Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy Still Have A Lot To Learn About Asset Management


I’m going to be critical of Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Before I get rolling with this, let me tell you how bizarre of a feeling this is. Sakic and Roy were my boyhood idols, so even contemplating writing an article not filled with praise and adoration has me feeling a bit guilty. But sometimes in life, you just have to eat that fourth cookie or second slice of cake, regardless of the associated guilt. So, here we go.

I’ll first start off by saying I truly thing that Sakic and Roy taking over this franchise last year, was the best thing that could have happened for the Avalanche. Both guys are winners, and they deserve a lot of the credit for the tremendous season the Avs had. This post isn’t going to be a knock on their ability to evaluate and motivate players, but more on an unsettling trend of poor asset management.

One of the keys to running a successful business is great asset management, even for a business as unique as an NHL hockey team.

The Avs have a fantastic young core in place, primarily due to several consecutive years of high draft picks.  The likes of MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Johnson, Varlamov and O’Reilly should keep the Avalanche relevant for the next decade. However, if the Avs truly want to be elite, and contend for Stanley Cups year after year, Roy and Sakic are going to need to improve on the business side of the game.

You always hear the phrase, hockey is a business, especially when it comes to the trade deadline and free agency. One of the keys to running a successful business is great asset management, even for a business as unique as an NHL hockey team. Sakic and Roy still seemingly have a lot to learn in this regard, as evidence by a series of curious moves since they have taken over the reigns.


Acquired Reto Berra from Calgary for a 2nd-round pick

In this deadline deal, the Avs seemingly over-pay for a goaltender. A 2nd-round pick was a high price for a goaltender at the time, considering Ilya Bryzgalov went for a 4th, Viktor Fasth went for a 3rd and a 5th, and Devin Dubnyk was basically given away.

You can make an argument that Roy and Avs goalie guru Francois Allaire probably saw something they liked in Berra’s game, but remember, this isn’t a post questioning talent evaluation. The fact is, the Avs over-payed for an asset, even if it was an asset they really wanted to acquire. Best case scenario, Berra pans out and is solid back-up for the Avs for a couple of seasons and the trade is worth it. Worst case scenario is there is a reason Berra posted an unsightly 2.95 GAA and 0.897 save percentage with the Flames last season, and struggled in his limited appearances with the Avs.

Poor asset management giving up a 2nd for a relatively unproven guy when there were many similar options available going for cheaper.

Acquired Daniel Briere from Montreal for PA Parenteau and a 5th-round pick

It wasn’t a secret that Roy was keen on moving PA out of Denver. He didn’t really fit in with the top-six here, and Roy didn’t like what he brought on the bottom lines. Many expected PA to perhaps be used as a chip to acquire a defenseman. Nope. Instead they get an aging Daniel Briere. A guy who is crafty, but like PA, isn’t exactly a checking forward.

Briere is coming off a rough season in Montreal, where he clearly fell out of favor. My issue with this trade, is that the Avs also threw in a 5th-round pick. Seriously? They couldn’t get Montreal, a team who was playing Briere on their 4th line to do the swap straight up. This is especially baffling since Briere clearly doesn’t have a role in the top-six in Colorado, yet it looks like Parenteau may end up skating on Montreal’s top line.

The Avs targeted a guy they apparently like in Briere. He is a veteran presence, and has had some of his best moments in the playoffs. The Avs want experience for the playoffs. Fine. I just think the Avs botched the trade. Remember, it was only two seasons ago that PA led the Avs in goals and points, and Briere clearly wasn’t favored in Montreal. Again, questionable asset management.

Acquired Brad Stuart from San Jose for a 2nd and 6th-round pick

Going into the off-season, it was known the Avalanche needed to shore up their defense. Brad Stuart is a former cup winner, veteran guy, with a reputation as a physical player. Despite reports that his game has slid a bit in recent years, he seems like a guy who could be a decent stopgap for next season on the blue-line.

The funny thing is, the Avalanche pulled the trigger on this deal during the first day of free agency. A 2nd and 6th round draft pick seem like a pretty lofty price to bring a guy in, when there are lots of other options available to be signed without giving up any draft picks. At the time I thought, okay, the Avs get a guy who is in the last year of his contract. They don’t have to commit to him long term, and he buys another year for the youngsters Siemens and Bigras to develop. But then they add to the oddity of the move, and go ahead and extend Stuart’s contract. Which leads us to part two…

Contract Extensions

Brad Stuart – 2 years/$7.2M

The $3.6M dollar cap hit Stuart arrived in Denver with was a bit gnarly. I for one was glad it was only going to be on the books for one season. Stuart is a guy who by many accounts is on the decline. He doesn’t bring anything to the offensive end of the rink, and many claim his foot-speed and decision making with the puck have been questionable the past couple of seasons.

I’m 100% on board with the idea of let’s wait and see what he does in Denver before I judge him. The Avalanche scouts liked him enough to send out a couple of picks. Hey, losing those picks stings a bit, but Stuart may find some real nice chemistry with Erik Johnson and have himself a bounce back season. It’s entirely possible this is exactly what happens.

Best case scenario is he comes in and is a solid compliment to EJ on the top pairing, and he earns that $3.6M the Avs owe him. If he comes in and does exactly what the Avalanche want from him, and silences the critics, he will have been worth the picks and money.

By locking him in for three years at $3.6M you are taking a pretty big gamble that Stuart finds his game. All they accomplished was limit their flexibility and expose themselves to risk. Bad business.

The problem is, now the Avs have upped the anti, by extending him for $3.6M for an additional two years. I think that this is about as good a contract as Stuart would expect to receive at this point in his career, and the Avs just dished it out on a silver platter to him, before he has even played a game with his new team.

Why not just wait and see how he plays. If he comes in and does well, sure I can get on board with offering him the extension. Maybe he settles into a less prominent role, and the Avs can get him for cheaper. There is no risk involved if you play it out this way. By locking him in for three years at $3.6M you are taking a pretty big gamble that Stuart finds his game. If he is the player that Sharks fans, and many media persona claim he is… the Avs are in trouble with this contract. Bad asset management. The Avs were in complete control, and did something they didn’t need to do at this point. All they accomplished was limit their flexibility and expose themselves to risk. Bad business.

Reto Berra – 3 years/$4.35M

Unlike the Stuart situation, the Avs essentially forced their hand to signing Berra to an extension. They acquired him late in the season, and he was a pending UFA, so they risked giving up a 2nd round pick for nothing if they didn’t get him locked up.

However, three years is a pretty big term for a back-up goalie who hadn’t done anything in a burgundy sweater. The Avs have a lot of promising goaltenders who are on the verge of being NHL ready. Calvin Pickard, Sami Aittokallio, and Roman Will being the main candidates. Sure, none of those three guys are a certainty, but neither is Berra, who at 27 years old has yet to really make an impact on an NHL roster.

Why the Avs were compelled to extend him for such a long period of time is beyond me. Again, limits their options going forward.

Cody McLeod – 3 years/$4M

Okay, so this deal I don’t hate. The highlander is currently the longest tenured Av. He was with the team through their darkest hour, and has always given 110% when he’s on the ice. Sentimentally, I’m extremely happy for Cody. He gets some nice stability as he nears the end of his career, and also gets to be a part of a promising young roster and a winner. Something he really hasn’t done up to this point in his career.

Lump this deal in with the rest of the moves the Avs have made lately, and it is more of the same story though. McLeod is a guy, who frankly, didn’t have a great season last year. Only Marc-Andre Cliche and Brad Malone had a worse Corsi than McLeod. He doesn’t seem to have the impact on the offensive end that he did earlier in his career, and he is a pretty average defender and penalty-killer.

Mar 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Cody McLeod (55) fights with Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank (17) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One thing with fourth liners, is you want flexibility and options. The Avs are now committed to McLeod for four more seasons, which may not be the worse thing in the world. McLeod is a fan favorite, and has those intangibles the hockey community loves such as passion and intensity. On a personal level, I love the idea of Mac finishing his career with the Avs. But again, this is business, and it shouldn’t be personal. This limits the potential for young guys like Samuel Henley, Dennis Everberg, and Borna Rendulic getting a crack at the NHL roster, and limits what the Avs are able to do moving forward.

You want your fourth line pieces to be fluid. Look at the LA Kings. They made a run to the Western Conference Final, and they have one of the most dynamic fourth lines in the league. These aren’t just pluggers and checkers they run out there. They have some big bodied guys with some talent. I love that the Avs went out and acquired some of these types of prospects in the off-season, that may soon give the Avs a similarly built fourth line… but then they go and dunk Cody McLeod in a tub of concrete. It just doesn’t make sense to commit to him for that many years.

The O’Reilly saga and Stastny farewell

The irony of the O’Reilly situation, is the Avs seem perfectly content throwing cash money at fringe roster players. However, it’s been like pulling teeth to get them to commit to O’Reilly. I understand, negotiations are a two way street, and O’Reilly commands a bigger dollar amount. It just is a bit unsettling that they put one of their own guys through the ringer… one of their best players, and a guy who has an extremely unique set of skills. Yet, Reto Berra and Brad Stuart join the squad, and immediately get taken care of.

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I know the Avs have their “structure,” and think this is a good approach. But I feel like O’Reilly is the type of player you want to take care of. Again, I understand Ryan has played his part in negotiations going sticky, and who knows how these things have played out behind the scenes.

As for Stastny, I think the Avs made the right call to hold on to him at the deadline. They had a dream season, and why not give those guys a shot at the playoffs. That being said, they still let a premium center go for nothing in the prime of his career, to a division rival of all places. I think the Stastny situation was a tough one, and I am not going to spend a lot of time chastising the Avs for how it played out, but again, it ultimately was another case of poor asset management.


Look, the Avs are in great shape. Most general managers would let Don Cherry pick their wardrobe for a year if it meant they could acquire the Avs’ core of youngsters. That being said, it is a fine line between winning and losing in this league, especially in the playoffs. The Avalanche are set up, and I really do believe Roy and Sakic are the guys for the job. However, as they fine tune the roster, and add in those complimentary pieces, it is important that they have good asset management. The Avs can’t count on a top three pick coming in to juice up the roster every season.

As of right now, it almost seems like there is a certain arrogance to the way the Avs are doing things. They go out and get “their guys,” no matter the cost, and then really commit to them. It may pay off, I’m not saying it won’t. Like I said, the Avs staff is undoubtedly loads better at evaluating talent than I am. I just have found a few things they have done a bit curious. It’s just something I think they should be cautious about, because it could end up burning them in the long run. Burning and avalanches don’t mix… Pretty soon you just have a slushy waterfall, and nobody wants that.

For now, I’ll continue to trust that Roy and Sakic have a plan. This post isn’t meant to say I think the wheels are coming off. I just expect this team to contend for championships. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to. In order to do so, I think the Avs will need to be a little cleaner with some of the details moving forward. It will surely be interesting and exciting to see how it all plays out!