Colorado Avalanche: Stay Loyal to Landeskog

Oct 29, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is on the trading block, but the Avs need to keep him.

Recently, Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic attended a Boston Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens.  During the game, Sakic was photographed conversing with Bruins GM Don Sweeney, likely discussing a trade.

The Boston Bruins have long been rumored to be interested in Colorado Avalanche captain, Gabriel Landeskog.  Reports suggest that Sakic asked for 20 year old defenseman Brandon Carlo in return.

After scouting the Bruins, Sakic also attended the Beanpot Championship between Harvard and Boston University.  Between the two teams, there were four Bruins prospects playing in the game.

More from Mile High Sticking

With Sakic’s activity, it seems he’s seriously considering the Bruins as a trading partner.  However, it doesn’t stop there.

 The night prior to the Bruins game, Sakic watched the Avs against the Ranger at Madison Square Garden.  Following, he attended games against New Jersey, Buffalo and Carolina.

Of the teams Sakic saw, the Canadiens and Hurricanes have both been linked frequently with the Avalanche, while the Rangers could have some interest in trading with the Avs.  

Regardless of what happens at the trade deadline, it seems Sakic is preparing himself to listen to offers for his stars, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene.

While both players have already garnered interest around the league, I believe it would be a mistake to trade Landeskog.  As I argued in a previous post, trading Duchene makes the most sense.

Landeskog’s Worth

Right now, it’s difficult to estimate Landeskog’s worth to the Colorado Avalanche.  As a former second overall draft pick and four time twenty goal scorer, his 22 points in 43 games is well below expectations.  

Currently, he sits ranked 200th overall in the league, averaging .51 points per game.  Again, for a player of this caliber this is huge disappointment.  As is his -17 plus minus rating.  

On the positive side, Landy ranks third overall in the league in take-away differential (two takeaways behind Mikko Rantanen) with a plus 22 differential.  

In context, other players in the top 20 of this stat include: Filip Forsberg (4), Rick Nash (6), Mark Scheifele (9), Ryan O’Reilly (12) and Patrice Bergeron (16).

In terms of overall takeaways, he ranks 19th overall, however has played on average about ten games less than others in the top 20.

Not to claim Landeskog is a defensive wizard, this does show that there is more to his game than scoring, and that his ability to create turnovers places him in a category of other strong two-way, top six forwards.  

Landeskog has also contributed on the penalty kill.  He’s played  a total of 90:31 on the penalty kill all year, averaging to 2:10 a game.  

Finally, Landeskog continues to hit, averaging 2.16 hits per game.  This is far off from his incredible 2.79 average of his rookie season in which he put up 229 hits in 82 games, yet still impactful.

All in all, his stats are far from outstanding.  A player with his skill set should be scoring much more.  Yet, his takeaway differential shows a different side to his game that is rarely noted.  

Judging him based on these numbers is difficult as an Avs fan.  The Colorado Avalanche obviously pegged much of their future on him when they took him second in the 2011 draft and made him captain not long after.

As the trade deadline approaches, based on his stat line alone, it’s hard to make an argument that Landeskog is essential to the future of this team.

Defending the Captain

Earlier in January, Landeskog told the Denver Post “I want to be an Avalanche, to stay an Avalanche and be in Denver for a long, long time”   

Throughout his tenure as captain, Landeskog has demonstrated this commitment with passionate, sometimes bordering on reckless, play on the ice.  Supported by leadership and professionalism off the ice.

Landeskog recently demonstrated this by taking responsibility for a late penalty he took against the Vancouver Canucks in the third period, leading to the game winning powerplay goal.

 Assessing the penalty afterwords, Landeskog remarked “It was hands down probably the dumbest penalty I’ve  taken; so that’s on me”  

Later in the period, Landeskog finished the game by violently slashing Canuck forward, Brandon Sutter’s stick out of his hand, preventing him from scoring on an empty net and leading to a brief shoving match.  

Although far from a testament to his true leadership skills, a small act of frustration like this reveals Landeskog’s passion on this ice.  

In fact, this something we’ve seen often from the captain.  On a team that has largely accepted defeat meekly the past few season, Landeskog is one of the few that shows his frustration by making a big hit, getting into a fight or scrum.

Perhaps no game best exemplifies this than earlier this season when Landeskog and Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk got into a heated shoving match.

After the game Landeskog commented politely on the incident, saying, A little hack on the calf and it was my turn to give it back. It was pretty even. I don’t think there’s a villain and a good guy in that fight.”

This was a turning point in a passionate game against a rival, and not long after, Landeskog found himself scoring the game’s only goal through the five-hole off Dubnyk.

 It’s a game like this that demonstrates Landeskog at his best; a pest, scorer and leader.  

In response to trade rumors and the disastrous Colorado Avalanche season so far, goaltender Calvin Pickard stated 

"“He’s a great captain.  I’ve been here for parts of three years now, and he’s awesome. He’s always happy, positive with everyone and he goes out and leads by example.  That’s been no different this year”"

 It can be hard to determine a captain’s role in the failure of team on such a massive scale as the current season of the Colorado Avalanche.  Whatever his role is, it seems that he’s fulfilling his role as captain.

Given this, it’s hard to make an argument for the Colorado Avalanche to trade their captain, one who has the respect of his team and fans.

The Way Forward

With two weeks left until the trade deadline the Colorado Avalanche could undergo massive changes.  If Landeskog or Duchene are not traded by the deadline, the likelihood remains high that it will happen during the summer.  

As stated before, I believe that Duchene is the best trade candidate.  While much of this has to do with Duchene’s value on the market, it also has to do with a hesitancy to trade Landeskog.  

Not only is Landeskog the captain, he possess a unique skill set and potential to this team.  Landeskog plays a rare form of a power forward not easily emulated.

His shot, stick handling and vision are often underrated, as most focus on his ability to play a physical game, either racking up hits or grinding in front of the net.  Finally, he’s one of a small category of top-six forwards that can score, hit and fight.

Although never projected to be an elite NHL scorer, Landeskog has proven he can be a stable and consistent top six scorer.  His 65 points in 81 games during the 2013-14 season demonstrate this.  

It is of no coincidence that this occurred during the Avs best season in the last decade, but also shows what he’s capable of on a winning team.  

However, Landy doesn’t have this luxury this season, and if he wants to stay, he needs to show his leadership on the ice.

In the past, I’ve been critical of Landeskog and his play.  I appreciate his leadership and commitment, but would love to see this take the form of goals, assists and otherwise game-changing play.  

With his future in flux with the Avalanche, if Landeskog truly wants to stay, as he’s indicated, his play on the ice in tandem with his leadership in the locker room will be the deciding factors.  

Ultimately, he might be worth trading now given his relative value and his inconsistent play with the Avs.  

However, I think it would be a mistake to give up on a captain with such a valuable set of skills as a leader, scorer and two-way player.  

Related Story: A Boston Bruins Trade That Makes Sense

In the end, the offense will truly be in the hands of Nathan MacKinnon that the Avs can afford a captain with a premium on leadership.  

Personally, I feel like he’s never quite matched the intensity of of his rookie season.  However, if he can start playing this way again, the Colorado Avalanche would be smart to keep him.  Remember this?

That’s our captain.