than what Zach Werenski and Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse signed for.

 

4. Sakic’s decision not to make any unnecessary signings or overpay anyone including Brandon Saad. He may have had his hand forced with Saad here as they didn’t have the cap room but when I look at what free agent forwards were available and how much they got paid then it makes sense to pass on every one of them. 4.5 a year for Mike Hoffman? 3.8 for Nick Foligno? 5.5 for Philip Danault? 4.9 for Blake Coleman for six years!? 3.75 for an aging and slow skating Paul Stastny? And then who else was really available? Do we actually think guys like Nick Ritchie, Mathieau Perreault, Corey Perry, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Dzingel, Derek Stepan etc…make this team better? I don’t think so. I do believe Ryan Murray and Darren Helm were appropriate depth signings though. And I believe their agile skating ability fits well with this team.

5. Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook, Sampo Ranta and Logan O’Connor. I know this isn’t an offseason move but these guys all have another year of experience and are going to be improved players next season. It makes losing guys like Donskoi and Saad that much easier, and also makes those losses make a bit more sense as well. I actually believe Ranta finds a spot on this team and makes an impact this year. Maybe he beats Maltsev for the last spot?

6. Nazem Kadri protected and staying. I think he is a great player and I still believe in him. He is still the perfect second-line centerman for this team. I know how many chances he has had. I want to give him one more.

And now for the big one that everyone seems to be upset about and debating. This is actually the move I am most happy with and the main reason I think this team is better:

Kuemper over Grubauer, Timmins, a first and a conditional 3rd.

I add Timmins and the picks with Grubauer because that’s what they ended up losing in the end when they made this decision. To begin with I am a huge fan of Darcy Kuemper. I think he is capable of being an elite goaltender in this league. I thought he was incredible against Colorado in the playoffs two years ago. At the beginning of last season I was tweeting that the Avs should move on from Grubauer and make a move for Kuemper. I know I probably would have been wrong about this in the end as Grubauer had a great season while Kuemper’s was full of injuries. 

I just believe Sakic and the Avalanche think Kuemper gives them a better shot at winning and they made their decisions accordingly. I don’t buy the argument that Sakic had to scramble after Grubauer signed in Seattle. They knew exactly what they were doing. 

I believe they thought that Kuemper is a better goaltender and that it was worth losing Grubauer, Timmins and the picks to get their guy. And in the end it doesn’t matter that they lost Timmins and the first-rounder. As crazy as that might sound. If the belief is Kuemper is a better goaltender and gives them a better chance at winning then it is a no-brainer decision. I think they had those conversations before they chose to not up their offer to Grubauer. I also do not believe they had any other goalie in mind. I think it was Grubauer or Kuemper all along. I don’t think they really considered Frederik Andersen, Braden Holtby, Martin Jones etc … In fact I think if Kuemper was not available then they would have upped their offer and given Grubauer an extra year. He just wasn’t their guy anymore, and it was time to move on. And IMO they now have a better goalie and are now a better team. I may be proven wrong on this but time will tell.

The last thing that everyone has to understand is that just because they are entering this season with this roster does not mean it will be the same team come playoff time. Sakic has half a season to figure out if they need to add more scoring depth. Do I think that there is a possible hole on the second line? Yeah, I think so. I do not think that JT Compher fits there. He is a third-line player at best. I do believe that Alex Newhook could be successful on that second line though. Let’s see how the season goes. Let Byram, Newhook, Ranta, Maltsev, and possibly Kaut and Bowers show what they can do first and then decide if we need to add some more depth.

I think it is time for everyone on Twitter to stop being so negative though. Take a deep breath. This is a great hockey team. And an improved hockey team that has gone through the process of having their hearts broken. 

And in a way, I love this team even more than when I was cheering on Sakic, Forsberg, Roy, Tanguay, Hejduk and Foote. I want nothing more than for this team to win another Stanley Cup. I’ll be making the trip from Vancouver to Denver when it happens. All we need is just a little more patience. 

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Joshua Canfield

Nice write up Nathaniel. I share the same sentiment about this current group of players. I’ve been a fan since they moved to Denver in 1996. I watched a lot of hockey until the 2006 lockout. After, I took a little break from hockey. I started watched again during that miserable 2016 season and I haven’t missed a single game since the 2017 season (working from home helps). After that awful season, it was like a flip switched in MacKinnon and he seems to drive the team. Rantanen came in, Duchene was traded and the arrival Makar. Each one of… Read more »

deuce37

Well done Nathaniel!

John Mauss

Nathaniel, what a great writeup! Adrian, sign this guy up.

Joseph Gauthier

Excellent write-up Nathaniel, I too, started as a Nordiques fan and just followed them to Denver. I agree with everything you wrote. I love how everyone knows and understands that regular season is important but not that much, when you know you’ll be making the playoffs this year. The playoffs is the only season that counts, right… if that’s the case, who cares if J. Sakic did enough during the offseason? Let the young kids (Newhook, Byram and possibly Ranta, Kaut and Bowers) take a crack at helping the team this year. Once the trade deadline approaches, Sakic will have… Read more »

phrish

Good column NT!

Nathan Edwards

Very nice read here. I agree with everything. I do think Perry would of been a great addition at just a million or so bucks. He performs very well in the playoffs.
I think Palmieri is still intriguing but maybe the Islanders have something worked out.

JD16

Nice job.
—from a fellow lower mainland Avs fan.

Last edited 2 months ago by JD16
ricoflashback

“This is a great hockey team.” We shall see.

Hoppyhacker

Very nice! Love your background, and your perspective. You probably remember Joe’s tenure with the Nordiques – terrible team. Joe knows what it takes to build a cup team, and he focuses on character more than talent. We can see this in all the moves that he makes. I like your perspective on needing your heart broken – it takes inner strength deep in every player – paycheck players detract from too many and kill the chances. That, is a no brainer for me.

Yan Girard

“This is a great hockey team.” I completely agree.

ricoflashback

Fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy, fanboy.

Check back after the playoffs and please provide your year-end, summary analysis and what the Avs need to do to win the Stanley Cup. (Five more Sammy Girard’s?)

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

Am I Avs’fan? Yes. Am I realist? Yes. The way is definitively open in the western conference for the next year. The main rivals will be probably St-Louis and Vegas. Vegas lost the goalie Fleury that can perform on the head. With Lehner in the nets, Vegas is certainly a poorer team. The Avs improved the position in the nets with Darcy Kuemper. Nothing against Grubauer but he wasn’t able to manage the pressure in playoffs. The Avs can count on the best line in NHL with Mackinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog. Also, the Avs can count on the best young… Read more »

ricoflashback

Yan, I agree on Grubauer and I hope Kuemper stays healthy. That will be the key to the Avs entire season. I have no idea on who is going to be the backup goalie for the Avs. Or, how good he’ll be. Agree on the MLM line. Very glad Landeskog is back. I’m a believer in Byram, if he can stay healthy. Murray could be the best pickup of them all and again, he’s had health issues. We know where we stand on Girard versus Graves. I believe Ryan Graves will be a very good defenseman his entire career and… Read more »

Yan Girard

In fact, I am not only Avs fans. I love hockey game. I love play hockey. I love watch hockey. I eat hockey. I like to see a team competes and realises one’s potential. No human likes being bored. If you give importance only to the outcome, why can we not look to a movie instead of the Avs games and see simply the scoreboard of the game thereafter? You will win time and you risk to be less disappointed. Thereon, I have a lot bad movies to recommend you. Currently, the Avs is all stars team. With a little… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Yan Girard
Yan Girard

I can already send you the checklist for the next season and the playoffs :
 

  • Well manage the pressure
  • Have a good game plan and respect it
  • Keep playing as a team
  • Playing with determination and deal with adversity
  • Perform at the best of their abilities or their potential
  • Limit the injuries

 
Keep that in your mind irrevocably.

ricoflashback

Please add a trade deadline acquisition that actually strengthens the playoff run.

Yan Girard

Add the trade deadline acquisition isn’t necessary. As I already mentioned, you don’t build a team at the trade deadline. It’s only to add depth at the team. Pierre Lacroix was the king in the trade deadline acquisitions. However, those acquisitions had not all been a success. For example, Raymond Bourque didn’t win at his first playoffs with the Avs. Also, the acquisition of Theoren Fleury had not been a success either. But times have changed. Now, there is salary cap. You cann’t add a large piece in the team as before at the trade deadline except if you have… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Yan Girard
Yan Girard

***Often, it’s to get a rental player.***

ricoflashback

Until the Avs win a Stanley Cup, Yan, all your points are conjecture and not validated.

Yan Girard

There is ONLY ONE TEAM on 32 teams that wins the Stanley Cup each year. To have the BEST CHANCE to win, a team must play according to his STRENGTH.

ricoflashback

Then tell Joe to do NOTHING at the trade deadline. On the other hand and totally contrary to your point – – the acquisition of Palmieri by the Islanders really helped them with their playoff run. In fact, a strong case can be made that they were the second best team in the NHL last year based on pushing the two time, Stanley Cup Champions, to a seventh game where they lost 1-0 and to one of the greatest goalies of all time and a sure HOF’er – – Andrei Vasilevski.

Yan Girard

What is your standing for Toronto Maple Leafs that was at only one goal to pass the first round? Don’t forget that’s Tampa Bay that won Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay traded at the trade deadline this year? I don’t search to defend Sakic not in any way. My detailed explication is the reality. Sorry, but your cause and effect relationship isn’t valid. 

ricoflashback

You never answer a question directly. Or affirm a proven statement. You continue to obfuscate and go on tangents that have nothing to do with the original point. It is what it is. How anyone can make a statement like the Avs are a great team with all the turnover and lack of success in the playoffs is beyond me. But I’m results oriented. You, obviously, are not. I reserve greatness for Championships and in hockey, Yan, that’s winning the Stanley Cup.

Yan Girard

The thing the more important for a General Manager (GM) is to know his team. To achieve this, it’s essential that the GM is able to evaluate properly his team. Otherwise, how a GM can take good decisions for his team?
 
On your part, you need to know if a team wins Stanley Cup to know if this team is great or not? In that case, the job of GM isn’t for you because that demonstrates clearly that you aren’t able to evaluate a team. Also, this explains why you don’t understand several decisions taken by Sakic. 

ricoflashback

A team isn’t great, Yan, until you win a Championship. End of story. I can easily evaluate that the teams Sakic have built have not won a Stanley Cup or even gotten past the 2nd round of the playoffs. How’s that for a 100% evaluation?

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

If you can easily evaluate that the teams Sakic have built have not won a Stanley Cup or even gotten past the 2nd round of the playoffs, you can also easily evaluate the team that will win the Stanley Cup the next year. If you tell me this team with the finalist team, you will have 100% evaluation.

ricoflashback

False equivalency. When you do an evaluation, Yan, you have a set of facts, a track record and history. You are equating an “evaluation” with a “forecast.” A forecast can be based on a set of facts, track record, history and trends & changes. If the history books had to evaluate Joe Sakic’s GM tenure to date, it would say that he has built very good teams (not great) that never won a Championship or even got out of the 2nd round of the playoffs. Pure fact. As for to my forecast for the next year, I don’t see anyone… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by ricoflashback
Yan Girard

I agree that Sakic didn’t get out of the 2nd round until now. Tampa Bay won Stanley Cup in 2019 and 2020. Before, Tampa Bay was a great team that knew a lot success. But the success in playoffs wasn’t there. Same thing for Washington. Look to core age of these teams when they won. Maybe that you will find answers. Before to win Stanley Cup, these teams won the President trophy and were been dominating during several years. These are the great teams that win this trophy. The Avs won this trophy the last years despite a lot injuries. If… Read more »

ricoflashback

Great teams are only great if they win Championships. End of story. The regular season, Presidents’ Trophy, isn’t the trophy you parade around the ice, high over your head. If you can’t understand that, you know nothing about NHL Hockey.

Yan Girard

The lottery of the GREAT team :
 
Maple Leafs Toronto : Tavares / Foligno / Muzzin injured
Avalanche Colorado : Kadri suspended and Johnson / Byram injured
Knights Vegas : Stephenson injured
Jets Winnipeg : Scheifele suspended and Demelo/Stastny injured
Tampa Bay Lightning : Kucherov injured during all the season permitting to respect cap salary
Penguins Pittsburgh : DeSmith / Malkin injured and Jarry isn’t able to stop beach balls
Bruins Boston : Carlo / Miller / Rask injured
St-Louis Blues : Perron COVID / Sundqvist / Faulk/Bortuzzo injured
 
***Incomplete***

Charlie

I became convinced Grub wasn’t our guy when he threw game 6. Game 6 in Vegas, the Avs go up 1-0 early and he isn’t even watching the puck to let in the softest goal of the year by any goalie. Comes out of the most important game of his life with something like a .773%. Good riddance Grub. Anyones better. Makes me wonder if he got paid to throw the game. What happens in Vegas…..is anyones guess

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