A quiet Tuesday morning turned into a gigantic news dump from the Colorado Avalanche.
Before everyone had even had their cup of coffee, the Avalanche sent out an email confirming that their Captain, Gabriel Landeskog, will likely miss the entire 2023-24 season due to knee surgery.
Both Landeskog and Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland met with the media soon after to discuss the news, as well as other items, including the status of Valeri Nichushkin.
Well, kind of.
Let’s start with Avalanche Captain Gabe Landeskog. Here’s what he had to say about the surgery, recovery, his confidence level in returning, and other things.
Landeskog on the decision to go with surgery:
“We continued exploring, and (I’ve) done more studying in the last month than I have since high school. So, extensive research on my end, and with the help of our medical staff on the team, and I’ve talked to numerous doctors and medical experts, and getting opinions, learning more about what the different procedures would be. This is the one that we feel is the best way forward and the best solution for me to come back and play hockey again. It’s been a process, but at the same time, I feel confident in the decision and I’m excited to get going and excited to have the first step out of the way tomorrow morning.”
Landeskog on the timetable:
“It’s still too early to tell, to be honest with you, on the timetable. Obviously, we’re expected to miss the regular season next year, and that’s just something that I’ve come to terms with and accepted. For me, it’s about taking it one step at a time, and now I’m not so focused on that. I’m confident. Everybody I’ve talked to in the medical experts that I’ve consulted with have shared that faith with me as well. I feel good about it. The rehab process will be mostly out of Denver. I’ve put together a team that I feel very confident with, and I’m looking forward to getting going.”
Landeskog on potential retirement:
“I have not contemplated retirement at all, to be honest with you. It’s just been a matter of finding the best path forward for me. Identifying the problem, and then figure out a solution. Until I’ve exhausted every option, then I’m just going to keep pushing forward. Is it going to be a long road? Yeah, but motivating factors are plenty. Obviously, the last time I was on the ice in a game-time situation, was Game Six down in Tampa Bay, and we were the winners of the last game of the season. That’s enough motivation in and of itself. And I think watching our team this year has been very motivating. There’s been so many times where I just wish I could tie up the skates and go out there and play with them. I know that time will come.”
Landeskog on success rates and talking to other athletes:
“Well success rate, I think, is above 85%. It’s an uncommon procedure for elite athletes and hockey players, even more so. Basketball players have done them, and I’ve actually spoken to Lonzo Ball, that just had the same procedure done a couple months ago probably at this point. Been able to talk a little bit with him. I’m confident. It’s an injury that’s hard to rehab. Once the injury is done, and there’s enough damage in there, it’s sort of hard to patch the holes without going through this procedure, at this time, with the symptoms that I have and what I’m experiencing.”
“It was nice to talk to somebody that has gone through the same thing, and same frustration, regarding the injury. Some days, you feel like you’re making a little bit of progress, then you get a constant reminder that you’re not really that close. He would be a few weeks ahead of my schedule. He shared some insight on what the first few weeks have been like. I’m sure that’s a guy that I’ll be checking in with once and a while.”
Landeskog on returning to his previous level of play with the Avalanche:
“I’m confident. I think it’s an optimism and confidence that you need to have. And I think, you’re going to continue to explore options and stick to the plan that you put in place, and really keep executing it until you get there. I have spent lots of time thinking about it, and when you do come back, for me, I know it’s not going to be perfect right off the get-go. It’s a long time away from the game. I’m confident in the player I am, I’m confident in the athlete I am. I know that I can get myself ready, and I know, with the right guidance and with the right people around me, I’m confident that I’ll get back out there and make a big impact on the ice, so I’m excited.”
Landeskog on the surgery and when it was first presented to him:
“It was first mentioned to me back in September. Along with the option that we just went through, but in my mind, it was about exhausting every possible option at the right time. And for me, you’ve got to remember, back in September, we were just coming off the Stanley Cup, and yeah, my knee had been bothering me for a long time, but I still felt like if we could just stick with the rehab and take our time with it, do it right, not rush through anything to make a certain deadline or timeline – at the time, I was confident that I could get back and play. Not realizing that maybe the damage was kind of already done. But, at the same time, I feel like we made the right decisions all along the way. We gave it a real good shot this year of coming back, and the goal was to come back and play. The knee just didn’t respond the way we thought it was going to. And then from there, you pivot and make a different decision.”
Landeskog on potentially returning for playoffs:
“I would just say it’s too early to tell, and I’m definitely leaving that door open, if that’s how we want to put it. There’s lots of steps to take before we get to that point.”
And that’s all for Landeskog. He undergoes surgery tomorrow morning, and begins rehab immediately.
Now, on to Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland. This is the first time he’s spoken since the Avalanche were eliminated by the Seattle Kraken. He obviously discussed the loss of Landeskog, what the extra cap space means to the team, and yes, he was asked about Valeri Nichushkin, although he had very little to say.
MacFarland on having certainty around Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog’s injury heading into the summer:
“First of all, Gabe Landeskog is a really special player in the NHL, and for our team, his importance transcends the ice. He’s a power forward that touches every conceivable game situation. In terms of replacing him, it’s really hard to replace your captain, and what he does off the ice, as good of a player as he is on the ice. He’s a hard guy to replace. The narrative of knowing that he’s potentially out and how we handle that and knowing that, then we have some things that we have to look at and potentially, opens up avenues that weren’t available to us this last season.”
MacFarland on balancing short-term and long-term:
“I think Joe and the staff, myself and our scouts, as always we’ll look at every opportunity to improve the team, and I think that will include both short and long-term type of players. If there’s a player that we could potentially add that has term, and he fits what we’re trying to do, from an age standpoint and makes sense, we’ll find a way to make it work. If it’s more shorter term deals, then we’ll certainly have the ability to strike on that. We’re early in the process of that, with our scouting meetings here coming up shortly on the pro side, and then with the combine and the draft, I think things will potentially crystalize. I think everything will be on the table for us to improve, but having ‘X’ number of dollars because a player has a long-term injury is one thing. You know, Gabe Landeskog is a really special player, and while the knowledge of his situation certainly helps, replacing him is an entirely different conversation.”
MacFarland on the first-round loss after winning the Stanley Cup:
“What the guys did last years was incredible. We had a great year, and it ended with a championship season. Obviously, we have high expectations, in large part because of what those guys have built towards over the last 3-4-5 years. The group dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity, in large part because of injury. Not just Gabe’s, either. From that standpoint, I think Joe, myself, our coaches, it’s been said, they were incredible. They got 109 points, grabbed home-ice. Did playoffs go the way we hoped? No, it didn’t. I think every one of them would tell you that they expected to keep battling and still be playing. We’ll do our part to try and improve the team this off-season. I’m very proud of the group, we’ve got great leadership in there, and a very resilient group that wants to win.”
MacFarland on other injuries the team was dealing with:
“I can give you a couple. Pavel Francouz had a procedure done on an adductor. I believe, Artturi Lehkonen, we know he broke a finger, and then he broke a toe right when he came back early. He played through that. Josh Manson had a procedure done last week as well. These are guys that were playing through a lot of stuff through the year, and then we had a few other guys. Obviously, we know what Cogs had, but before that he had a shoulder issue, an AC sprain. In terms of off-season surgeries, it was Francouz and Manson, and both expected to recover here in the near future.”
MacFarland on Cogliano:
“To my knowledge, Cogs has a 6-8 week recovery, I believe. I could be off on that recovery timeline. I don’t think anything procedurally is expected at this point in time.”
MacFarland when asked if he can give clarity on Nichushkin’s situation:
“It’ll just be consistent with what the messaging has been. We can’t comment on Val’s situation at this time.”
MacFarland on any Eagles players being able to fill holes for the Avalanche:
“Well, we’re certainly going to have opportunities for guys to make a dent, and prove to coaches and our group here that they can make our lineup. Whether you’re talking about a guy like Ben Meyers, or Justus Annunen, or some of the college guys we signed late in the Spring here. Those guys were all signed because we have NHL hopes for them. Now, hopes and doing it are two different things, as you guys all know. We’ll need some of those guys to take a step, but they have to earn that.”
MacFarland when asked about Nichushkin again and concern of his future with the team:
“I can’t comment on anything Val related, other than to say he was a very important part of our team in the past, and that’s our hope, that he’s going to be a very important part of our team in the future.”
MacFarland on the Avalanche free agents:
“Part of the CBA is unrestricted free agency, and when players are entering that year, that’s a right that they have, is to test the market. We have, like we do every year, we have off-season meetings, and part of that is the puzzle piecing of our roster with our pro staff, Joe, and the coaches. Certainly, between now and the draft, we’ll have those internal discussions and see if any of the current UFA’s, we’ll certainly cycle with some of them and see if there’s a contractual fit. And if not, then we know what we have in terms of cap dollars as we approach the draft and free agency to see who can make a fit. That work has started, and will continue to be a key focus here.”
MacFarland, again, on Nichushkin:
“I can’t comment on it anything more than we have on Val, so that’s where we’re at.”
MacFarland on if the Nichushkin situation gives the Avalanche any murkiness in terms of what space they have to use:
“No, there’s no murkiness. We know what we have in terms of our cap. We think we have a pretty good feel on the areas we want to tighten up and improve to get the roster where we feel is in a good place as we enter training camp next year, so we’re excited. We’ve got a really good group. We’ve got some really hard to find pieces in key position spots. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited here with our group, and I think a lot of them have been through the battles with us over the last number of years. We expect to be a good hockey team, and a competitive team.”