Thursday, 17 July 2014

What in the world are the Colorado Avalanche doing?

Whether it was their enigmatic coach, their rookie superstar or their third best record in the NHL, The Colorado Avalanche made waves this past season. Looking back on the season however, it reads more like a cautionary tale than the preludes of good things to come. Objectively it was pretty obvious that Colorado's success this season was more a product of a sky high PDO (3rd in the NHL) which will surely regress next season (for starters, Varlamov might be an above-league average goalie but, I am willing to wager a lot of money with anyone who believes he will be a Vezina finalist again next season). Trouble continues to lie below the surface in the form of an absolutely horrendous possession team (27th in the NHL). So while nothing is set in stone and Colorado could obviously be a better team next year... teams who have a glimpse of success but with terrible underlying numbers don't exactly have the brightest track record in their future endeavours (ex. 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs & 2011-2012 Minnesota Wild).
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” - George Santayana
So now that we have established that it is probably in the Avs best interests to make some improvements this offseason lets see what they have done...

The Offseason

Gained Lost/Cost Impact
Didn't pay in this case
4 years x $7mil 
Paul Stastny Lost - their 2nd leading points-per-game player
(0.85 ppg), their best possession forward, who
did so while playing tougher minutes than
franchise corner stones Duchene and Mackinnon
Jesse Winchester 2 years x $900k Unnecessarily committed 2 years to a borderline
depth forward 
Zach Redmond 2 years x $750k See above except a defenceman 
Jarome Iginla 3 years x $5.33mil You could talk me into that first year, the second
is the cost of doing business but the third might
get ugly
Brad Stuart 2016 2nd-round pick
2017 6th-round pick
Contract - 1 year x $3.6 mil
Gain - a drag on possession despite strong
linemates and reasonable usage who doesn't
put up points but will still make $3.6 million
Lost - A valuable 2nd round pick
Daniel Briere
Same cap hit
Paranteau has 2 years left
vs. Breire's 1
PA Parenteau
2015 5th-round pick

Lost - their best scoring winger behind
Landeskog (0.6 ppg) and third best possession
Gain - possession non-factor and forward whose
lost his scoring touch (0.36 ppg)
Side note - I guess they swapped a two year
contract for a one year? Sure lets go with that 

The Ryan O'Reilly Saga

So yeah, about that whole "improve" thing, not exactly off to the hottest start. However, don't fret Avs fans, you still have a relatively young core with great pieces to build around. Wait, they're trying to force one of their young superstars into a contract that is terribly skewed in their favour based on a shaky set of precedence and flawed logic? Oh good, this will totally end well.

Ryan O'Reilly is a very good NHL hockey player. I just wanted to air that out. He is disciplined, point producing and possession driving dynamo. Basically you couldn't dream up a better two way player if he was from Winnipeg, captained a team to 2 Stanley Cups in 3 years and has been universally proclaimed the greatest leader to ever walk the earth since Ghandi. That is neither here nor there.

Quick background before this all seems like deja-vu. O'Reilly was a RFA two years ago and was actually about to sit out and continue to play in Russia before signing an offer sheet (2 years x $5mil per year) with the Calgary Flames which the Avs reluctantly matched. Now we are back here again. Whats the issue this time?

O'Reilly's camp is probably looking for a big payday which he undoubtedly deserves. Rumour has it that the Avs have been trying to point at deals like Jamie Benn and say "You see these deals that are great deals for the teams and in hindsight greatly under pay these players? Yeah you should take one of those." This is logic is flawed for a variety of reasons. See this example if it isn't already clear:

You walk into a store and buy a shirt on sale for $10. You then proceed to walk into a different store without a sale going on and try to tell the owner that you should only pay him $10 for his shirt that is priced at $15 because the other guy gave you a deal. Well good for the other guy but, this is a different store and a different shirt. Just because you get a good deal somewhere doesn't mean that automatically sets the standard for the future.

Also, that deal was signed right after coming off their Entry Level Deals which cannot be ignored. I am sure O'Reilly would have loved to sign for 5 years x $5 million two years ago. Colorado wouldn't offer it. So now instead of getting him on a contract that gets him for 4 years at a discount due to him being an RFA they will now have to fork over some considerable money since they only own his rights for 2 more years. That is the risk they took by not going long term 2 years ago as was their right to do.

So even after a good season, it is apparent that Colorado has a lot of room to improve and a very long way to go. It also can't be understated that I went almost this entire article without even mentioning they might have the worst collective group of defenceman in the NHL. Despite all this though, Colorado has managed to possibly become a worse hockey team this offseason while at the same time pushing one of their young core pieces out the door because they don't grasp the concept of paying their players what they could be reasonably requested (you could argue this is the same misaligned judgement that resulted in them letting Paul Stastny walk for nothing in return). Instead they are trying to enforce some distorted notion that high end NHL players should play for less than they are worth because what? They are legitimate cup contenders while playing in potentially the toughest division in the NHL? Hey, all the power to you. Needless to say I can't wait for next season, when this becomes an every night occurrence. Or will it be in two years when they try to sign Nathan MacKinnon for 8 years x $2.5 mil? Keep selling that pipe dream Avs.

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