DROP THE MIKE

The Avalanche’s front office is in desperate need of a comeback

Jun 30, 2023, 6:47 AM | Updated: 8:03 am

While the Avalanche’s front office of Joe Sakic and Chris MacFarland had a solid week, it will need to do a lot more to rally from what was a subpar performance last season.

It all started with the departure of Nazem Kadri. Now, I’m not going to play Monday Morning QB and rip the decision to not re-sign him. I agreed with the move then, and I agree with it now. It didn’t make sense to sign Kadri for that money and that term. It would not have aged well.

I also had no problem with the team deciding to see what they had for in-house replacements. Sure, give young players more opportunities and responsibilities to step up and fill the Kadri void.

But when it became apparent that the likes of J.T. Compher and Alex Newhook weren’t taking advantage, then that is when the Avs’ front office needed to go to work. Instead, they sat on their hands.

The front office that was so aggressive during the Stanley Cup-winning year was shockingly passive. Nothing was done to fill the glaring 2C hole that was left by Kadri. I begged management to go out and trade for Ryan O’Reilly or someone of his ilk. They did not.

The reports of them not wanting to give up their first-round pick made no sense. To paraphrase Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead: “F them picks!”

When you’re in a championship window like the Avs are, who cares about draft picks? When the Avs picked Cal Ritchie with the 27th pick in the first round, he joined a very forgettable group of players taken in that spot over the last decade. The only players taken 27th that have amounted to much are Vladislav Nemestikov and Philly’s Morgan Frost. That’s it.

That’s the pick the Avs had to hold onto instead of trying to flip to a rebuilding or “breaking it up team” that could’ve yielded the Avs the type of player that would’ve helped them win a Cup last year or this upcoming season?

The next misstep by the Sakic/MacFarland duo was stubbornly clinging to the fantasy that Gabe Landeskog was going to return. I believe anyone in their right mind could read the tea leaves on this one and see Landy wasn’t coming back. That was only confirmed when The Captain revealed his comeback will extend into all of next season. Surely, the Avs understood what was happening, right? So why again were they so passive at the trade deadline?

Which brings us to the events of this week.

Let’s start with the premise the Avs’ No. 1 need continues to be second-line center. Remember the baseline that was set by Kadri – 28 goals, 59 assists, 87 points. That was the production of the Avs’ second-line center. Sure, very few teams can boast those kind of numbers from their 2C, but the Avs aren’t your typical team and their expectations aren’t your run-of-the-mill NHL team goals.

So with that as your baseline how have Sakic and MacFarland done this week? They acquired Ryan Johansen from Nashville. Johansen has scored more than 15 goals in a season just once in the last eight years. He’s topped 60 points in a season three times during that span, with a high of 64. The Predators thought so highly of Johansen at this stage of his career that they not only traded a player that had been with them for eight and a half years, but they agreed to pay half his salary.

Next, the Avs acquired Ross Colton from Tampa Bay. He’s only been in the NHL three years, but he’s shown flashes, averaging 19 goals and 35 points the last two years.

Don’t get me wrong. Johansen and Colton are good players, with Colton having the most potential. I can easily see them playing productive roles on the third and fourth lines. It’s possible one of them flourishes in the 2C role and gives the Avs Kadri-like production.

But is “possible” how you want the Avs attacking such an important hole to fill when they’re in a championship or bust window? That’s why while Sakic and MacFarland had a “good” week. We’ll need to see more greatness from the Avs front office between now and next season’s start of the playoffs.

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