Maybe the quiet trade deadline for the Avalanche was actually a good sign

Mar 7, 2023, 6:00 AM
Gabriel Landeskog parade...
(Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Talk about a roller coaster.

After relatively smooth sailing to a Stanley Cup a season ago, this Avalanche season is going to make us all throw up. Just when it looked like all was well after a six-game winning streak, the Avs vomited against the Devils, Stars and Kraken over their last three contests.

For the first time in Avalanche history, the team gave up seven goals in back-to-back games. That hadn’t happened since 1990, when the franchise still called Quebec home. Those losses to New Jersey and Dallas weren’t pretty, but they had a chance to make everything right at home on Sunday night against Seattle. It didn’t happen.

A rare Nathan MacKinnon mistake and turnover helped blow a 2-1 lead late, then the Kraken finished off the Avs in overtime without letting Colorado even touch the puck. Those dreams of being the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference seem to have disappeared courtesy of a bad five days.

Thank the Hockey Gods the Flames have fallen off the face of the Earth, or else we’d once again be scrambling to figure out if the Avs are even going to make the postseason. The Predators are lurking, but with a soft schedule coming up for Colorado, securing a playoff berth shouldn’t be a problem.

Still, after the disappointing defeats, the chatter has begun. You know what I’m talking about. Whispers from fans have become shouts. There’s a large chunk of hockey folks in Denver who are mad at GM Chris MacFarland and President Joe Sakic for not doing “enough” at the NHL trade deadline. Those people are looking at this all wrong.

First of all, several trades were made, just not right at the buzzer. The Avs brought home both Matt Nieto and Jack Johnson. They also added Lars Eller, a center with championship experience, and brought in some goaltending depth with Keith Kinkaid. That’s four notable moves, the same amount they made last year at the deadline before winning the whole thing.

And here’s the real rub: if the front office was worried about health, they would have made a bigger move. The lack of activity at the trade deadline should be interpreted as a great sign. Clearly Sakic and MacFarland feel that captain Gabriel Landeskog will be back and ready to go by the end of the regular season and for the playoffs. That’s an A+ addition in my book.

Yes, Erik Johnson and Josh Manson are dinged up, but “EJ” skated over the weekend. That’s a clear sign he’s not done yet. And Darren Helm’s been spotted at practice more and more lately, while Pavel Francouz has been seen around the arena.

Landeskog’s obviously the big one, but all five of those guys played a part in Colorado hoisting the Cup a season ago. Why make another panic trade if that’s the kind of star power and depth that’s going to be trickling in over the next month? All of those are better additions than an unnecessary rental or two.

Look, it’s hockey, so head coach Jared Bednar isn’t going to tell us much. That’s just the code of the game. Injury status isn’t shared very often. But the powers that be signaled to us with their actions last week that everything is going to be fine. We really are going to see the fully healthy version of this team sooner rather than later.

At least, that’s how you have to interpret the lack of a splashy move. If not, it would be a bizarre 180-degree turn for a regime hell-bent on winning championships. They finally got one for the first time in 21 years a season ago, and there’s no indication their philosophy has changed.

The Western Conference is extremely weak. The Avs might be the seventh best team in hockey, but those other six clubs are all in the East. Last time I checked, Colorado can’t play any of them until the Final. And by that point, the Avalanche will be healthy — and hopefully ready to throw us another parade.

This roller coaster isn’t stopping just yet. The twists and turns will be worth it in the end.



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