Colorado Avalanche Sending The Wrong Message


The Colorado Avalanche is in trouble.The message being sent is filled with errors and must be corrected.

Let’s go back a bit before we move forward. Let’s go back to the off-season when the Avs traded P.A. Parenteau for Daniel Briere, lost Paul Stastny but replaced him with Jarome Iginla, and then had a contract dispute with Ryan O’Reilly before settling things at the last possible second.

The Parenteau for Briere trade was seemingly necessary since the Avs wanted to add a playoff veteran and Parenteau had fallen out of favor with head coach Patrick Roy. I still don’t think it was a bad trade, however, Briere has been mismanaged since arriving in Denver. He started the year on the third line, where he should be, but then dropped to the fourth line in favor of Max Talbot before being a healthy scratch to make room for Dennis Everberg.

To me, this sent a bad message to the team. Briere was playing well in his third line role, scoring two goals (both game winners) and making smart plays. His reward was a demotion and eventual benching. It also sent the message that management and Roy don’t know what they want. They wanted Parenteau gone because he didn’t fit in and they wanted a contributing veteran to replace him. Instead they traded Parenteau for a $4 million healthy scratch.

Moving on to Paul Stastny. Some will say that he was asking for too much money and the Avs had no choice but to let him go. I’m one of those people. I don’t think Stastny is worth the $7 million that the St. Louis Blues gave him. On the ice, maybe he wasn’t. But Stastny was the Avs longest tenured player, an alternate captain, and a guy who was generally well liked by his teammates, media, and fans. You could see his chemistry with Gabe Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon in the playoffs and you could see his bond with Matt Duchene as they celebrated wins with the Bang Bang Dance.

Even though I don’t think Stastny is worth $7 million per season, the hardline approach that the Avs took with once again sent the wrong message. The Avs said, “Matt Duchene is our best player. We won’t pay anyone more than we’re paying Duchene.” So the Avs wouldn’t budge on the $6 million that they offered Stastny. While it’s understandable that the Avs want their best player making the most money, playing hardball with Stastny had to rub a lot of players in the organization the wrong way.

Stastny is missed on the ice as MacKinnon has struggled as the second line center and the team has struggled in the face-off circle, but his impact off the ice is where he’s truly missed.

Finally, the contract dispute with O’Reilly certainly didn’t win over many people. Yes, the Avs eventually got a deal done, but the long drawn out process was a headache for all involved. And in the end, O’Reilly got his money, the same amount of money that Duchene is making. Once again, a bad message was sent. The Avs spent months telling everyone that no one was worth more than Duchene, but when it came down to it, they blinked first with O’Reilly. And O’Reilly ended up looking a bit greedy, refusing to budge on his demands. It’s definitely not helping O’Reilly’s cause that he only has two goals and is a -12 on the season.

That was just the offseason.

Now let’s move on to the start of the regular season. One question surrounding the Avs before the start of the season was, “who will replace Stastny as the alternate captain.” The clubhouse leader seemed to be Matt Duchene. After all, his work ethic and passion is second to none of the team. He was also the team’s highest paid player and you would always hope that your highest paid guy is one of your leader.

Instead the Avs went with newcomer Jarome Iginla.

No disrespect to Iginla, who is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but he shouldn’t have been given the “A”. Given his veteran status, he should’ve been looked at as a leader anyway, so making him an alternate captain once again sent the wrong message. Roy should’ve shown faith in Duchene, his young superstar and the centerpiece of the team for years to come. Instead he went with Iginla, an aging veteran who will give up the “A” in three years or less when he likely retires. Avs management spent the whole season praising Duchene by making him the money measuring stick. Why not reward him with a letter on his jersey?

Throughout the season, Roy has constantly changed up his line combinations. Obviously when things aren’t working, you want to try and fix it, but sports are a strange beast. When things aren’t working, sometimes you want to give it a little more time to see if it’ll fix itself. It’s rare that players magically connect with one another the first time they shake hands.

For example, look at the 2010-2011 Miami Heat. After all the offseason hype when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade, the Heat finished November with a 10-8 record. They weren’t setting the NBA world on fire and everyone began to panic. That team went on to the NBA Finals with the only change coming when they released Carlos Arroyo to sign Mike Bibby.

Now I realize that basketball and hockey are two different sports (one is played on ice) but the point I’m trying to make is that the Avs need to stop trying to shake things up. They need to go with set line combinations for 5-8 games and see what happens. If they still aren’t scoring, shake things up. But switching lines after two games doesn’t help anyone. And sooner or later Roy is going to run out of combinations. Constantly changing lines sends a message of, “you don’t produce after two games, you’ll be playing with someone else.” Once again, not a good message to send.

If the Avs make a trade now, they’re once again not doing anything to correct the problem. They don’t need a forward. On paper, the Avs have plenty of talent in their top six and depth in their bottom six to compete with any team in the league. Obviously the defense needs work, but right now Semyon Varlamov and the defense and the defense and the forwards aren’t on the same page even though they’ve been together for months now. Adding someone new to the mix and expecting him to fit in within a game or two or asking a lot.

One more time: it sends the wrong message. It says that, “you guys aren’t getting it done, so we’re going to make changes” even though the core of this team got it done last year and management spent all offseason telling everyone how improved the team was.

The Avs need to somehow correct the message. Until they do, get used to the way things are now.